virtual environment

2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ Adopted !

2015-04-20:  After a lengthy, constructive and very interesting discussion which resulted in some important text revisions … on Friday afternoon in Dublin, 10 April 2015, at the ‘Fire Safety for All’ Conference (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu) … all participants voted to adopt, support and promote the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings !

With regard to International Distribution and Promotion of the Declaration … many readers of this Technical Blog belong to varied professional, social and business networks.  I would earnestly ask you to circulate the Declaration widely within those networks, and to actively seek the support of as many organizations and individuals as possible.  This support should be confirmed by means of a simple e-mail message to: fireox@sustainable-design.ie … and I will then add the names of supporters to the Fire Safety for All WebSite (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu).  Copies of the Declaration, in PDF and WORD Formats, can also be downloaded from the WebSite.

Fire-Safety-4-All_smlThis Benchmark Declaration on Accessibility and Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations … is an essential reference document for all stakeholders and interested parties.  It draws a long-awaited, broad, distinct and stable line in the shifting sands of a rapidly evolving Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic, and institutional) ….

1.   As of 14 July 2015 … 156 Countries, plus the European Union, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Since the Convention became an international legal instrument in 2008, however, the UN CRPD Preamble’s Paragraph (g): ‘mainstreaming disability in sustainable development strategies’ … and Paragraph (v): ‘the importance of accessibility in enabling people to fully enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms’ … have tended to receive insufficient public attention and scrutiny.  The Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings and the related CIB W14 Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document have been drafted with those two paragraphs very much in mind.

2.   Although a situation of serious risk for vulnerable building users … it is not appropriate to deal with Fire Safety for All in Buildings under Article 11: ‘Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies’ of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … where situations of grave risk are handled, e.g. Extreme Man-Made Events, Hybrid Disasters, Severe Natural Events, Complex Humanitarian Emergencies … all amid Accelerating Climate Change & Variability.

Take the case of an earthquake, for example … where there will be large-scale serious building damage and many, many building collapses throughout an affected region.  On the other hand, when considering fire safety for all in any building … it is necessary that the building shall remain not just structurally stable, but serviceable.

3.   It is more appropriate, particularly since the publication of International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) with its expanded definition of Building Accessibility, that Fire Safety for All be incorporated into the meaning and implementation of Article 9: ‘Accessibility’ of the CRPD … in exactly the same manner that fire safety is fully integrated into everyday mainstream building use, and mainstream building fire safety codes and standards.

As there are no references, at all, to either ‘fire’ or ‘safety’ in Articles 9 … there is much to be explained and clarified in the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings, if ‘real’ implementation is to be both practical and successful.

An improved and updated definition of Building Accessibility is contained in Principle 3 of the Dublin Declaration …

‘Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.’

4.   The Dublin Declaration contains a Preamble, Principles 1-9 which are headlined below, and an Appendix with many Terms and Definitions …

Principle 1 – A Human Right
Principle 2 – Successful Implementation
Principle 3 – Building Accessibility
Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation
Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s
Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills
Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision
Principle 8 – Building Management
Principle 9 – Firefighters

5.   Existing approaches to Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation in Buildings for People with Activity Limitations … as described and illustrated in the notable examples of British Standard B.S. 9999 (2008), Singapore’s FSR 7 (2011), and Hong Kong’s Fire Safety Code Addendum (2014) … are technically inadequate, tokenistic, discriminatory, create barriers to social participation, and violate human rights.  Therefore, any further use or recourse to such existing approaches must be terminated immediately !

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2015  DUBLIN  DECLARATION  ON  ‘FIRE SAFETY FOR ALL’  IN  BUILDINGS
A Call to Action and Successful Implementation !

(Adopted in Dublin, 2015-04-10)

Meeting In  Dublin, Ireland … on Thursday and Friday, 9 and 10 April, 2015

In Co-Operation With  the International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction (CIB), Rehabilitation International’s International Commission on Technology & Accessibility (RI-ICTA), the Global Alliance for Accessible Technologies & EnvironmentS (GAATES), and the EUropean Concept for Accessibility Network (EuCAN) ;

Recognizing  the integral and interdependent nature of the natural and human environments (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) on this small planet Earth, our common home … and the need for harmonized principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the World in the enhancement of a human environment which cherishes the dignity, worth and many abilities of every person ;

Whereas  in the United Nations Charter, the U.N. Member States pledged their respect for, and the protection and observance of, fundamental human and social rights … and have determined to promote social development and better standards of living for all ;

Recalling  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on 10th December 1948 … which established a global framework of human and social rights – basic needs and protections – and fundamental freedoms for every person and communal gathering ;

Recalling Also  the Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing, adopted on 11th December 2004 … which stressed the importance of the social aspects in Sustainable Human & Social Development ;

Mindful Especially  of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted on 13th December 2006 … the principal aim of which is to ensure that the human environment is sufficiently accessible to permit a vulnerable and major population group in all communities to safely exercise and enjoy the human and social rights and fundamental freedoms described in the 1948 UDHR ;

Working Towards  the achievement of justice, equality of opportunity, social inclusion, active participation and development for every person with an activity limitation in all communities … and recognizing that accessibility of the human environment is an essential prerequisite for the above, and that fire safety for all is a critical life safety component of that accessibility ;

Aware Always  of the universal reality that there is still a strong social stigma associated with disability and, particularly, mental ill-health … that much of the human environment is not accessible for all, and even where it is robustly mandated in law, the quality of that accessibility is poor … and that fire safety guidelines for people with activity limitations in buildings, if they exist, are inadequate and/or tokenistic, and rarely implemented ;

Welcoming the launch of the CIB Working Commission 14: Fire Safety – Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document: Buildings & ‘Fire Incident Human Behaviour and Abilities’ which presents a practical examination and general overview of fire safety for all

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Addressed to every Country and the European Union – those many Voluntary Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – and the Politicians, Authorities Having Jurisdiction, State Agencies, Professional Bodies & Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, Charitable & Private Organizations, etc., based within those separate jurisdictions:

We Declare That The Following Principles Must …

Be carefully studied, successfully implemented, and independently monitored … supported by Benchmarking, reliable Data and Statistics, and the informed use of pertinent Accessibility & Fire Safety Related Performance Indicators …

Principle 1 – A Human Right

Full and effective accessibility of the Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) is a fundamental human and social right, i.e. a basic need, for people with activity limitations – it is an essential prerequisite for the safe exercise and enjoyment of those rights, protections and freedoms set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international rights instruments … and crucially, for their health, participation, inclusion and development in all communities.

Principle 2 – Successful Implementation

Successful accessibility implementation … meaning high quality accessibility performance in the built environment … is reliant upon:

  • A robust legal base mandating accessibility for all and fire safety for all ;
  • Determined political will ;
  • Sufficient public financial resources ;
  • A compassionate and understanding bureaucracy at all levels ;
  • Competent … meaning duly educated, trained and experienced in accessibility and fire safety design … spatial planners, architects, structural engineers, fire engineers, quantity surveyors, technical controllers, industrial designers, building managers, and people at all levels in construction organizations ;
  • Independent monitoring of accessibility and fire safety performance ;
  • Innovative, well-designed accessibility and fire safety related products and systems which can be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’.

Principle 3 – Building Accessibility

Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.

Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation

Accessibility design criteria must be infused into all of the practical, day-to-day work of building designers and, especially, in the development of project-specific fire engineering design objectives … and be applied from the initial stages of building design, through to the construction and reliable life cycle operation of vertical and horizontal fire evacuation routes facilitating contraflow, areas of rescue assistance, fire safety related signage, controls and fittings, fire prevention and protection measures, fire safety management procedures, routes to and locations of places of safety, etc., etc.
• Evacuation way finding in buildings must be intuitive and obvious ;
• 3 Keywords for building designers must be: reality – reliability – redundancy.

Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s

Electronic, information and communication technologies are ubiquitous in today’s complex built and virtual environments.  During a real fire incident in a building, they serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage and harm, and sustainability. For that reason, they must have a control and/or user interface which is accessible for all.

Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills

People with activity limitations who occupy or use a building frequently must be included in all practice fire evacuations, in order to learn the skill of safe independent evacuation to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.  During a real fire incident, evacuation assistance provided by other building users or rescue by firefighters, and the time spent waiting for that assistance or rescue in the building must be kept to an absolute minimum.

People with activity limitations must be actively encouraged to participate in fire safety preparatory planning and regular practices … and, without exception, must be consulted and included in all activities concerning their own evacuation from a building.

Management systems and fire protection measures in buildings are never 100% reliable.  People with activity limitations must, therefore, be actively encouraged to be self-aware in situations of risk, and facilitated in learning the skill of self-protection.

Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision

Reasonable spatial provision must be allocated in a building for the needs of real users, who vary in the range of their individual behaviour and abilities … and for the real building user population profile which, avoiding discrimination, must reflect a society as a whole.  Concerning fire safety for all and the necessary size, for example, of an area of rescue assistance which adjoins a fire evacuation staircase on every floor in a building … the following indicators, exclusive of extra provision for assistants, must guide the architect and fire engineer in the collaborative design process:

(a)  Minimum reasonable provision for people with disabilities in a building – 10% of design occupant/user population ;

(b)  Minimum reasonable provision for people with activity limitations in a building … 15% of design occupant/user population.

Principle 8 – Building Management

Building managers must ensure that fire safety for all preparatory planning is effective, and that practices are held regularly … before any real fire incident occurs.  And as part of their normal, day-to-day functioning … managers must be fully aware that, without due attention to accessibility-related services, product maintenance and occupant/user welfare policies, the quality of accessibility in a building will rapidly deteriorate.

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) must not be used to limit or restrict access to any part of a building and its facilities.

Principle 9 – Firefighters

Firefighters must be trained to interact with and rescue people with activity limitations from buildings, using procedures and equipment which will not cause injury to either.  Fire services must ensure that they operate such procedures and possess such regularly serviced equipment.

Emergency service organizations must operate reliable systems to notify the fire services of emergency situations, which are accessible for all and useable by the public at all times.

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APPENDIX – Terms & Definitions

Area of Rescue Assistance:  A sufficiently large building space directly adjoining, and visible from, a main vertical evacuation route – robustly and reliably protected from heat, smoke and flame during and after a fire – where people may temporarily wait with confidence for further information, instructions, and evacuation assistance or rescue, without obstructing or interfering with the evacuation travel of other building users.

Contraflow Circulation in a Fire Building:  Emergency access by firefighters or rescue teams into a building and towards a real fire … while building users are still moving away from the fire and evacuating the building.

Evacuation from a Fire Building:  To withdraw, or cause to withdraw, all users from a building which is on fire … in pre-planned and orderly phased movements to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.

Fire Compartmentation:  The division of a building into fire-tight compartments by fire, smoke and heat resisting elements of construction, in order to …
a)  contain an outbreak of fire, including any smoke and heat generated by the fire ;
b)  prevent damage, within the building, to other adjoining compartments and spaces ;
c)  protect a compartment interior from external fire attack, e.g. fire spread across the building’s facade or from an adjacent building ;
d)  minimize adverse, or harmful, environmental impacts outside the building.

Human Health:  A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

People with Activity Limitations (E) / Personnes à Performances Réduites (F):  Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical / mental / cognitive / psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.

The above Term includes …

  • wheelchair users ;
  • people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without a facilitation aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;
  • frail, older people ;
  • the very young (people under the age of 5 years) ;
  • people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition ;
  • the visually and/or hearing impaired ;
  • people who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;
  • women in the later stages of pregnancy ;
  • people impaired following the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines ;
  • people who suffer any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia ;
  • people impaired following exposure to environmental pollution and/or other irresponsible human activities, e.g. war and terrorism ;

and …

  • people who experience a panic attack in a real fire situation or other emergency ;
  • people, including firefighters, who suffer incapacitation as a result of exposure, during a real fire, to smoke and poisonous or toxic substances, and/or elevated temperatures.

Place of Safety:
•  Any accessible location beyond a perimeter which is [100] metres from the fire building or a distance of [10] times the height of such building, whichever is the greater ;   and
•  Where necessary triage can safely be rendered … and from where effective medical care and supervision can be organized and provided within one hour of injury (the ‘golden hour’) ;   and
•  Where people can be identified.

Note: If there is a risk of an explosion associated with a fire – multiply the numbers in square brackets above by 4.

Progressive Damage in Fire / Fire-Induced Progressive Damage:  The sequential growth and intensification of structural deformation and displacement, beyond fire engineering design parameters, and the eventual failure of elements of construction in a building – during a fire and the ‘cooling phase’ afterwards – which, if unchecked, will result in disproportionate damage, and may lead to total building collapse.

Note: Fire-induced progressive damage may commence long before there is any breach in the integrity of a fire compartment’s boundaries.

Real Fire:  A fire which develops in a building and is influenced by such factors as the type of building and its occupancy (numbers, abilities and activities) ;  the combustible content (fire load) ;  the ventilation, geometry and thermal properties of the fire compartment or building space (should no fire compartmentation exist) ;  the fire suppression systems in the building, and the actions of firefighters.

Skill:  The ability of a person – resulting from proper training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

Social Environment:  The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

Social Rights:  Rights to which an individual person is legally entitled, e.g. the right to free elementary education (Art.26(1), UDHR), but which are only exercised in a social context with other people, and with the active support of a competent legal authority, e.g. a Nation State.

Social Wellbeing:  A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

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Global Event: ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !

2014-12-09:  FireOx International, the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd., is very pleased and proud to present the following Global CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Event

Fire Safety for All !9 & 10 April 2015 – Dublin Castle, Ireland

‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !
[ www.fire-safety-for-all.eu ]

Co-Sponsored by CIB & RI-ICTA
Kindly supported by Fáilte Ireland

This will not be a polite gathering intended just for an Irish audience, or even for Europeans … this is a Global Event – a catalyst for Substantive Social Transformation everywhere !

Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is Fire Safe or it is not ;  the design philosophy of the fire engineer is irrelevant.  Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being Accessible for All, or not.  And if the building is accessible for all, does it tick all of the right accessibility boxes well, i.e. effectively ?

While building fire safety codes and standards exist in almost every country … guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations – IF those guidelines exist at all – are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic, blatantly discriminatory, and rarely implemented.

This is a very significant obstacle to Effective Building Accessibility everywhere !!

Accessibility is now understood to mean the full cycle of independent building use, in an equitable and dignified manner … and this term includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.  (ISO 21542 : 2011)

Cogently mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) … the CRPD’s principal aim is to ensure that the Built, Social, Economic and Virtual Environments are sufficiently ‘accessible’ to permit a vulnerable and major(!) population group in all of our societies to enjoy the fundamental freedoms and human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Refer to Preamble Paragraph (g) in the UN Convention …

‘ Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,’

and to … Article 3 (General Principles), Article 9 (Accessibility), Article 11 (Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies), Article 19 (Living Independently & Being Included in the Community), Article 20 (Personal Mobility), Article 24 (Education), Article 27 (Work & Employment), Article 31 (Statistics & Data Collection), Article 32 (International Co-Operation), and Article 33 (National Implementation & Monitoring).

The focus of this event, therefore, is Real Accessibility.  In other words, Effective Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations (which includes people with disabilities, and children under the age of 5 years, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and people with health conditions, etc.) … an accessibility which actually works well for all potential building users.  And it is appropriate also, now, to introduce the concept of Monitoring and Targeting this ‘real’ accessibility … independently, i.e. by 3rd Parties !

It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !

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Good Design Practice: ‘Fire Safety for All’ & EICT Accessibility

[ EICT’s = Electronic, Information & Communication Technologies ]

2014-10-13:  Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies have rapidly become an essential feature of the Built, Social and Economic Environments; they are everywhere.  During a fire incident, however, these e-Technologies serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage, and sustainability.  They must, therefore, have a user interface which is Accessible for All … from both ends.

This is a requirement of International Law … and an unambiguous National Requirement (expressed in the form of law and/or mandatory administrative provisions) in those jurisdictions which are States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

There is no European Standard (EN) on e-Technology Accessibility … and, in the European Union (EU), a coherent approach to the accessibility of even a modest range of EICT’s has not yet even been developed.

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Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies (EICT’s) must comply with Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 … or with a suitable Standard/Guidance Document of another country which details an equivalent level of e-Accessibility performance.

U.S. Section 508 covers the following range of e-Technologies:

  • Software Applications & Operating Systems (1194.21) ;
  • Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications (1194.22) ;
  • Telecommunications Products (1194.23) ;
  • Video and Multimedia Products (1194.24) ;
  • Self Contained, Closed Products (1194.25) ;
  • Desktop and Portable Computers (1194.26)

Source WebSite, Helpful Guidance & Support …

www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards

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Sustainable Fire Engineering Design – Targeting & MRV !

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

Design Key Words:  Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – Resilience

Essential Construction & Occupancy Start-Up Processes:  Careful Monitoring & Reporting – Independent Verification of Performance (MRV)

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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 !

Design Objectives:

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.

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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.

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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.

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These are appropriate tasks for a new CIB W14 Research Working Group VI: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design & Construction’ !

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Sustainable Human & Social Development – Reloaded !

2014-04-13:  Further to the Post, dated 2013-01-13

There are many essential qualities and features belonging to and representative of a Sustainable Human Environment (including the Social, Built, Virtual and Economic Environments).  As discussed here many times before … Accessibility-for-All is one fundamental attribute, under Social and Legal Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

Another fundamental attribute … Urban Resilience … is now moving centre stage in the world of International Construction Research & Practice.  WHEN, not if … this concept is fully elaborated and understood, it will have a profound impact on All Tasks, Activities and Types of Performance in the Human Environment … under All Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

After working for many years on Climate Change, particularly Adaptation … it was quite natural for me to encounter the concept of Resilience.  But the aim of a newly established Core Task Group within CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is to widen out this concept to also include Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis), Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, (e.g. regional famines, mass human migrations), Extreme Man-Made Events (e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks), and Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident) … to set down Resilience Benchmarks … and to produce Resilience Performance Indicators.  An imposing challenge !

AND … as Urbanization is proceeding at such a rapid pace in the BRICS Countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) and throughout the rest of the Southern Hemisphere … ‘practical’ and ‘easily assimilated’ trans-disciplinary output from this CIB Task Group is urgently required.  In other words, the work of the Task Group must not be permitted to become an exercise in long drawn out pure academic research … the clear focus must be on ‘real’ implementation … As Soon As Is Practicable !!

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A New and Updated Groundwork …

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SUSTAINABLE DESIGN

The ethical design response, in resilient built and/or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

SUSTAINABLE HUMAN & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the human and social rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from the next seven future generations.

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and augmented by UN OHCHR Letter, dated 6 June 2013, on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

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The CITY (as Region)

A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

(a)              An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;

(b)              A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;

(c)              A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;

together functioning as …

(i)                 a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;     and

(ii)               a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare, and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

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SOCIAL WELLBEING

A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

INDIVIDUAL WELFARE

A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

HUMAN HEALTH

A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.     [World Health Organization]

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SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

The social environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of the built and virtual environments.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc … including the virtual environment.

VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT

A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

The virtual and built environments continue to merge into a new augmented reality.

ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT

The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the social environment.

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And So To Work !!

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‘Greening’ Ireland’s Economy – Will Somebody Please Get Real ?

2011-11-21:  The International Labour Office (ILO), in Geneva, and the European Union’s Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) … have recently published a Joint Report: ‘Skills for Green Jobs – A Global View’

The vision is positive … its advice is practical … and the writers actually sound as if they know what they are talking about.  And it is evident that the word ‘green’ is used, in this Report, as a simple means of communicating the far more complex concept of ‘sustainable human and social development’, with all of its many different aspects.  Judge for yourself by reading the extract from the Executive Summary below.

This Report’s contents also complement, very neatly, what has been said here in many posts … concerning the institutional infrastructure necessary, in societies, to properly implement an effective response to policies of energy conservation and security, climate change and sustainable development.

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WAYS FORWARD  [ Pages xxiv to xxvi, Executive Summary, ILO – EU CEDEFOP Report: ‘Skills for Green Jobs – A Global View’ ]

It is important to remember that skills are not a poor servant of the economy, expected merely to react and adjust to any change.  The availability of a suitably trained workforce capable of further learning inspires confidence that in turn encourages investment, technical innovation, economic diversification and job creation.

Policies Need to be Informed, Coherent and Co-Ordinated

When policies to green the economy and policies to develop skills are not well connected, skill bottlenecks will slow the green transformation, and potential new jobs will be lost.  Strategic, leadership and management skills that enable policy-makers in governments, employers’ associations and trade unions to set the right incentives and create enabling conditions for cleaner production and services are an absolute priority.

Environmental awareness as an integral part of education and training at all levels, introduced as a core skill from early childhood education onwards, will eventually push consumer behaviour and preferences and the market itself.

Labour market information for anticipating and monitoring skill needs for green jobs is the critical starting point for effective policy cycles.  This enables governments and businesses to anticipate changes in the labour market, identify the impact on skill requirements, incorporate changes into the system by revising training programmes and introducing new ones, and monitor the impact of training on the labour market.

The country studies that told the most successful stories prove the value of effective co-ordination among line ministries and social partners, achieved by creating task forces for human resource development for a greening economy, or by incorporating training and skills issues into a council for environmental development.  It is important that the platform for this dialogue has decision-making authority, can establish clear commitments among all those partners involved and allocate human and financial resources to them, and has agreed responsibilities not only for planning but for implementation.  A win–win situation can only be achieved if environment, jobs and skills are discussed, planned and implemented in conjunction with each other.

Decentralized approaches can actually promote policy co-ordination and coherence at sectoral and local levels.  Direct dialogue between national and regional governments and social partners can be translated into action when commitments and resource allocation occur at a smaller scale and where immediate dividends are obvious for all partners involved.  A good combination of top-down co-ordinated policy-making with bottom-up sectoral or local initiatives can support effective training-intensive green transitions.

Policies Need to be Targeted

The transformation to greener economies provides an opportunity to reduce social inequalities.  Social justice dictates that training initiatives target those who lose jobs during the transition, especially those who are typically at a disadvantage in the labour market and may require special assistance.  The growth dividend from greening the economy will be attained only if access to new training provided as part of green measures is made accessible to disadvantaged youth, persons with disabilities, rural communities and other vulnerable groups.  Incentives to increase women’s participation in technical training programmes will not only increase their participation in technology-driven occupations but also help solve the skill shortage problem in this segment of the labour market.

Green Transitions Affect the Entire Training System

Taking into account all three types of skills change – that resulting from employment shifts within and across sectors as the consequence of green restructuring, that associated with new and emerging occupations, and the massive change in the content of established occupations – it becomes clear that the whole training system must be mobilized.  Adjusting training programmes to green changes in the labour market is a transversal task across levels and types of education and training.

So far, compulsory level and tertiary education have been catching up rather well, whereas technical and vocational education and training has been lagging behind in adapting to the needs of the green economy.  Improving adjustment here can give new impetus to employment-centred and fair green transitions and requires the following key challenges to be met:

  • Putting basic skills high on the policy agenda, as a foundation of flexibility and employability throughout the life cycle ;
  • Matching classroom and practical training through apprenticeships, internships, job placements, projects on the job etc ;
  • Adjusting the length and breadth of training provision according to different types of skills change ;
  • Equipping teachers and trainers with up-to-date knowledge on environmental issues and on green technologies – education and training which deals with preparation of teachers and trainers should be one of the first priorities in skills response strategies ;
  • Enabling active labour market policy measures (ALMP’s) to take into account green structural change and to provide access to relevant training and other employment activation measures ;    and
  • Deploying public employment services (PES), as important players in job matching and training, to raise awareness about green business opportunities and related skill needs.

The linchpin of effective skills development for greening the economy is co-ordination.  The degree of co ordination between public and private stakeholders and the degree of involvement of social partners are decisive.  Concerted measures need to be undertaken by governments at different levels, including the community level, employers and workers, through institutional mechanisms of social dialogue, such as national or regional tripartite councils, sector or industry skills councils, public–private partnerships and the like.

Developing Countries Need Special Measures

Developing countries, and the workers and employers in them, have the least responsibility for climate change and environmental degradation but suffer their economic and social consequences disproportionately.  Special measures that can speed their employment-centred green transformations include:

–   capacity building for employers in the informal economy and micro- and small enterprises to enter green markets in localities where they are most needed ;

–   entrepreneurship training and business coaching for young people and adults to start up green businesses in conjunction with micro-finance projects ;

–   environmental awareness among decision-makers, business leaders and administrators as well as institutions of formal and non-formal training systems ;

–   capacity building of tripartite constituents to strengthen social dialogue mechanisms and to apply these to dialogue about accessibility of training for green jobs ;   and

–   increased capacity of formal education and training systems and institutions to provide basic skills for all and to raise the skills base of the national workforce ;  this includes improving apprenticeship systems and building synergies with NGO’s that provide education and training.

These measures can only be taken if resources are available.  It is therefore recommended that not only national governments but also international partnerships in developing countries take these recommendations into account both in environment programmes and in skills development programmes.

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‘GREENING’ IRELAND’s ECONOMY ?

Ireland was not one of the countries examined in the ILO / EU CEDEFOP Project.  That should tell us a lot !

BUT … just pause for a moment … and meditate on the many skill-related issues arising from the debacle at the Priory Hall Apartment Development, in Dublin.

AND NOW … read the following extracts from recent Irish National Reports … ‘high notions’ from goats in the Kerry Mountains …

The Overarching Vision – Forfás Report: ‘Future Skills Needs of Enterprise within the Green Economy in Ireland’ (November 2010) …

” For Ireland to be the benchmark ‘smart green’ economy for population centres under 20 million by 2015 – and to have the skills base and talent to drive innovative and high value products and services and maximise future business and employment growth potential.”

Final Paragraphs, #7 Conclusions – Review of National Climate Policy (November 2011) …

” In the wider-international context, there are also encouraging signs of a new ‘green growth’ paradigm which emphasises resource efficiency, the protection of natural resources and competitiveness along with the creation of new jobs.  A long-term view of how Ireland aligns its economic development with the demands of the growth engines of global commerce should be at the core of a low-carbon development vision.  In order to create enabling conditions for selling into these markets, many of which are already gearing up for the green economy, it will be necessary to ensure that the domestic conditions are right to encourage innovation.  This can be done by showing environmental ambition and using tools that allow the market to identify solutions.  That will require a combination of taking the best of what is working in other countries as well as devising domestically appropriate policies that will place Ireland in the vanguard of countries making the most of the opportunities presented by the green economy.

In terms of a long-term national vision of a carbon-constrained world, Ireland is faced with both the challenge of addressing a unique greenhouse gas emissions profile and the opportunity to position itself as an enlightened society with an environmentally sustainable and competitive, low-carbon economy.  Developing the policies to put Ireland on a clear and definite path to achieve that vision is the immediate priority.”

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Who Are These Moráns ?!?   Will Somebody Please Get Real !?!

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Public Procurement & ‘Design for All’ – It’s Crunch Time, Folks !

2011-10-12 & 2011-10-17:  Close your eyes … and imagine, for a split second, the value and material extent of all the Public Procurement Contracts being tendered for and awarded each week, throughout Europe.  ‘Enormous’ is the only appropriate word which must spring to your mind !   If you don’t believe me, check out the statistics for yourself !!   And that value is going to keep increasing !!!

The European Commission has recently proposed that suitable instruments be developed which will permit the operation of the Accessibility / Design for All Requirements in EU Public Procurement Directives to commence, with full effect.  This process is proving to be problematic … and it is certainly not as open and transparent as it should be.

Leaving aside the utilities sectors (water, energy, transport and postal services) … recall that EU Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 31 March 2004, on the Co-Ordination of Procedures for the Award of Public Works Contracts, Public Supply Contracts and Public Service Contracts had to be implemented, at national level in all of the EU Member States, no later than 31 January 2006.  This Directive was amended, in a minor way, by Directives 2005/51/EC and 2005/75/EC.  In spite of these amendments, 31 January 2006 remained the target date for national implementation.

[ Ireland’s national implementing legislation … European Communities (Award of Public Authorities’ Contracts) Regulations 2006 … came into operation on 22 June 2006.]

In addition, each Member State had to ensure that Directive 2004/18/EC was properly implemented by using effective, available and transparent Monitoring Mechanisms.

With regard to specific rules governing specifications and contract documents … Article 23.1 of Directive 2004/18/EC stated, and still does state …

‘ The technical specifications as defined in point 1 of Annex VI shall be set out in the contract documentation, such as contract notices, contract documents or additional documents.  Whenever possible these technical specifications should be defined so as to take into account accessibility criteria for people with disabilities or design for all users.’

Not the strongest possible language to encourage ‘accessibility’ … there’s nothing quite like a shall to concentrate minds !

[ However, in Ireland … with regard to the same specific rules governing specifications and contract documents … Section 23 (2) of the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities’ Contracts) Regulations 2006 states …

‘ In awarding a public contract, a contracting authority shall, as far as practicable, ensure that the technical specifications for the contract take account of the need to prescribe accessibility criteria for all persons who are likely to use the relevant works, products or service, particularly those who have disabilities.’ ]

As already discussed in my post, dated 2 November 2010 … many people in the European Union Institutions would prefer to steer completely away from the Social Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development … fuzzy areas, not capable of easy quantification … leaving small, peripheral groups in the Institutions (neither well connected to the mainstream, nor fully aware of the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of that mainstream) to look after the Social Aspects.

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Public Procurement in the European Union (EU)

The Award of Public Works Contracts, Public Supply Contracts and Public Service Contracts concluded in the EU Member States on behalf of State, Regional or Local Authorities and other bodies governed by public law entities, is subject to the respect of Principles enshrined in the EU Treaties and, in particular, to …

  • the principle of freedom of movement of goods ;
  • the principle of freedom of establishment ;
  • the principle of freedom to provide services ;   and
  • the principles deriving therefrom, such as the principle of equal treatment, the principle of non-discrimination, the principle of mutual recognition, the principle of proportionality and the principle of transparency.

For Public Contracts Above A Certain Value … it has been deemed necessary to draw up provisions of Community Co-Ordination of National Procedures for the award of such contracts, which are based on these principles so as to ensure the effects of them and to guarantee the opening-up of public procurement to competition.

– Adapted from Preamble Paragraph #2, EU Directive 2004/18/EC

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Is Europe Serious about Implementing the Public Procurement Accessibility / Design for All Requirements ?

Before looking at how Accessibility / Design for All is being handled within the fast evolving European Public Procurement Framework … it is sobering to compare and contrast how DG Environment (ENV), in the European Commission, is promoting and actively supporting Green Public Procurement, i.e. Public Procurement which is environment-friendly … http://ec.europa.eu/environment/gpp/index_en.htm … no messing about there !

If we (speaking as a European) are serious, therefore, about the ‘real’ implementation of Accessibility for All / Design for All / Inclusive Design / Universal Design / Barrier-Free Design in the Built Environment … it is of fundamental importance that an easily assimilated Standard (as defined in Paragraph #2, ANNEX VI of Directive 2004/18/EC) be produced ‘on the table’ for reference by Public Contracting Authorities … NOW !!!

Built Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, and seas, etc … including the Virtual Environment.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the  person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

The Built and Virtual Environments continue to merge into a new Augmented Reality.

A comprehensive document capable of answering a major portion of Europe’s current needs in this area is on the verge of being published as a full International Standard … ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’.  And … as is the case with hundreds of ISO Standards in other sectors, this standard could easily be approved by CEN, one of Europe’s Standards Organisations, as an EN (European Standard) … under the Vienna Agreement on Technical Co-Operation between ISO and CEN, which was confirmed by both organizations in 2001 … and the period to practical application of ISO 21542 on the ground would be relatively swift.

Every delay represents not only a precious opportunity missed to improve the Accessibility of the Built Environment … but another blatant Denial of Human and Social Rights to vulnerable groups of people in all our communities !

Yes, this document was badly managed at the beginning of its very long gestation period, and its contents were a bit of a mess for the first few years … AND European countries were indignant, then, at the prospect of it becoming a European Standard.  However, walking around any major city in any country in Europe today, and witnessing the universally appalling and miserable efforts at Accessibility Implementation … you would have to be outraged at the level of hypocrisy and blatant self-delusion practiced by Europeans !

BUT NOW … ISO FDIS 21542 … the Final Draft of the International Standard which was issued for voting, beginning on 22 September 2011 … is a very respectable looking document altogether.  It makes important statements about ‘creating a sustainable built environment which is accessible’.  Its purpose is ‘to define how the built environment should be designed, constructed and managed to enable people to approach, enter, use, egress from and evacuate a building independently, in an equitable and dignified manner and to the greatest extent possible’ … ‘principles which are supported by Preamble (g) and Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’.  I could go on, and on … but I will resist the temptation, since I was heavily involved in the development of this ISO Standard !

The point is … there is no longer any reason for European countries to complain about the inadequacy of this International Standard … and it should be the preferred instrument of choice to facilitate the immediate operation of the Accessibility / Design for All Requirements in EU Public Procurement Directive 2004/18/EC.

Unfortunately, this may not happen !

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Years too late, near the end of 2007 … DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (EMPL), in the European Commission, issued the following Mandate …

M/420 EN – Brussels, 21 December 2007

Standardization Mandate 420 to CEN, CENELEC and ETSI in Support of European Accessibility Requirements for Public Procurement in the Built Environment

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (67.4 kb)

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This Mandate covers 2 Phases of Work.  Phase I deals with compiling an inventory of existing accessibility-related standards and an analysis of any gaps … as well as with issues of accessibility implementation monitoring and conformity assessment.  Phase II is the actual accessibility standard(s) development phase.

However … Mandate M/420 EN is a flawed document, and it should have received much closer scrutiny from the European Standards Organizations named in the document title … before any work in Phase I commenced.  Failing that … the first work item on the Phase I Agenda should certainly have been a critical examination of the mandate.

In a post, dated 15 January 2011 … I wrote …

The European Union’s Accessibility Strategy, related Policies and Programmes … and the monitoring, targeting and independent verification of Accessibility Implementation … all require a radical overhaul !

All those Officials in the European Commission who are involved, in any way, shape or form, with Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ would do well to RE-READ AND MEDITATE DEEPLY on the contents of the 2003 Final Report from the Group of Accessibility Experts, which was established by the European Commission itself … “

The Final Report from the 2003 EU Group of Accessibility Experts, of which I was a Member, can be downloaded towards the end of that post.

The Officials who drafted Commission Mandate M/420 EN paid little, if any, attention to that 2003 Expert Group Report.

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At the end of Phase I … in response to the European Commission’s Mandate M/420 EN … a long, rambling CEN Joint Report (document ref. CEN/BT/WG 207 N 29) of 425 Pages was issued, dated 8 August 2011, for general discussion and comment.

Some Comments on the CEN Joint Report …

1.  Terminology

CEN Joint Report – CEN/BT/WG 207 N 29

3.4     Conclusions View, Findings and Recommendations

3.4.1  Overview

Terms such as ‘procurement’, ‘inclusion’, ‘accessibility’ and ‘compliance’ are difficult to define precisely, and they are often not fully understood by those responsible for managing or providing the products or environments people use.  They are also not readily understood by those administrating and triggering the procurement process.

It is strange, therefore … and unacceptable … that this Report does not attempt to reduce and/or remove the ambiguity surrounding these terms … by providing a clear definition, with a supporting explanatory text, for each of the terms listed above.

I’m not even sure that the large numbers of people who helped to draft the CEN Joint Report fully understand those terms !

Most importantly, the Report is not at all precise about … and in fact appears to be completely confused by … the clear distinction which must be made between ‘accessibility’ and ‘access’.

2.  ‘Accessibility’ & UN CRPD

Accessibility does not begin and end with Article 9 of the United Nations 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) !!!   See my post, dated 15 January 2011 … and #6 below.

3.  EU Ratification of UN CRPD

The full implications arising from European Union (EU) Ratification, on 23 December 2010, of the United Nations 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … for both EU Institutions, and the EU Member States (whether or not they have individually ratified the UN Convention) … have not been properly examined in the CEN Joint Report.

See my post, dated 5 February 2011 .

4.  Mainstreaming ‘Accessibility’

For the majority of people involved in the spatial planning, design and development of the European Built Environment, Accessibility is all about transport issues … for example, how far a proposed new building is from a transportation node.

We are communicating such a confused message (is it Accessibility for All, Design for All, Inclusive Design, Universal Design, or Barrier-Free Design ?) … that many policy and decision makers just could not be bothered.  And who, in Europe, is really concerned with the quality of Accessibility Implementation ???

In addition … the CEN Joint Report neglected to deal adequately … or at all … with a major body of EU Legislation which has been implemented at national level, in the Member States, many years ago … Safety at Work Legislation !   All of the EU Directives require that workplaces be accessible.  Yet, I know for a fact that, in Ireland, the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) is doing absolutely nothing to check whether this requirement is being complied with or not.

A Sustainable Built Environment is Accessible for All !   So many different types of International/European/National Legislation mandate that the Built Environment shall be Accessible for All !!   Good Design demands that the Built Environment is Accessible for All !!!

So why is Accessibility not being properly integrated into the operation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Legislation ?

Environmental Impact:  Any effect caused by a given activity on the environment, including human health, safety and welfare, flora, fauna, soil, air, water, and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, climate, landscape and historical monuments or other physical structures, or the interactions among these factors; it also includes effects on accessibility, cultural heritage or socio-economic conditions resulting from alterations to those factors.

No case need be made for the integration of Accessibility into Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) … it self-evidently must be !

Sustainability Impact Assessment:  A continual evaluation and optimization process – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal impacts on balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

5.  What Is The Overriding European Social Priority ?

The overriding European Social Priority is to commence operation, with full effect, of the Accessibility / Design for All Requirements within the fast evolving European Public Procurement Framework … as quickly as possible.

Do we have to wait another 2 or 3 years, at least, for the production of an ‘acceptable’ European Accessibility Standard ??   Instead, why not approve ISO 21542 as the European Standard when it is published as a full standard … which will be very soon ?   ISO 21542 is already being used as the benchmark in the CEN Joint Report !

AND … do we have to wait, for who knows how long … before Effective Monitoring Procedures … and Independent Verification Procedures … are put in place at European and National/Regional/Local Levels ???

Quality of European Accessibility Implementation … is critical !

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2011-10-17 …

6.  Post UN CRPD – A More Demanding Scope & Quality of Implementation

Not unexpected … but it has still been a most enlightening experience to read the recent UN CRPD Committee Report on Spain … selected extracts from which are reproduced below.  The language used by the Committee is strong and direct … finally !

This is not a good report and, in places, it makes for unpleasant reading … a concrete example of the ‘hypocrisy and blatant self-delusion practiced by Europeans’, which I talked about earlier.

In accordance with Article 36.3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … the UN Secretary-General will be making this Report available to all States Parties.

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United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Sixth Session – 19 to 23 September 2011

Concluding Observations on Initial Report of Spain

(Article 35 of UN CRPD)

The Committee considered the initial report of Spain (CRPD/C/ESP/1) at its 56th and 57th meetings, held on 20 September 2011, and adopted the following concluding observations at its 62nd meeting, held on 23 September 2011.

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III.  Principal Areas of Concern & Recommendations

A.  General Principles & Obligations (Articles 1 & 4)

11.  The Committee takes note of the adoption of Act 26/2011 which introduces the concept of ‘person with disabilities’ as defined in the Convention and expands the protection of persons with disabilities.  However, it is concerned that not all persons with disabilities are covered by the law.

12.  The Committee urges the State Party to ensure that all persons with disabilities enjoy protection against discrimination and have access to equal opportunities irrespective of their level of disability.

13.  The Committee welcomes Act 49/2007, dated 26 December 2007, establishing the Permanent Specialized Office to deal with offences and sanctions in equal opportunities, non-discrimination and universal accessibility by persons with disabilities.  However, it is concerned by the slow development and lack of promotion of this arbitration system at the regional government level; by the lack of information on the number of sanctions submitted and resolved; and by the failure of the State Party to report on actions undertaken to implement this law.  The Committee is concerned about the overall effectiveness of the system.

14.  The Committee recommends that the State Party raise awareness among persons with disabilities about the system of arbitration; increase the level of free legal aid; and ensure the regulation of offences and sanctions at the regional government level.

15.  The Committee regrets the lack of information on the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations at the regional level in designing, and evaluating the implementation of legislation, policy and decision-making processes; and the participation of children with disabilities at all levels.

16.  The Committee recommends that the State Party take specific measures to: ensure the active participation of persons with disabilities in public decision-making processes at the regional level; and to include children with disabilities at all levels.

17.  The Committee takes note of Act 2/2010 of 3 March 2010 on sexual and reproductive health decriminalizing voluntary termination of pregnancy, allowing  pregnancy to be terminated up to 14 weeks and including two specific cases in which abortion is allowed for longer time limits due to the fact that the foetus has a disability:  until 22 weeks of gestation, provided there is ‘a risk of serious anomalies in the foetus’, and beyond week 22 when, inter alia, ‘an extremely serious and incurable illness is detected in the foetus’.  It also notes the explanations provided by the State Party for maintaining this distinction.

18.  The Committee recommends that the State Party abolish the distinction made in Act 2/2010 in the period allowed under law within which a pregnancy can be terminated, based solely on disability.

B. Specific Rights (Articles 5-30)

Equality and non-discrimination (Article 5)

19.  The Committee welcomes the adoption of Act 26/2011 amending regulations which will abolish the need to have a disability certificate to bring a discrimination claim before a judicial body.  However, it regrets the lack of information on cases of discrimination, and it is concerned that persons with disabilities will still be marginalized.  The Committee is further concerned by the lack of information on reasonable accommodation.  It is also concerned that in practice disability affects parents’ guardianship or custody of their children and that legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of disability is not enforceable in cases of discrimination due to perceived disability or association with a person with a disability.

20.  The Committee urges the State Party to expand the protection of discrimination on the grounds of disability to explicitly cover multiple disability, perceived disability and association with a person with a disability, and to ensure the protection from denial of reasonable accommodation, as a form of discrimination, regardless of the level of disability.  Moreover guidance, awareness raising and training should be given to ensure a better comprehension by all stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, of the concept of reasonable accommodation and prevention of discrimination.

Article 8 – Awareness-Raising

25.  The Committee commends the many initiatives taken by the State Party to implement the Convention.  However, it notes that more needs to be done to increase awareness in society, in the media and amongst persons with disabilities themselves of the right of persons with disabilities.

26.  The Committee calls upon the State Party to take proactive measures to enhance awareness of the Convention and its Optional Protocol at all levels, in particular among the judiciary and the legal profession, political parties, Parliament and Government officials, civil society, media, persons with disabilities, as well as the general public.

Article 9 – Accessibility

27.  The Committee takes note that Act 26/2011 amends regulations which will shorten the timelines for meeting accessibility requirements in public facilities; and goods and services available to the public.  However, it remains concerned at the low level of compliance with these requirements, in particular, at regional and local levels, in the private sector, and in relation to existing facilities.  The Committee is aware of situations of discrimination faced by air passengers with disabilities, including situations of denial of boarding.  The Committee reminds the State Party that Article 9 of the Convention also demands access to information and communication.

28.  The Committee recommends that sufficient financial and human resources be allocated as soon as possible to implement, promote and monitor compliance with accessibility legislation through national measures as well as through international cooperation.

Article 11 – Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies

31.  The Committee is concerned at the insufficiency of specific protocols for persons with disabilities in emergency situations.

32.  The Committee calls upon the State Party to review its laws and policies related to emergency situations with a view to including provisions guaranteeing the security and protection of persons with disabilities.

[ My Comment:  This is a gross understatement of a serious problem which continues to fester not only in Spain but, more generally, in Europe ! ]

Article 19 – Living Independently & Being Included in the Community

39.  The Committee is concerned at the lack of resources and services to guarantee the right to live independently and to be included in the community, in particular in rural areas.  It is further concerned that the choice of residence of persons with disabilities is limited by the availability of the necessary services, and that those living in residential institutions are reported to have no alternative to institutionalization.  Finally, the Committee is concerned about linking eligibility of social services to a specific grade of disability.

40.  The Committee encourages the State Party to ensure that an adequate level of funding is made available to effectively enable persons with disabilities to: enjoy the freedom to choose their residence on an equal basis with others; access a full range of in-home, residential and other community services for daily life, including personal assistance; and to enjoy reasonable accommodation so as to better integrate into their communities.

41.  The Committee is concerned that the law for the promotion of autonomy limits the resources to hire personal assistants only to those persons who have level 3 disabilities and only for education and work.

42.  The Committee encourages the State Party to expand resources for personal assistants for all persons with disabilities in accordance with their requirements.

Article 24 – Education

43.  The Committee welcomes the fact that the principle of inclusion governs the schooling of pupils with special educational needs; that discrimination in education is prohibited; and that most children with disabilities are included in the regular education system.  It commends the enactment of Organic Act 2/2006 on Education, which obliges the education authorities to provide specialist teachers, qualified professionals and the necessary materials and resources, as well as the laws that oblige schools to make necessary curricular adjustments and diversifications for pupils with disabilities.  However, the Committee is concerned by the implementation of these laws in practice, in view of reported cases of failure to provide reasonable accommodation, of continued segregation and exclusion, of financial arguments used as justification for discrimination, and of the cases of children enrolled in special education against their parents’ will.  The Committee notes with concern that parents challenging the placement of their children with disabilities in special education have no possibility of appeal and that their only alternative is to educate them at their own expense or pay for the reasonable accommodation of their child in the regular education system.

44.  The Committee reiterates that denial of reasonable accommodation constitutes discrimination and the duty to provide reasonable accommodation is immediately applicable and not subject to progressive realisation.  It recommends the State Party to:

     (a)  Increase its efforts to provide reasonable accommodation in education, allocating sufficient financial and human resources to implement the right to inclusive education; paying particular attention to assessing the availability of teachers with specialist qualifications; and ensuring that educational departments of local governments understand their obligations under the Convention and act in conformity with its provisions ;

     (b)  Ensure that the decisions to place children with a disability in a special school or in special classes, or to offer them solely a reduced standard curriculum, are taken in consultation with the parents ;

     (c)  Ensure that the parents of children with disabilities are not obliged to pay for the education or for the measures of reasonable accommodation in mainstream schools ;

     (d)  Ensure that decisions on placing children in segregated settings can be appealed swiftly and effectively.

C.  Specific Obligations (Articles 31-33)

Statistics and data collection (Article 31)

49.  The Committee regrets the low level of disaggregated data on persons with disabilities.  The Committee recalls that such information is indispensable to: understanding the situations of specific groups of persons with disabilities in the State Party who may be subject to varying degrees of vulnerability; developing laws, policies and programmes adapted to their situations; and assessing the implementation of the Convention.

50.  The Committee recommends that the State party systematize the collection, analysis and dissemination of data, disaggregated by sex, age and disability; enhance capacity building in this regard; and develop gender-sensitive indicators to support legislative developments, policymaking and institutional strengthening for monitoring and reporting on progress made with regard to the implementation of the various provisions of the Convention.

51.  The Committee regrets that the situation of children with disabilities is not reflected in the data on the protection of children.

52.  The Committee recommends that the State Party systematically collect, analyse and disseminate data, disaggregated by sex, age and disability, on abuse and violence against children.

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Sustainable Cities – The Driver to Forge a ‘Creative’ Society ?

Dr. Craig Barrett, Chair (2005-2009) of Intel Corporation’s Board, recently dropped some sharp home truths onto our frail and sensitive Irish laps … concerning national competitiveness in the Global Economic Environment.  It was like a breath of fresh air !   And … how right he was !!

Today, however, I want to focus on just one of his themes …

Quality Education + Quality Research & Development + Facilitating and Fostering Creativity & Innovation in Society

Since the 1990’s … we have had to listen to endless amounts of bullshit and hot air … until we are blue in the face … about the Information Society, the Knowledge Society, the Smart Society, the Green Society [what is ‘Green’ anyway ?], etc., etc., etc … and the biggest anti-climax of them all … the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy … boring, boring, boring !!!!

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When you hit the bottom of the barrel, there is only one place to look … and that’s up … with an engaged mind feverishly picturing what’s around outside !   So … for one wild moment, let’s join together some nice ideas …

Could Sustainable Cities be that essential driving force which forges a ‘Creative’ Society ???

What is the Sustainable Urban Environment (City) ?   A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

  • An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;
  • A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;
  • A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated or ‘wrought’ landscape) ;

And together functioning as …

  1. A complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;    and
  2. A synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

Our Ultimate Goal must be to achieve a dynamic and harmonious balance between a sustainable ‘human’ environment and a flourishing, not just a surviving, ‘natural’ environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving social wellbeing for all.

Sustainable Design Solutions must be appropriate to local geography, climate and future climate changes, economy, culture, social need and language(s)/dialect(s).

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Supporting Definitions

Human Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the ‘natural’ environment.

Built Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the ‘natural’ environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, services, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, and seas, etc … including the ‘virtual’ environment.

Social Environment:  The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

The ‘social’ environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of, the ‘built’ (including ‘virtual’) environment.

Economic Environment:  The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the ‘social’ environment.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the ‘built’ environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

Human Health:  A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  (World Health Organization)

Individual Welfare:  A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

Social Wellbeing:  A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

Sustainable Human & Social Development:  Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations, especially our children … and their children.

*As defined, in International Law, by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR).

Sustainable Design*:  The ethical design response, in built or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

*Includes Spatial Planning, Architectural / Engineering / Interior / Industrial Design and e-Design, etc.

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Fellow WordPress Bloggers – A Cautionary Tale ?

2009-10-23:  Late last Tuesday night, and early into Wednesday morning … I was working quietly at my computer in a Vienna Hotel Room … carrying out some basic maintenance on this Blog Site … and deleting the latest splurge of ‘Missed’ Spam from a continuous torrent of Russian Spam being directed, I can only presume now, at many … or all(?) … WordPress Blog Sites.  I then returned to the Site’s Dashboard Page, and proceeded to Log Out.  Only … the Log Out Page was a blank.  I tried again and again to access it.  No success.  Later, I found out that we had been hacked !

You don’t believe these things, until it happens to you personally.  Well … it did … and there is no use in crying.  This is just a game being played by ‘nerds’ … for the benefit of other ‘nerds’ … and none of them have any understanding of Collateral Damage.

Our Apologies, therefore, for being off-line from just around midnight, local Irish time, on Tuesday night … until early in the afternoon of the following day, Wednesday 2009-10-21.  As part of the process of going back on-line, the Site has been cleaned and sanitized.  Unfortunately, we can do nothing about the WordPress Software itself.

Our Thanks must go to our backup ‘techies’ at 2bscene Ltd., with a special thank you to Tom.  Good work, men !   Smoke them, if you have them !!

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Arriving back in Dublin, however, I again went to the Dashboard Page … and noticed this ‘cute’ little blurb on the WordPress Development Blog

” WordPress 2.8.5: Hardening Release   2009-10-21

As you know, over the past couple of months we have been working on the new features for WordPress 2.9.  We have also been working on trying to make WordPress as secure as possible and during this process we have identified a number of security hardening changes that we thought were worth back-porting to the 2.8 branch, so as to get these improvements out there and make all your sites as secure as possible.”

What a load of old rubbish … and intended to obscure what had really happened !   Serious weaknesses in the WordPress Software had been exploited by the ‘nerds’ who hacked our Site.  Let’s hope that this latest WordPress Patch will be effective.

But … how many other WordPress Blog Sites had been hacked around the same time ?

And Another issue …

On the Dashboard Page of this Blog Site, we are being told that … over a certain period of time … Akismet has protected us from approximately 4,500 Spam Messages.

However … on the Akismet Statistics Page … over the same period … we are informed that approximately 3,800 Spams have been caught … while the number of ‘Missed’ Spam is always Zero.

I don’t know about anyone else … but, for me, those figures are a long jump away from adding up.

WordPress is a great format for Blog Sites … but, this is sloppy work from the WordPress People !   Do they give a damn about the ‘users’ … the general public … you and me ?

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Friday, October 23rd, 2009 technical control, virtual environment 1 Comment

Abu Dhabi as ‘Sustainable City’ – A New Language Required ?

2009-03-03:  Recent international attention has been drawn, in a morbid sort of way, to the current economic condition of two contrasting cities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Abu Dhabi and Dubayy (Dubai).

 

In the month of October, 2008, I was very pleased to travel to both of these cities for the first time … with the purpose of introducing the subject of Sustainable Fire Engineering at a Building Seminar in the World Trade Centre, Dubayy.  My host was, and is more so now, convinced that this innovative approach to fire engineering offers a key to future commercial success in the Gulf Region.

 

Before making my presentation, however, I had spent some essential days wandering around Abu Dhabi … soaking up the local atmosphere and culture.

 

Arriving later in Dubayy, I was ‘shocked and stunned’ – a vivid Dublin expression –  to see that Billions of Dirhams (the local currency) had been spent on re-creating the Nightmare that is the 20th Century American City … where, if you want to just scratch your nose, you must get into your car – or one of them at least – to do so.

 

It was tragic to see how the local authorities were trying to ‘shoehorn’ an Urban Rail System into the existing City Fabric … ducking, and weaving in and out, between road overpasses and spaghetti junctions which had only been built in the last 10 years.

 

Sightings of UMO’s (Unidentified Moving Objects) … pedestrians and cyclists … are extremely rare !   The local summer, by the way, is the only season when it is definitely unhealthy to engage in either activity … temperatures can regularly reach into the low 50s oC.

 

People are much smarter in Abu Dhabi – so I was told.  They have seen the mistakes which have been made up the road, and they are determined to take a different path with their future development.

 

“How long will it take to transform and re-shape Abu Dhabi into a Sustainable City ?”, I was asked.

 

 

In order to answer that question, a new language is required.  Let me introduce you to some of its Technical Terms … which, even after many years of sweat and toil in SDI, are still being regularly reviewed, revised and updated:

 

 

Human Environment …

Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the natural environment. 

 

The Human Environment comprises, and must be taken together as a unified, complex whole:

 

Social Environment …

The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

 

The Social Environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of, the Built (including Virtual) Environment.

 

Built Environment …

Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, services, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc.

 

Virtual Environment …

A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the Built Environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

 

 

Long before the present seismic upheavals and sordid revelations … the intuition of many people around the world had been informed that ‘economics’ inhabited its own closed environment … and operated to entirely different ‘rules’ from the rest of us – mere peasants – which are anything but open and transparent.  The ‘actors’ in this Economic Environment are not accountable.  Well … not yet, anyway !

 

Economic Environment …

The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the Social Environment.

 

 

And, still under development … the Institutional Environment.

 

 

 

Social Wellbeing …

A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

 

Individual Welfare …

A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

 

 

 

And finally for now:

 

The City …

 

A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

(a)  An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;

(b)  A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;

(c)  A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;

 

together functioning as …

(i)   a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;   and

(ii)  a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

 

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