Check and Response

To improve safety, airlines created a suite of simple check and response lists for the flight crew to follow. While studying mortality in the healthcare sector, they stole that idea, and introduced a check and response list in the operating theatres in eight major hospitals. Yes, the staff hated it, but the result, reducing post surgery mortality by 40%, was an amazing outcome.

The construction sector should learn that lesson, adding a check and response list for site safety issues, will undoubtedly save lives.


Existing building stock as raw material storage and the unintended consequences

by John Herbert (@johnherbert)

Have to love academic research, boldly presenting and encouraging a new paradigm shift, in this case with the existing building stock being considered to be temporary raw material storage (you might remember the carpet example a few years ago).

But wait, when the ugly aftereffects, and so called unintended consequences do occur, everyone claims that was unforeseeable, really?

To reduce the rat population a bounty for every tail was offered, after paying the bounty and the population had not decreased. Finally it was discovered that rat farming in the countryside were breeding rats to collect the bounty. When stopped paying the bounty, the rat farmers have no use for their rats and released them.

In the real world, where commercial considerations apply, supply and demand matters. Firms set up to use the existing building stock to satisfy their production quota, creates an unequal pressure, the firm needing materials to keep their factory open, perhaps they might urge or incentive soonest demolition to use those “stored” materials.

Equally, the thermal insulation made from blue jeans (denim-insulation) is a great idea, but it will create and increase the market for old products, to keep their factory busy the owner might offer incentives for that materials, and overall increasing the usage of cotton.

In a complex world the best, logical solution may not be the only solution, and other possible consequences, although unintended, need to be considered.

One point that does bear repetition, only products that can be recycled 100% need be considered, if a new exotic product is created that cant be recycled, that is merely delaying its trip to the landfill.

#beyond2020 #wgbc

Missing Hazards

Be aware of the hazards evolving inside your building

Society is changing leaving our buildings in the dark ages, and standards which are always retrospective, have yet to catch up. We live within an evolving age, for example, the desire for improvement means that modern vehicles contain more plastics, foam, composites, and even Lithium battery cells, than ever before.

In Liverpool, UK, a single-vehicle fire started in the Kings Dock multi-storey car park eventually destroying all 1,300 vehicles in the building, the fire brigade commented that the plastics, foam, and plastic fuel tanks used in modern vehicles contributed to the loss of the entire building. It is not an isolated incident either, a french study noted that losses from fires occurring car parks in recent years are increasing, and the New Civil Engineer magazine laments that the lessons from the King Dock fire still have not been learned.

Electric Vehicles

In addition to the plastic issue, the environmental agenda is driving wider adoption of Electric Vehicles (EV) consider a modern car park may house 100’s of electric vehicles with Lithium cells under one roof, a high density never before considered.

Melting PVC Cable

During a fire PVC conduit, PVC insulated electrical cabling without metal support [ ] allows cables to sag (premature collapse) possibly entangling and trapping firefighters who are work in complete darkness.

Cavity Wall Fire Barriers

In the event of a fire in a building with cavity walls, cavity fire barriers should be provided around openings to prevent the rapid and hidden spread of fire and smoke inside the cavity. However, the lessons of past failures have not been learned, with modern buildings still erected without cavity barriers.

Electrical Interference

The exponential growth of mobile devices, smart devices, and USB powered devices has been staggering, hardly a home or office does not have some type of mobile device. Yet these devices generate Direct Current (DC) and we know that DC interferes with the operation of the electrical safety devices, in turn increasing the risk of a building fire.

The Next Step

This raises a key question, are existing buildings really safe? What new hazards are present today in existing buildings?

Contingency Planning

Management and managers should have contingency plans ready, just in case. However, the on-going public health emergency, recently labelled by WHO as a COVID19 pandemic, has exposed that organisations and employers are not prepared for change or business interruption. Even when organisations had some broad ideas, it was never formalised in a plan and never tested, only after the idea was tested was it revealed the idea did not work in practice.

In addition to the general confusion, caused by poor communications, random individuals post opinions and “advice” on social media, would you believe that an electrician is sending COVID19 pandemic advice!

In the context of the built environment, I am raising this issue because building operators, organisations and employers fail to plan for events that can be reasonably foreseen, such as fire. Organizing periodic fire drills to safely escape from a building in the event of a fire should be routine, but sadly its not.

Yet, there are countless tragedies every year, fatalities caused by a range of issues, locked fire escape doors trapping people inside buildings being one common issue. I have often been called to witness standby generator tests, which would not start! Therefore, in the event of an emergency those safety systems have no power!

COVID19 and Legionnaires Disease

It’s generally accepted that the number of Legionnaires Disease infections is under-reported, I predicted that the heightened public health surveillance for COVID19 would reveal an increasing number of Legionnaires Disease infections because both COVID19 and Legionella cause pneumonia.

Here in Hong Kong, there is an example that might illustrate the point, case details provided by CHP are very limited [link] nevertheless it is interesting to consider the case of a male who was admitted to a hospital on 4 Feb. 2020 [NOTE: that is the same date when five Legionnaires Disease outbreak cases residing in the nearby housing estates were reported ] he was diagnosed as pneumonia, treated and released on 19th February 2020. He didn’t recover and was admitted again on 24th February 2020, but this time Legionnaires Disease was the diagnosis.

ABOVE: Ironic that fire sand bucket was used to hold open the fire/smoke stop door

When to plan?

To be perfectly blunt, its too late to try planning your escape from fire while trying to exit from a burning building, a decent manager will have a plan and considered difficult questions, or force a plan to be created, before a disaster strikes.

Project Work

Youtube means you can watch construction in motion, what happens if you hire a contractor without professional supervision, enjoy

This project is in New York, USA, apparently, the contractor quoted to install plywood flooring but instead installed a different material, reported to be OSB which as we know practically dissolves in high humidity, the saga continues…….