the discussions were lively interesting and challenging

CIB W14: ‘Fire Safety’ – Recent Important Meeting in Zurich

2010-10-07:  Established in 1953 … CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is an Organization whose objectives are to stimulate and facilitate international co-operation and information exchange between research institutes and research-oriented individuals in the Global Construction Sector.

In 2010CIB is now a worldwide network of over 5000 experts … from about 500 member organisations active in the research community, in industry or in education … who co-operate and exchange information in over 50 CIB Working Commissions and Task Groups, covering all fields in building and construction related research and innovation.

CIB Working Commissions initiate projects for the purposes of R&D and information exchange … organise meetings and issue publications.  These meetings can be Commission meetings for members only, or international symposia and congresses open to everyone.  Publications can be proceedings, scientific or technical analyses and international state-of-the-art reports.


CIB Working Commission 14 (W14) recently held an important meeting at EMPA Headquarters (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science & Technology) in Zurich, Switzerland … on Monday and Tuesday, 30th and 31st August 2010.  The meeting was very well attended … and the discussions, throughout, were lively, interesting and challenging !

The Co-Ordinator for W14 … Prof. Dr. George Hadjisophocleous, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada … is Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Holder of the Industrial Research Chair in Fire Safety Engineering.

This Meeting was Important for Two Reasons …

1.  Working Commission 14 Title & Description Revised

Early on the Monday morning, 30th August 2010 … under the Agenda Item: ‘Overview of CIB W14 Mission Statement’, I had proposed that the Commission should review the current, rather outdated Mission Statement.  A draft text, which I had submitted many months before the Zurich meeting, was used as the basis for our discussion.

It was a major step forward that the Revised Title & Description for Working Commission 14 received such enthusiastic support, and endorsement …

Revised CIB W14 Title: ‘Fire Safety’

This will make the work of Working Commission 14 more accessible to the many built environment design, construction and operation related disciplines outside the international fire science and engineering community … and to the rest of CIB, which will facilitate greater communication and co-operation with other CIB Working Commissions and Task Groups.

The revised title will also foster and promote better co-ordination with International Standards Organization (ISO) Technical Committee 92: ‘Fire Safety’.

Revised CIB W14 Description:

A Working Commission of CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building & Construction) … CIB 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.

During the Meeting, it was made crystal clear that the Built Environment did not just mean ‘buildings’ … and that Sustainable referred to all Aspects of Sustainable Development, and not merely to its environmental aspects.

All Aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development must be taken into account at the same time and with equal weight.

This is an important foundation for the International Fire Science and Engineering Community … as it begins to communicate and engage, meaningfully, with the Mainstream Construction Sector about discussions on Sustainable Design, Construction & Operation (including management and servicing, etc.).

2.  Tighter Scope for the New CIB W14 Fire Research Projects

During the remainder of the 2-day meeting … Overview Presentations were made, Progress was reported, and Lengthy Discussions followed on the following Fire Research & Innovation Projects listed below.

I will only make a few pertinent comments about some of the Projects …

a)  Design Fires

During the discussion about this Project, I firmly made the point that proper consideration must now be given to ‘Maximum Credible Fire Scenario’ … as recommended in the 2005 NIST(USA) Final Report on the 9-11 World Trade Center Towers 1 & 2 Collapses.  See Footnote 26, on Page 208 of the 2005 Report, for the definition of this concept.

b)  Fire Performance of Materials

I drew the meeting’s attention to the serious problem of Hazardous Plasterboard/Drywall manufactured in China.  See the Post on this Blog …

c)  Structural Performance in Fire – Connections

d)  Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse

I am the Leader for this International Project … and our progress can be followed on a separate Page of this Blog …

e)  Human Behaviour & Abilities in Fire Emergencies

For reasons which I cannot discuss here, it was considered to be absolutely essential that this Project proceed with all haste … and full speed !

Two Issues in Particular …

In relation to the problems People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) face in preparation for, during and after fire emergencies in buildings … Existing Standards at International and National Levels have been shown …

  • to lack any proper awareness or understanding about ‘disability’ ;
  • to present a Design, Construction and Management Response to the problems experienced by People with Activity Limitations in preparation for, during and after fire emergencies in buildings … which is far, far less than adequate … or, to put it in more direct language … a Response which is entirely unacceptable … on technical, social and legal grounds.

It must be clearly noted that the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities became an International Legal Instrument on 3rd May 2008.  As a result of Article #11 … in future, to give just one simple example, fire evacuation routes in buildings must be designed to be ‘accessible-for-all’.  This is an entirely new concept for most fire engineers … in all countries !

On my proposal, therefore, the Project Title was amended to include Human Abilities.

Secondly … and further to its introduction during my presentation at an earlier CIB W14 Meeting in Lund University, Sweden, during April 2009 … this Project will also examine the concept of ‘Maximum Credible User Scenario’, i.e. user conditions which are also severe, but reasonable to anticipate … meaning …

  • the Number of people using a building increases, on occasions which cannot be specified, to 120% of calculated maximum building capacity ;


  • 10% of people using the building (occupants, visitors and other users) have an Impairment (visual or hearing, physical function, mental or cognitive, psychological, with some impairments not being identifiable).

Leadership of this Project is held by Douglas Hillhouse, Organizer of the Fire Risk Engineering Programme in the School of the Built & Natural Environments, Glasgow Caledonian University.

f)  Fire Engineering Performance Criteria


Watch this space … more interesting, pre-normative fire engineering developments are in the pipeline !




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