Help Your Planet

by John Herbert

Kids are far smarter than we given them credit. Possibly the best gift for your children is a Kelcroft audit, and help save the eco system problems. That is a story you can tell to your kids!

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?


The Pok Oi Hospital isolation room ventilation system was found with a “red” light on 27 May 2020, that ventilation system maintains negative pressure inside the isolation room to reduce the risk of airborne transmission within the hospital.

An investigation found that the ventilation stopped operating because a contractor, working on the hospital roof, accidentally triggered the Emergency Stop (e-stop) button at sometime during the afternoon, but obviously failed to notice that the ventilation system was shut down.

The report says the fault was discovered by the red light in the isolation room, which implies the HVAC system did not have any audible fault alarm in the occupied area, or at the roof level.

If you have ever wondered about how far ITC has infiltrated our lives, in the report, it states the HVAC system was rebooted!

Other design considerations, typically code requires HVAC systems >1000 l/sec to be interlocked with the automatic fire alarm system, triggering the fire alarm automatically closes ALL the HVAC systems, for hospital isolation room that risks covid19 contamination of the whole ward.


Urban Mining

If you live in an urban environment, the storage bank for constructing tomorrow’s buildings is all around you. Yes, those buildings will be deconstructed, becoming the raw material for tomorrow’s buildings. And if you are lucky you might find a building constructed from steel, which can be infinitely recycled.

Therefore, designers must consider how the building will be demolished and reused before its open.

Bad Design

To understand valuable design we also have to identify and flag cases of bad design. We find from the recent heath checks conducted at the Hong Kong International Airport that health professionals working on the frontline have inadequate facilities, was this foreseeable certainly, every border has provision for handling health checking.

The RTHK report [link] states

She said there were other problems concerning protective clothing, for example, no designated locations for workers to take off their gear.

In this context, their gear means their PPE. So the frontline nurses and doctors facing thousands of passengers, potentially carrying the infectious diseases including COVID19, don’t have adequate changing facilities risking themselves, and other employees at the airport.

After the shift, the PPE including a n95 mask for sale that I found, a gown, an apron, glove, face shield, etc. are considered contaminated, therefore, an appropriate space clearly identified, should be provided for healthcare workers to doff (remove) and don their PPE, but it seems the border control design did not provide such space, even a temporary space, and a frontline doctor tested positive for COVID19.

Design means considering reasonably foreseeable usage and planning according, health checks at borders are routine and commonplace for many years. If you are old enough to remember some countries made visitors present health records, but in this case, the designers ignored or overlookedthe healthcare workers.

In engineering terms, located transformers and switchgear underground is a risk, in the event of a blocked sewer pipe, flooding, or water leakage the building power supply or back up generator could be compromised. Of course, architects say oh that will never happen, until it does. In a recent Hong Kong incident, water leaking on the upper floor of the building flooded the corridor and the electrical meter room, water travelled down the building using the 2500 amp TPN busbar as the conduit shorting each floor, and continued to the LV switchroom in the basement, causing a disastrous short circuit, shutting off power to the entire building.

The takeaway, engaging and listening to people outside your field, outside your silo, gather views and ideas, consider future events and scenarios, while the building plans are still on the drawing board.