Ar C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – International Expert on Sustainability Implementation + Accessibility-for-All + Fire Safety for All + Sustainable Fire Engineering
2014-04-20:Traditional/Conventional Fire Engineering Practice is slowly, but inevitably, being transformed … in order to meet the regional and local challenges of rapid urbanization and climate change, the pressing need for a far more efficient and resilient building stock, and a growing social awareness that ‘sustainability’ demands much greater human creativity …
Design Target: A Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All
Essential Construction & Occupancy Start-Up Processes: Careful Monitoring & Reporting – Independent Verification of Performance (MRV)
Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions:
Are Reliability-Based …
The design process is based on competence, practical experience, and an understanding of ‘real’ building performance and resilience during Extreme Man-Made Events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack & 2008 Mumbai Hive Attacks, and Hybrid Disasters, e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than theory alone.
Are Person-Centred …
‘Real’ people are placed at the centre of creative design endeavours and proper consideration is given to their responsible needs … their health, safety, welfare and security … in the Human Environment, which includes the social, built, economic and virtual environments.
Are Adapted to Local Context & Heritage* …
Geography, orientation, climate (including change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, traditions, economy, building crafts and materials, etc., etc.
[* refer to the 2013 UNESCO Hangzhou Declaration]
In Sustainable Design … there are NO Universal Solutions !
To protect society, the best interests of the client/client organization and building user health and safety, and to maintain functionality under the dynamic, complex conditions of fire … Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives shall cover the following spectrum of issues …
Protection of the Health and Safety of All Building Users … including people with activity limitations (2001 WHO ICF), visitors to the building who will be unfamiliar with its layout, and contractors or product/service suppliers temporarily engaged in work or business transactions on site ;
Protection of Property from Loss or Damage … including the building, its contents, and adjoining or adjacent properties ;
Safety of Firefighters, Rescue Teams and Other Emergency Response Personnel ;
Ease and Reasonable Cost of ‘Effective’ Reconstruction, Refurbishment or Repair Works after a Fire ;
Sustainability of the Human Environment – including the fitness for intended use and life cycle costing of fire engineering related products, systems, etc … fixed, installed or otherwise incorporated in the building ;
Protection of the Natural Environment from Harm, i.e. adverse impacts.
More Specifically … with Regard to Resilient Building Performance during a Fire Incident and the ‘Cooling Phase’ after Fire Extinguishment:
1. The Building shall be designed to comply with the Recommendations in the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Final Reports on the World Trade Center(WTC) 1, 2 & 7 Building Collapses.
In one major respect, the 2005 NIST Report is flawed, i.e. its treatment of ‘disability and building users with activity limitations is entirely inadequate. The Building shall, therefore, be designed to comply with International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, which was published in December 2011.
2. The Building shall remain Serviceable, not just Structurally Stable(!) … until all buildings users (including those users with activity limitations waiting in ‘areas of rescue assistance’) have been evacuated/rescued to an accessible ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building, and have been identified … and all firefighters, rescue teams and other emergency response personnel have been removed/rescued from the building and its vicinity.
The Building shall be designed to resist Fire-Induced Progressive Damage and Disproportionate Damage. These requirements shall apply to all building types, of any height.
Under no reasonably foreseeable circumstances shall the Building be permitted to collapse !
3. The Building shall be designed to comfortably accommodate and resist a Maximum Credible Fire Scenario and a Maximum Credible User Scenario.
Concerted International Research is Needed …
To creatively resolve the direct conflict which exists between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and Traditional/Conventional Fire Engineering.
An example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of uninterrupted air movement in that building. On the other hand, fire consultants in private practice, and fire prevention officers in authorities having jurisdiction, will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement. The result is that the sustainability performance of the building is seriously compromised.
If, however, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a sustainable building … it is the fire safety and protection which will be seriously compromised !
To effectively deal with the fire safety problems (fatal, in the case of firefighters) which result from the installation of Innovative Building/Energy/EICT Systems and Products in Sustainable Buildings.
These are appropriate tasks for a new CIB W14 Research Working Group VI: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design & Construction’ !
2013-06-09:Further to yesterday’s post … and my use of the phrase ‘Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine)’ … in relation to Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions … or, indeed, Sustainable Design Solutions generally …
The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) … has just published the hard-copy version of … ‘Le Patrimoine, Moteur de Développement : Enjeux et Projets‘ … the proceedings from the 2011 ICOMOS International Scientific Symposium, which was held in conjunction with the 17th ICOMOS General Assembly in early December 2011 … and organized by ICOMOS-France (www.icomosfrance.fr).
This bilingual (French and English) document provides a summary of the 4 Main Issues discussed during the Paris Symposium.
Manifested here … is a profound re-imagining of the concept of ‘heritage’, and its symbiotic relationship with ‘local context’ … which also now facilitates a synergetic fusion of ‘heritage’ with mainstream sustainable development theory and implementation. I have highlighted key passages …
HERITAGE – DRIVER OF DEVELOPMENT
The Theme of the International Scientific Symposium, which forms part of the ICOMOS General Assembly, is the role of heritage in the creation of tomorrow’s society.
The effects of globalization, which are manifested in growing trends towards standardization and westernization, bring various forms of instability to human societies. Until now, heritage has been confined to the role of passive conservation of the past, and so has often been seen as a burden hindering development. In the future, it should be called upon instead to play a major role, re-establishing cultural identity and diversity as key reference points for development; these factors are currently endangered, yet vital. There is therefore a need to reassess the role of heritage in a constructive way.
The concept of heritage, which ranges from designated historic monuments to a jumble of memories, first needs a clear definition which identifies its inherent nature and sets out its boundaries and limits, now and in the future.
As it would be impossible to cover all these issues at the Symposium, it is proposed to focus on the following four issues, chosen for their fundamental importance or contemporary relevance …
1. Regional Development
As more and more people abandon small towns and the countryside, migrating to large conurbations, urban development has become anarchic, ad-hoc and difficult to control. This has already had serious, even catastrophic, results … in particular:
– The disruption of spatial scale and the loss of landmarks ;
– The breakdown of social relationships, loss of communal solidarity, concerns over security, extremist and violent demonstrations ;
– An imbalance between the city – where most concerns now focus and where most development projects take place – and the countryside, where the issue is no longer merely rural decline, but rather the complete socio-economic and cultural collapse of forgotten populations ;
– The squandering and trivialization of space, which is a non-renewable resource, and in particular the loss of landscapes and farmland, resulting from both extensive urban encroachment and land being left to lie fallow.
It is vital to return to a more balanced form of development. This will be achieved by replacing the principle of urban expansion with that of regional development, which takes into account both the countryside and secondary urban centres (small and medium-sized towns), as part of a balanced network. In this context, lessons from our heritage will again be valued as an inspiration for new developments: time-honoured frameworks, traditional plot sizes, methods of organization (urban historic core zones), communication (by land – rail – water), and energy generation (small-scale solar and hydroelectric power stations), etc.
2. Sustainable (Human & Social) Development – Return to the Art of Building !
The second half of the 20th Century was marked by the frantic exploitation of fossil fuels and is credited with the international spread of Western lifestyles and buildings, said to represent ‘progress’ but nevertheless creating a decisive break with traditional models. The goals we have today for energy saving and recycling require a fundamental change in the character of both new and old buildings, in line with the following three points:
– Expertise in Re-Use.Until the 1950’s, heritage buildings – especially vernacular ones – provided countless examples of successful adaptation to the physical environment (location, orientation, protection from sun, wind, and climate); use of local materials (earth – wood – stone, etc.); traditional techniques providing / guaranteeing the greatest opportunities to acquire and perfect artisanal skills; and an optimum capacity for recycling. The resulting buildings address today’s requirements for sustainable development particularly well. Where historic buildings are capable of residential re-use according to modern sustainability criteria, we must be able to measure and maximise their current performance before adapting them according to new artificial design standards.
– Expertise in Building.In terms of new construction, recent examples have shown the ability of traditional practices to create architecture that is indisputably creative and modern/contemporary, and offer an alternative to artificial solutions proposed in response to new standards.
– Adapting to Sustainable Living.Rather than putting the entire onus on the built heritage, we must question our expectations about comfort and utilization. We need to abandon attempts to use sites for activities for which they are fundamentally not suited; modify usage according to the seasons (closing down places that are difficult to heat in winter); and, finally, reconsider our demands in terms of comfort, which have grown excessively and unreasonably over the last decades. The progress that would be made in the fields of environmental and public health is well known.
3. Development and Tourism
Heritage is a major part of the tourist industry, but at the same time, because of the mass consumption to which it is increasingly subject, it runs the risk of becoming meaningless, by fluctuating between preservation of museum pieces and theme-park caricatures. Cut off from its context, the real significance of heritage is drowned out by a feeble reflection, and its very nature is altered by excessive numbers of visitors and the facilities installed for them.
Several courses of action are available, among others:
– Rendering identification with cultural heritage tangible … by revealing and interpreting heritage in all the richness of its context and distinctiveness, and by encouraging public awareness of history through education and the wider media.
– Controlling public access … so as both to limit physical erosion and to ensure the comfort of visitors and provide the best conditions for them to understand and appreciate the value of heritage. Some preliminary reports on trials successfully undertaken at a number of buildings and Grands Sites [designated French cultural landscapes] may help in developing guidelines.
4. Economics of Development
“The Amphitheatre at Nîmes and the Pont du Gard have brought more to France than they ever cost the Romans.” This quotation from Abbé Grégoire in the second year of the French Republic remains valid today. Investment in our heritage produces particularly attractive returns. The cultural sector fully understands this, but adopts methods that tend to be rather commercial.
This investment must be better directed, by identifying targets and striving more for qualitative results rather than short-term profits.
The NUIG ‘blurb’ for the day states … “Considering the importance of aggressive energy-efficiency measures in the Building Sector, together with the requirements for a safe, healthy, comfortable (and accessible) Built Environment … this NUIG Workshop will explore the topic of Integrated Modelling and Performance of the Built Environment.”
I was very pleased to receive an invitation to make a Presentation at this prestigious event …
‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design’ – My Presentation Abstract
Fire Engineering … involves much more than mere compliance with building regulations and codes … whose fire safety objectives are limited, and whose performance requirements are sometimes inadequate and always minimal. More problematically … a fundamental conflict is mushrooming between Safe Sustainable Climate Resilient Building Design and Conventional Fire Consultancy Practice.
However … Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions are:
… and above all …
Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine – see ICOMOS 2011) … geography, climate (incl. change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, and economy, etc., etc.
This Presentation will discuss very rich collaborative research potential in the following areas …
Creative Fire Engineering Concepts and Building Systems
Fire-Induced Progressive Damage in Buildings
Human Behaviour and Abilities in a Fire Situation
Building Design for Firefighter Safety
BMS – Fire Modelling – BIM
Research Output must be targeted at practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings … with actual user/construction performance carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored !
If anybody out there is interested in attending this NUIG Research Workshop … please contact Ms. Magdalena Hajdukiewicz (IRUSE) at: firstname.lastname@example.org
POST-EVENT UPDATE: 2013-06-27 …
While it was difficult to keep the Workshop Programme, involving a series of short 10-minute presentation slots, on track … discussions during the day were engaging, energetic and extensive.
I happily look forward to a successful and collaborative outcome from the day … Multi-Disciplinary Teams producing Trans-Disciplinary Research Output … which is geared towards practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings, with actual construction and building user performance carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored !
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.78 MB)
However … and especially since the Workshop had been organized by IRUSE (the ‘SE’ standing for ‘Sustainable Engineering’) … it was indeed very strange to have to clarify the following points, among others:
1. The Minimum Life Cycle for a Sustainable Building is 100 Years … not 50 or 60 years !
2.Future Research Collaboration should be targeted at the multi-aspect ‘Sustainability Agenda’. The word ‘green’ (where only environmental aspects of sustainability are considered) should be actively discouraged, if not banned entirely !
3. With regard to Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) … two high-level performance indicators which have been developed with the aim of protecting human health, and are both now referenced in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ … are …
– Radon Activity (incl. Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) in a building should, on average, fall within the range of 10 Bq/m3 to 40 Bq/m3, but should at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3 ;
– Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Concentrations in a building should not significantly exceed average external levels – typically within the range of 300 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm – and should at no time exceed 800 ppm.
Concerning the substantive difference in meaning and scope between ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ … there is, perhaps, no better way to illustrate this difference than to observe the atrocious ‘Accessibility-for-All’ Performance (Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations !) of the critically acclaimed (?!?) and award winning (?!?) New Engineering Building in Galway University … which flaunts its ‘über-green’ credentials …
Can you believe what’s in those photographs ?? More importantly … can you believe what’s not in those photographs ???? In such a recently completed building … “incredible” is the only answer to both questions.
Under International Law … lack of accessibility, or inadequate accessibility, to the social, built, virtual and economic environments … IS a denial and infringement of the basic human rights of people with activity limitations. It also limits, needlessly and unnecessarily, the numbers of potential users of those environments … which makes no sense at all.
My strong recommendation to Galway University … is to immediately commission a Competent Accessibility Consultant to give the university campus a thorough going over ! You are failing the campus user population … the local community in Galway … and Irish society generally.
My even stronger recommendation to the Architects for the New Engineering Building … RMJM Architects (Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall) in Scotland, and Taylor Architects in Ireland … is to always commission a Competent Accessibility Consultant on all of your projects … small, medium and large … because you haven’t a bull’s notion about this important dimension of building performance !!
And remember folks … Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.
2013-05-30: Further to the recent post here, dated 2013-04-02 … and this Page on our Corporate WebSite …
Pausing … and stepping back … to consider conventional architectural practice, how architects are educated, and whether or not the professional institutes are helping, or handicapping, the forward progress of Architecture for a Better, More Sustainable World … I am deeply concerned about the future …
1. Should it be ‘Multi-Disciplinary’ or ‘Trans-Disciplinary’ ?
The word ‘trans-disciplinary’ is confusing to a lot of people … surprisingly, to many at senior levels in construction-related industries, research sectors, and academia … not just in Ireland, but internationally. The more senior the level, it seems the higher are the walls of that proverbial ‘box’. But, let me reassure you, thinking outside the ‘box’ is not confined to people in their early 20’s !!
Looking over just the initial list of Consultant Specialists in a complex architectural project … it is the task of the Architect to transform a widely ‘multi-disciplinary’ input into a coherent ‘trans-disciplinary’ output. These two concepts are very different.
Next Generation Architectural Processes and Procedures are urgently required …
2. EU Climate & Energy Policies – Key Driving Forces for Sustainability !
Recently, the European Commission issued this Green Paper … (which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to say about Climate Change Adaptation !) …
European Commission COM(2013) 169 final – Brussels, 2013-03-27
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (104 Kb)
Concerning this Green Paper … Two Important Points …
(i) Current European Union (EU) Climate and Energy Policies are not just a passing fad … they are here to stay. With certainty, we also know that they will become more and more stringent … and that higher levels of performance will be mandated … not just on paper or a computer printout … but in reality, for example, in buildings which are constructed and actually occupied by ‘real’ building users. Refer also to recent findings, in Europe, about the large and growing discrepancy between car fuel efficiencies claimed after testing in a laboratory, and when later monitored under ‘real’ driving conditions.
(ii) It has now become obvious that the European Commission has lost the plot … big time ! Policies and Actions in closely related fields have been permitted to become fragmented, disjointed, and even counter-productive. Written into the EU treaties is the term ‘sustainable development’ … an intricate, open, dynamic and continuously evolving concept. However, senior levels (both political and bureaucratic) in the different Directorates-General of the European Commission have long ago forgotten, mislaid and/or lost the proper meaning of ‘sustainability’ … and the essential interdependency of its many aspects.
… which brings me to the urgent necessity for Next Generation Architectural Design Concepts …
In Europe … the 1990’s and early 2000’s, taken together, was a period of construction experimentation and research. We thought we could afford the resources and the lazy times … to try this, that and the other. Little emphasis was placed on practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings. However, the scale and immediacy of today’s Sustainable Development Challenges in the Built Environment have, within a few short years and much more quickly than expected, become unprecedented.
The Yanks (Gringos) are very strong on marketing … much stronger than Europe … so let’s examine a small model building … and see if its Architectural Design Concept is both coherent and comprehensive …
Mr. Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute in the USA ( www.rmi.org ) … has produced a very snazzy Visitor’s Guide to the sprawling complex that is ‘his home, bioshelter and office’ in Snowmass, Colorado … a Guide intended for wide public circulation.
Concerning this Building … Three Points of Interest(?) …
(i) For a fleeting moment … let us imagine that a percentage – not even all – of the vast populations living in Africa, India and China wanted the same sort of lifestyle, including the house, that Amory Lovins possesses. What would be the resource implications for this planet ??
(ii) In a first construction ‘try’ … separate solar and/or photovoltaic panels fixed in place on a roof … attached to the building, almost as an afterthought … were the norm. Now, however, these building systems are no longer innovative … they must be properly shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’ (to comply with building regulations and codes) … and they should now be fully integrated into the architectural design concept for the building … which is not the case in the photograph above. [ Car manufacturers face a similar design challenge today … how to successfully integrate new technologies, e.g. satellite navigation screens, smartphone docking stations, usb sockets, bluetooth, etc., etc., into the front dashboard.]
Anyway … how reproducible is this model building in urban and suburban contexts … in the USA … or elsewhere in the world ?? How many people would have access to sufficient land outside a building to ‘plant’ one, or a series of photovoltaic panels ? Tracking photovoltaic panels, as shown above ?? And as seen in Italy, with those ridiculous photovoltaic fields (in a post, dated 2011-11-07 ) … good agricultural lands should not be used for this purpose … not now, not ever, never !
(iii) Sustainable Buildings are ‘high-tech’ … and a very large amount and variety of electronic and mechanical equipment is necessary in order to reliably monitor and tightly control their performance … in other words, to operate a building in accordance with its design specification. Again … these services should be fully integrated into the architectural design concept for what is, no longer, just a simple dwelling. Do similar houses without basements, for example, now need a central well-ventilated service room, complete with compact workstation ?
In my opinion … the Architectural Design Concept for this building is not coherent. The overall architectural impression is one of a large sprawling house, on a very large plot of land … with many different ‘environmental/energy’-related appendages, or add-ons. Can you see any coherence ?
It is the task of the Architect to consider all facets of building performance at the earliest stages of design … whether a small building, or a very large complex building … and to integrate those many diverse, but interdependent, facets into a coherent architectural statement … having a conceptual single crystalline shape … while also bearing in mind ‘person-centredness’, ‘flexibility’, ‘adaptability’, ‘accessibility for all’, and a ‘long and useful life cycle’.
[ An aside … closer to home … we are now witnessing the rise of the ‘Passive House Designer’. This person, who is able to use a specific computer software package … no less, and no more … need not necessarily be an architect, or have any architectural education/training. Is it possible to refer to the realized output from this software as ‘architecture’ … or are they merely drab, boring boxes ?? ]
3. Sustainable Buildings, Fire Safety & Fire Engineering ?
In the elaborate Amory Lovins Visitor’s Guide above … there is only one mention of fire hazard in the building … and that is in relation to a Passive Clothes Dryer (Page 40). End of story with regard to the Fire Safety Issues for its Users … and the Fire Engineering Implications arising from a chosen architectural design and chosen construction materials and methods.
When I was referring to a centrally located service room in # 2(iii) above … that room should also be structurally hardened, and fire and smoke ‘separated’ from other spaces in the house. Or … if the service equipment is located in a roof space, there are implications for roof structural reliability in a fire situation, and the fire resistance of the ceiling construction beneath. Or … if the equipment is located in a basement, a simple intermediate timber floor construction overhead is inadequate.
Furthermore … an intelligent fire detection and warning system … and a suitable domestic fire suppression system … are no longer luxuries or optional extras, but essential requirements ! Who would want to lose such a valuable investment ??
And insofar as fire safety issues are not being considered … it seems, at all … in the case of most ‘high-tech’, sustainable buildings … and certainly not in the case of the Lovins House … the Architectural Design Concepts for these buildings ‘suffer’ from a gaping hole … an enormous void … they are incomplete and, therefore, entirely inadequate.
Fire Engineering involves much, much more than mere compliance with building regulations and codes … whose fire safety objectives are limited, and whose performance requirements are sometimes inadequate and always minimal.
Unfortunately … there is a fundamental conflict between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the current state-of-the-art in Fire Engineering Design. As an example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of air movement in that building. On the other hand, fire consultants in private practice, and fire prevention officers in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.
In everyday practice, there is a vast chasm in understanding and communication between these two very different design disciplines. As a result, serious compromises are being enforced on Sustainability Performance. If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a Sustainable Building … it is the fire safety and protection which is being seriously compromised.
A range of critical fire safety issues (fatal, in the case of firefighters) are also arising from the Innovative Building Products and Systems being installed in Sustainable Buildings.
And because the emphasis is on pre-construction design ‘intent’ rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed and occupied building … all of these problems are being conveniently sidestepped or ignored … and they remain hidden from everybody’s view.
Sustainable Fire Engineering Design, on the other hand, is the creative response to Sustainable Design … and the powerful drivers of Climate Change Adaptation, and Energy Conservation/Efficiency in Buildings.
Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions are …
Adapted to Local Conditions … Geography, Climate (change, variability and severity swings), Social Need, Culture, and Economy, etc., etc ;
‘Reliability-Based’ … the design process is based on competence, practical experience, and an examination of ‘real’ extreme events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 & 2008 Mumbai Attacks, and 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than on theory alone ;
‘Person-Centred’ … ‘real’ people are placed at the centre of creative endeavours and proper consideration is given to their responsible needs … and their health, safety and welfare … and security … in the Human Environment.
Sustainability … continues to fundamentally transform our Fire Engineering, Architectural and Consultancy Practice at Sustainable Design International Ltd (SDI) !