2011-11-07: Images from a recent business trip to the Region of Le Marche, in Italy … a region steeped in history, and rich in beautiful landscape, and good friends, food and wine … via Rome’s Ciampino Airport.
Without realizing it, the flight into Rome came just after a very serious storm had hit the north-west coastal Regions of Liguria & Toscana … even the central Region of Lazio received a lash. Devastatingly destructive flash floods had resulted. Many people were killed. The recent bad flooding in Dublin was just a tea party in comparison !
1. Anti-Sustainable ‘Photovoltaic Fields’
Not small greenhouses ! Instead, let me introduce you to the new concept of the Photovoltaic Field … where good agricultural land has been ‘planted’ with photovoltaic panels, incentivized by grants, tax breaks, or whatever (does it really matter ?!?) … how sustainable is this ? These fields are becoming quite a common sight in the Italian countryside …
2. Petrol/Gasoline Prices in Italy Now
This was a good average … depending on location, however, Petrol/Gasoline Prices could vary by as much as ± 3 to 4 cents …
3. Braille Maps at Building Entrances/Exits
A good example of a Braille Map, which should be located at the Entrances and Exits of All Buildings … essential for the blind – the visually impaired – those with frail sight … and very useful for travellers/visitors, generally, who are unfamiliar with their surroundings and need to rapidly access information about their location and orientation …
4. Corrado Levantesi – Montefortino, Le Marche
Finally and most importantly, I want to remember a good friend … Corrado Levantesi, who died one day after his 51st Birthday, on 15 September 2011, following a long illness. May he rest in peace …
SDI Practice Note: Due to administrative changes in the Provincial Boundaries of Le Marche … our Italian Address has been altered to …
Sustainable Design International Ltd., Via Doganelli 2, 63857 Amandola (FM), Italia.
2011-01-29: Some people say that a week is a long time in politics … but, here in Ireland, during the last two weeks … every single day feels like a year ! To the uninformed outside observer, this may have all the appearance of being an elaborate circus … but, we like our politics to be complex, interesting and very frothy.
Briefly … the Irish Green Party has recently removed itself, awkwardly, from the Ruling Coalition Government in this country … and the Green Party Agenda has gone up in smoke … definitely a Climate Changing Greenhouse Gas ! Mr. John Gormley T.D., Leader of the Green Party, has therefore resigned as Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government … and his Green Party departmental colleague, Mr. Ciarán Cuffe T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Sustainable Transport, Horticulture, Planning and Heritage at the Departments of the Environment, Transport and Agriculture has also resigned.
With all of Ireland’s current economic woes … this decision by the Green Party has ensured that ‘Climate Change’ is fast dropping off the list of national priorities.
However, as a result of these political shenanigans … the word ‘Green’ has received a severe hammering and will induce a nasty taste in the mouths of many Irish Voters during the next few weeks which lead up to a General Election. To be honest, I heartily cheer this development … since ‘GREEN’-ness, i.e. a sole and blinkered consideration for the Environmental Aspects of Sustainability is a ‘pre-version’ (fans of the film: ‘Dr. Strangelove’ will understand what I mean) of Sustainable Human & Social Development. It is also a peculiar quirk of ‘greens’ that they love the environment … but hate people !
As a prelude to what I will say about the proposed enabling legislation for climate change action in Ireland … the 2010 Climate Change Response Bill … I thought that it would be interesting to reveal the contents of a submission I made to Mr. John Gormley back in late 2007. Concerning his reaction … I wondered how it was possible for anybody to write such a long letter in reply, and say nothing.
Mr. John Gormley T.D., 2007-12-18.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government,
Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG),
Custom House – Dublin 1.
Re: Your Meeting with IIEA on Friday, 7th December 2007
At the Meeting with the Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA), in North Great George’s Street, I raised two points directly with you:
i)The Great Difference between ‘Real’ Building Energy Performance and Claimed ‘Theoretical’ Performance. In a context where the mandatory use of long wave infra-red thermal imagery will not be introduced in the Revised Technical Guidance Document L of the Building Regulations, due to be issued shortly, and there will continue to be No Effective System of Building Control anywhere in the country … no relationship exists between Claimed ‘Theoretical’ Performance and ‘Real’ Performance, such is the poor quality of construction on Irish Building Sites. The Energy Numbers which continue to be produced by Sustainable Energy Ireland are – almost – pure fantasy.
ii)Sourcing of Climate Change Research & Models for Necessary Institutional Reform Must Extend Beyond Britain. The following is taken from the Irish National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 (page 45) …
‘ Ireland has also engaged in an exchange of information on impacts and adaptation activities through the British-Irish Council. This initiative has focused on exchanging data on research projects which have improved the understanding of climate change impacts at a local level.’
I suggested to you that if this were, actually, to be the approach to Research in Ireland … we will be in serious trouble. Furthermore, far too many people in important organizations (including the IIEA) are only looking across the water for Models of Necessary Institutional Reform. We must also, in Ireland, look to the rest of Europe and Japan to find the Best Research and the Most Effective Institutional Models.
Please see the enclosed World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Summary Report: ‘Energy Efficiency in Buildings – Business Realities & Opportunities’ (October 2007), which was presented at an important Paris Conference at the beginning of November, 2007.
This Report looks at what can be achieved in Europe and many other parts of the world – today – using currently available building technologies and systems … IF ‘real’ implementation is taken seriously. Barriers to progress and costs have also been examined.
In the final analysis, however, a properly resourced Indigenous Research Capability, focused on Irish Conditions and Needs, is vitally necessary to drive ‘Real’ Performance and Innovation in this country.
Post-Bali Leadership from Ireland (and DEHLG !)
A Kyoto II Instrument will be agreed and ratified before the end of 2012. The 1997 UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol must now be seen, therefore, as just the beginning of a long-term process which will last until the end of the century. Some Necessary Direction and a large pinch of Ethical Leadership are urgently required to properly re-position Ireland in this Process.
The following Post-Bali Target Scenario for Ireland is presented for your consideration:
Ireland should set 1990 as the Benchmark/Base Year for All Kyoto Greenhouse Gases ;
Statements of Measurement and Calculation Uncertainty should be fully transparent (nationally, and at EU level), and made at every stage of Ireland’s Kyoto Compliance ;
The EU’s Objective of a 30% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990, is the Relevant Short Term Target (refer to Paragraph 31 of the German Presidency Conclusions from the E.U. Council’s Brussels Summit on 8th and 9th March 2007) ;
As our ‘Real’ Performance, under Kyoto I, continues to be so weak and disingenuous … we should not expect to receive as generous an intra-EU burden sharing arrangement as before. Instead, Ireland should adopt the 2020 National Target of a similar 30% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases, compared to 1990 ;
Our Contingency Target for 2020 should be a 33% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases, compared to 1990. When considering ‘real’ performance in any field of human endeavour, it is usual to include a safety factor in any calculations …. in this case, 3% ;
Ireland’s Recourse to the Use of Carbon Sinks and Kyoto Mechanisms in meeting the 2020 Contingency Target should be restricted to 1/4 of ‘Real’ Performance …
‘Real’ Performance (no sinks/mechanisms) – minimum 24% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990 ;
Use of Carbon Sinks and Kyoto Mechanisms – 9% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990 (this figure includes the contingency 3%) ; and
As the Construction Sector (when properly identified) should share more of the national burden than, for example, Agriculture …. its Target should be a 40% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990. Remember the range of reductions which were initially proposed at Bali …. 25-40% ?
Part 1 of SDI’s Submission for the Irish Construction Sector (IIEA Climate Change Project, Sectors Sub-Group – June 2007) stressed the great need to properly restore the Construction Sector’s Infrastructure. Otherwise, this Sector will not be able, in reality, to reach any Energy Performance Targets … low or high. Of course, what will eventually appear on paper, or as a computer print-out, is an entirely different matter !
However, having been able to access information about the recent WBCSD Research Project, and using it as a valid substantiation … it then became possible to deal with the issue of Energy Performance Targets for All Buildings (new, existing and those of historical, architectural and cultural importance) more aggressively.
Enclosed, please also find Part 2 of SDI’s Submission for the Construction Sector (IIEA Climate Change Project, Sectors Sub-Group – November 2007).
Ireland’s Climate Change Strategy ?
1.Ireland’s Current ‘Real’ Situation with Regard to Kyoto (I) Compliance should be clearly understood by the Irish Public. Using the recently issued European Environment Agency (EEA) Report 5/2007: ‘Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends & Projections in Europe 2007 – Tracking Progress Towards Kyoto Targets’, we have extracted just a few snippets of interesting information (enclosed) …
Instead of 1990, Ireland has chosen 1995 as the Base Year for HFC’s, PFC’s & SF6 ;
Ireland’s Per Capita greenhouse gas emissions are nearly the worst in the EU-27 ;
Ireland’s Per GDP greenhouse gas emissions are far too high ;
Ireland’s ‘Real’ Distance-To-Target (no sinks/mechanisms) is very bad.
Ireland is still grimly grasping on to a ‘Business as Usual’ Approach. This is actually being reinforced by the relevant Institutions of the State, who insist on merely Playing with Numbers … and then publishing Cosmetic Public Relations Brochures for consumption in Ireland and, unfortunately, on the wider European and International Stages.
2. The following National Policy/Strategy Documents & Legislation should directly relate to one other, and their implementation should be tightly co-ordinated …
National Sustainable Development Strategy ;
National Climate Change Strategy ;
National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy ;
National Spatial Strategy ;
National Development Plan ;
National Public Procurement Law.
Not only have some of the above not yet even been drafted, but others are unacceptably inadequate, outdated and/or fundamentally flawed. And the synergies which would normally accrue from co-ordinated implementation are being lost.
3. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has identified Buildings as one of the five main users of energy where ‘megatrends’ are needed to transform global energy efficiency in the immediate short term, and so meet the daunting challenge of Climate Change Adaptation. They account for 40% of primary energy (primary energy includes the energy required to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, as well as energy directly consumed on site) in most developed countries, and consumption is rising.
Nothing less than a Complete Cultural Shift will be necessary throughout this Sector, beginning with all research and design disciplines and extending right across to any person who works on a construction site or has any part to play in managing, maintaining or servicing a building.
Yet, Irish Construction is not presented as a Coherent Sector anywhere in National or European Greenhouse Gas Databases.
Separate Strategies are urgently required to greatly improve the energy performance of:
Existing Buildings … onto which many energy efficiency measures can be successfully grafted, but they will not be cheap ;
Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance … the integrity of which must be protected ; and
New Buildings, which must therefore carry the major burden.
4.Raising the (General) Awareness of Irish Society regarding Climate Change and Mobilizing People and Organizations for (Effective) Action are two entirely different concepts. Which concept is informing Strategy Development within the DEHLG ?
A €15 m. Marketing Campaign, spread over 4-5 Years and including the ‘Change’ WebSite (!?!?), will not mobilize anyone … to do anything.
5. Your proposals concerning Necessary Building Energy Efficiency Improvements to be included in the Revised Technical Guidance Document L are inadequate. Part L should be applicable to ALL New Buildings.
It has also been insufficiently emphasized in public discussions/consultations concerning this issue that any proposed Building Energy Efficiency Improvements must take place in a context of stringent control during construction (by a sufficient number of competent Local Authority Building Controllers and/or Independent Technical Controllers) and rigorous post-construction energy performance monitoring (using long wave infra-red thermal imagery, in conjunction with building external fabric air seepage tests). Follow-up observation of post-occupation building energy performance will also be required.
This is the one – and only – means of …
tweaking Computer Software Tools so as to produce more realistic outputs ; and
obtaining reliable construction-related energy performance data and statistics.
Please Note Well:Without suitable references to the use of long wave infra-red thermal imagery (essential, if working at ambient temperatures – short wave, if working at high temperatures) in Section 5, the Revised TGD L will be absolutely meaningless !!
Because of wasteful patterns of building management and/or use – even in the most energy efficient building – we would also stress that far more attention should be paid to the concept of Intelligent Energy Efficiency Management.
6. We strongly urge you, in accordance with the 2007 Bali Action Plan, to rapidly advance development of the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and to ensure that it is properly implemented.
7. We call for the creation of an adequately resourced Sustainable Development Commission with the necessary legal mandate, independence and technical expertise to monitor – in an integrated, continual and proactive manner – Ireland’s mitigation and adaptation performance in relation to the adverse effects of climate change. We also call for a New Social Partnership for Sustainable Development & Climate Change Adaptation. Addressing Climate Change must be considered an integral element of Sustainable Development Policies.
At Sustainable Design International … we continue to find, in everyday practice, that the most challenging barriers to Policy Implementation are Institutional – lack of proper horizontal policy integration in Public Authorities, and antiquated approaches to management in Private Organizations. At every level, the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development is poorly understood.
Should you have any questions or comments, please contact me at your convenience.
2010-10-29: For those of you who are not fully up to speed with Ireland’s Current Economic Disaster … very painful for some people, but not for all (!) … in the next few weeks, we will be presented with a 4 Year Budget Strategy Plan, which will be verified by the European Commission, in Brussels, and the European Central Bank, in Frankfurt … and also be presented with a Draconian First in a Series of 4 Budgets. The track record of our Government shows that the most vulnerable groups in our society will be the Primary Targets for fiscal cutting, slashing, pillage and burning.
Which is why I am pleased to align our Organization … Sustainable Design International Ltd … with the following Open Letter to …
An Taoiseach (Ireland’s Prime Minister), Mr. Brian Cowan T.D. ;
Minister for Finance, Mr. Brian Lenihan T.D. ;
Minister for Health & Children, Ms. Mary Harney T.D. ; and
Minister of State for Disability & Mental Health, Mr. John Moloney T.D.
We call on the Irish Government to respond to the Crisis in our Mental Health Services !
Mental Health Services simply cannot be maintained at acceptable levels in a civilized society if there are further cuts in Ireland’s Budget 2011. They have already been cut unfairly and disproportionately. Spending is down 9.2% since 2006, and is at 5.3% of the Overall Health Budget – now at its lowest share in modern history. More than half of all the staff cut from the HSE (Health Service Executive … http://www.hse.ie) in 2009 came from the Mental Health Services, despite the fact that they only represent 9% of the HSE’s workforce.
In 2006, the Government’s National Mental Health Policy, ‘A Vision for Change’, promised to end institutionalization and provide modern community-based services. Yet, progress in developing community services has ground to a halt. We still have the shameful situation of people living in conditions described by the Inspector of Mental Health Services as “entirely unacceptable and inhumane”; hundreds of children being admitted to adult inpatient mental health units; and large numbers of people with a mild mental or cognitive impairment in Psychiatric Institutions who should not be there in the first place.
We know that there is a financial debacle – but, it is making the mental health crisis worse. Financial stress, debt and unemployment are putting a massive burden on people’s mental health. Waiting lists for services are growing as people look for support – rates of suicide and self-harm rose sharply last year !
Any further cuts in Budget 2011 will signal the death knell for ‘A Vision for Change’, and condemn another generation of Irish People to a Mental Health System which is a remnant from the Age of Victorian Asylums.
2010-10-18: Nothing less than a complete Paradigm Shift to Sustainable Fire Engineering is now needed … because it is Necessary … because it is Inevitable … because it is The Future !!!
This process will not proceed, however, unless the International Fire Science & Engineering Community begins to communicate and engage, meaningfully, with the Mainstream Construction Sector … where this process is already well advanced.
One Organization in our community has recently decided to bite the bullet … CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) … where Working Commission 14 (W14) – ‘Fire Safety’ … agreed, at a meeting in Zurich, to significantly expand and elaborate its own Scope … please note the keywords in bold text …
A CIB Working Commission … W14 is an international, multi-stakeholder, trans-disciplinary, pre-normalization forum for discussion, and action, on research and innovation in Fire Science and Engineering for the design, construction and operation of a Safe and Sustainable Built Environment.
This will be my important message on Wednesday next, 20th October 2010, when I address the Institution of Fire Engineers (Ireland Branch) Annual Fire Conference … which will be held in the Dublin Fire Brigade Training Centre, Marino, Dublin 1 … beginning at 09.30 hrs in the morning.
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (326kb)
Three Powerful Pulling Forces for Change … or should I say Dragging Forces, with a lot of kicking and screaming involved (!) … will have a direct impact …
1. Sustainable Design
The interior view shown below is not that of a Sustainable Building … but of a Modern Architectural Icon, designed by the Master Architect Mies van der Rohe towards the end of the 1920’s … way back in the last century ! Two innovative architectural concepts are elegantly illustrated in the photograph …
Open Planning – one space ‘flows’ into the next without interruption by a physical barrier … drawing the eye and encouraging movement. In this particular building … a building of architectural, cultural and historical importance … any attempt to impose ‘fire compartmentation’ on the layout would be utterly ridiculous !
Separation of Building Structure & Fabric – notice the column in the foreground. This is quite unlike the massive form of building construction in the past !
Fire Engineering is still trying to grapple … unsuccessfully … with innovative approaches, dating from the early part of the 20th Century, to Architectural Design. In the 21st Century, Sustainable Design – not Green Design – involves a far more radical approach to Design, the use of Building Materials, and Construction. In the face of this much greater challenge, Fire Engineering must begin to respond effectively … with creativity and imagination. There is no other alternative !
2. Cul-de-Sac of Current Fire Engineering
Working in Building Control at the time … I encountered the Typical Building Detail shown below in an early 1990’s Dublin Hotel Extension Project … comprising a 10 metre span steel beam … with non-loadbearing steel stud partitioning beneath, separating a corridor from bedrooms … each with 1 Hour’s Fire Resistance. During a fire and long before the period of 1 Hour has elapsed … that steel beam will have deflected by a considerable dimension. What happens, then, to the non-loadbearing steel stud partition, below, and its fire resistance performance ??? This makes no sense.
Does current Fire Engineering have a robust rational and empirical basis … or is it just one remove from Voodoo and Witchcraft ??
3. NIST(USA) Recommendations on the 9-11 WTC Building Collapses
Determined resistance by Vested Interests … a Lack of Institutional Capacity, i.e. failure to be able to properly anticipate, or to be adequately prepared, and/or to respond effectively and in a timely manner to major fire incidents … and a small element of the ‘Issue Attention Cycle’, where considerable investment in time and resources were necessary to make real progress on the issues thrown up by 9-11 but, unfortunately, governmental and public attention soon waned and dissipated … shifting to new problems, e.g. the Illegal Iraq ‘Crusade’ … have all contributed to a situation where there has been little in the way of substantive implementation of the Recommendations contained in the 2005 and 2008 NIST(USA) Reports on the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses … in the United States of America, Europe … or anywhere else.
That is not our approach, here, at FireOx International – the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd. Instead, we have decided to present all of the NIST Recommendations … to our readers … in a Series of Posts on this Technical Blog.
Sustainable Fire Engineering HAS a robust rational and empirical basis !
2009-10-18: Here we are, once again, approaching November 2009. Two years have rolled by … far too quickly … since the last Paris BATIMAT Exhibition in 2007.
Compared to what we are used to in Ireland, the BATIMAT Exhibition is huge … taking at least 3-4 days in order to see everything half-decently !
I have been going there for many years … to spot new trends, discover innovative building products and systems … and meet up with friends from CSTB or CTICM. In a good year, I would expect to find at least 7-8 good new ideas …
When I first enter the Exhibition, I usually become emotional … almost close to tears … with FRUSTRATION (!) … not at the enormous scale of the event … but because so much on view never appears in the Irish Construction Product Marketplace … and if they do appear, it is not until many years later. I kid you not ! There are reasons … but, that is a discussion for another day …
I wonder if the Current Recession in the European Construction Sector will have an adverse impact on this year’s exhibition …
2009-06-16: Further to one of our first posts, dated 12th December 2008 (or 2008-12-12 !), concerning the National Disability Authority’s 2008 Publication: ‘Promoting Safe Egress and Evacuation for People with Disabilities’ …
On 15th April 2009 … we were circulated by Mr. Shane Hogan (NDA), in a general e-mail communication which was not addressed to us … with a Proposed 2nd Draft of the Evacuation Document. Comments on this 2nd Draft were requested.
So … here are our comments …
1. We repeat the earlier statement that ‘the document has many technical errors’. It is clear that the National Disability Authority does not possess the requisite technical competence to oversee the proper development of such a publication.
Furthermore … many of the inadequate, flawed and discriminatory practices in relation to Fire Safety, Protection and Evacuation for All which have originated in Britain over many years … and are described yet again and most recently in BS 9999:2008 – Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings (see previous post) … are just mindlessly regurgitated in the NDA Publication.
2. We very much believe in, and are promoters of, Open Content on the Internet. For that reason, SDI’s Copyright Guidelines are quite liberal. And … although we do reserve all rights … we also state that …
‘ Reproduction by others of content produced and/or developed by Sustainable Design International Limited is permitted, except for commercial purposes, provided the source is acknowledged.’
It is clearly shown in the NDA’s 2nd Draft that copyright material developed by FireOx International (the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd.) was used, and abused, by White Young Green Consultants (Ireland) in the original 2008 NDA Publication.
We do not wish technical terms to be altered … or our material to be linked directly with BS 8300:2009 – Design of Buildings and Their Approaches to Meet the Needs of Disabled People … and BS 9999:2008. Please re-read our previous post !
White Young Green Consultants (Ireland) gained commercially from the use of our copyright material. They did not inform us … nor did they request any permission from us … prior to that use.
Our material has been used again in the NDA’s 2nd Draft … and still nobody has bothered to seek our permission … for or about anything !
In order to at least appear to be acting ethically … perhaps somebody in the NDA, e.g. Ms. Mary Van Lieshout, Mr. Shane Hogan, Dr. Gerald Craddock or Ms. Angela Kerins might care to communicate directly with us now.
Finally, our private thoughts and feelings with regard to the actions of White Young Green Consultants (Ireland) shall remain just that … private !
Perhaps, however, White Young Green Consultants (Ireland) might cover the costs involved in consulting with our team of legal advisors.