Building a fire-safe future is not an easy task. Including sustainability in that build, is even harder. But how hard is it to include fire safety in the discussion, when sustainability itself is a goal? Does sustainability even exist when fire safety is excluded? I think we have learned the hard way that that is not an option. Yet, so often dangerous innovations are introduced without consulting with fire experts. In this episode, we delve into this important and difficult matter with prof. Margaret McNamee of Lund University.
This episode is also an invitation for all Fire Science Show listeners to participate in the Special Issue of the Fire Technology journal: Fire Safety and Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities. Let's take the discussion started in this episode, and exchange the ideas within the fire community on what sustainability means for us, and how can we achieve it. We are looking forward to all of the submissions to this special issue. The deadline is 31st July 2022.
If you would like to connect with Margaret, you can do so through her Twitter and LinkedIn.
You may also want to read up on the IAFSS Agenda for 2030 which also covers many of the issues related to sustainability discussed in this episode.
[00:00:00] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Hello, and welcome to the Fire Science Show session 35. Great to have you here today. Another exciting interview. I hope it's as exciting to you as it was to me, I've hosted a really cool guest, that was professor Margaret McNamee from Lund University, and I wanted to invite Margaret for a long time to the show, but now came a really good to occasion to do that.
[00:00:25] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And that is the fact that we are co-editing together with professor Brian Meacham and professor Hideki Yoshioka, a special the issue of fire technology journal, and that topic of special issue is Fire Safety and Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities. And as you may guess, sustainability is the thing we're going to talk today.
[00:00:46] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I think. We will make a great, intro to the special issue, build up some interest, maybe inspire some people to share their opinions, thoughts, and research with us in this [00:01:00] special issue. And I really hope you enjoy the points of view that we present with Margaret, and you can take it and creatively build on top of that.
[00:01:10] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Your own views on this super important subject. the special issue will cover many, many topics, including Margaret's pet topic that is environmental impacts of fire. And that's another exciting thing. Actually, I thought that we're going to talk lot more about that because Margaret and Brian Meacham are also having a Handbook on Environmental Fires
[00:01:33] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Being published this year. But, as you'll see in the episode, She dropped a bomb on me with the circular economy, where the industry will go with the sustainability goals and how we should change to, to make fire safety, an important piece or a cornerstone of sustainability.
[00:01:51] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And while there was just no more space for environmental effects of fires that talk on sustainability was so, good. I hope you enjoy it. [00:02:00] I don't want to spoil it anymore. You you're going to hear all of it in just a second. So let's just not prolong this anymore. Let's spin the intro and jump into the episode.
[00:02:34] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Hello, today I'm here with professor Margaret McNamee from Lund university. Hey Margaret.
[00:02:39] Margaret McNamee: Hi Wojciech.
[00:02:41] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Great to have you on the podcast. And again, we're touching important, big questions in the fire science. So, the invitation, I had you on my radar for a very long time for this show, but a trigger came, with, special issue Fire Technology that has just been [00:03:00] released and you're leading it. I'm really happy to participate.
[00:03:04] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Maybe let's introduce it. Let's use the airtime in the beginning of the podcast. Let's advertise. What's the special issue on.
[00:03:10] Margaret McNamee: well, the special issue is going to be looking at, environmental impact of fires and the important research that's ongoing around the world. Really. but deals with these, the various aspects of the environmental impact of fire. So we're hoping that there's going to be a lot of interest. And, Brian Meacham was the, special issue editor who first came up with the idea that we should really try and organize a special issue on the back-end of the fact that we're actually publishing a handbook on the environmental impact of, fires together.
[00:03:42] Margaret McNamee: Brian and I are editing that. And then we looked around in the community and to try and see, okay, well, who would we like to partner with in putting this special issue for fire technology together? And then it was yourself Wojciech and Hideki that we identified as just really helping [00:04:00] us to make sure that we cover a broad range of different expertise and topics within your, with the connection to the field as well.
[00:04:08] Margaret McNamee: People should, should look at the Fire Technology magazine for more information about that. And hopefully we'll get lots of submissions. As I said,
[00:04:17] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Yeah, the link is going to be in the show notes of the, episode so you won't have to look for a far away. And, I think it's a nice opportunity. The paper submission deadline is till end of July, 2022, and we are looking for all kinds of papers related Do what you said, the environmental, uh, aspects of fires, but also sustainability, and how this place together and, all the solutions, resources that are being developed over the world and the role of sustainability as, itself, which we will talk in this episode as well, the advancements in life cycles and so on.
[00:04:55] Wojciech Wegrzynski: So the scope is really broad, but we're looking for that [00:05:00] link that can help us create a better future for our children with fire safety in mind. So I'm really honored that you've asked me to join this, collaboration it's looks very, very promising and I'm absolutely sure it is going to be a great, special issue of the, of the five technology and the handbook I have, Had the opportunity to participate in that as well. And I've seen the better version, which was really nice. So there's a lot of happening this year. It's amazing.
[00:05:30] Margaret McNamee: Yeah, I mean, that's about happening in the field. Really?
[00:05:32] Wojciech Wegrzynski: yeah, it makes me really happy. So, in special issue, we've used a very big word sustainability, and I feel that, this word is sometimes a black box.
[00:05:45] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I have my own understanding of what sustainability would be and I guess many people would have their own ideas, but, let's ask the expert. What is sustainability?
[00:05:57] Margaret McNamee: well, thanks. first of all, I should say thank you for [00:06:00] asking me to be on the podcast is just a fantastic, set of episodes that have gone before me. So it's a great opportunity to reach out to the fire science community and open a dialogue about what I think is a really important topic. The sustainability aspects of fire safety.
[00:06:17] Margaret McNamee: Now sustainability, as you see, is a catch phrase that's been used in many, many different ways. And for a period of time, I think almost everyone had their own definition of what they meant by sustainability. Way back in the eighties. When I first started working in the field of fire science, then I think that really sustainability was seen to be almost synonymous with, , environmentally friendly.
[00:06:42] Margaret McNamee: But in the eighties, the United Nations actually put together a world commission, , looking at sustainability aspects or our common future was the name of the report that came out of it. The work was, was led by Gro Harlem Brundtland who was previously the prime minister of Norway. And they came [00:07:00] out with a definition of sustainability, which meant essentially that something was sustainable. If you were able to meet your needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Now, while this is a good definition, in many ways, it helps us to understand what we mean by sustainability in terms of the fact that there's a time aspect to it. And so on it doesn't really help us to break down well, how can we make sure that we actually are creating sustainable solutions?
[00:07:31] Margaret McNamee: and so the United nations did continue doing work on these topics and created a number of different agendas at the present. We're working with agenda 2030. I'm sure many people have heard of that. But already in the agenda, 21, 2021 document, that was when the concept of different dimensions of sustainability was first introduced where sustainability was defined as not only being.
[00:07:58] Margaret McNamee: About environmentally friendly, [00:08:00] but included actually three different dimensions. So an environmental dimension and economic dimension and the social dimension. So it was not just about something being environmentally sustainable, but in order for a solution to be sustainable, it also needed to be economically viable and it needed to be socially acceptable.
[00:08:21] Margaret McNamee: And so you need to take into account all three of those dimensions.
[00:08:25] Wojciech Wegrzynski: There is this 17 goals of sustainability that are created by a United nations. I was looking at them to figure out which would most refer to the, built environment because basically that's what I care most about. And, so many do actually, because there's a affordable, clean energy that definitely definitely fits into the build environment, work and economic growth, like a built environment is a significant contributor to the GDP of the world. Industry innovation infrastructure, obviously sustainable cities and communities. that's a goal we [00:09:00] need to cover as well. Maybe not directly in buildings, but the way where the buildings are located, which is an important factor for a building, to be, responsible consumption production and, life on land, which I guess would cover the environmental impacts.
[00:09:12] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I mean, it's difficult to narrow them down to the building environment, but it seems that the built environment will be a puzzle that, that fits into many of these goals. So, if the sustainability goals. Impact built environment. Like how would they impact it? Like where our construction industry will go with this.
[00:09:32] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Is it like, I don't know, lowering the consumption of materials used in buildings. Is it like a circular, economic closed lifecycle?
[00:09:42] Margaret McNamee: You're making a very important point here in terms of the 17 sustainable development goals that the United nations has outlined in the agenda 2030, then there are numerous different goals that relate to the built environment. And I think that there are probably even more of the goals that relate fire safety, [00:10:00] because once we start actually interacting with a fire and responding to a fire, then we would also include things like, clean water and so on where, the impact of the actual fire suppression does relate to the fact that we're trying to make sure that we have.
[00:10:15] Margaret McNamee: Good clean water for the future and so on. But all of the sustainability goals that you mentioned are of course, related to the built environment and what we've seen in recent years as say the building community is trying to, , move into a more sustainable type of built environment. Then they're taking a number of different sustainability objectives into account, which are.
[00:10:40] Margaret McNamee: Sometimes related to the SDGs, but sometimes just related to trying to be sustainable in general, but things like, reducing climate change is a typical sustainability objective, which is also related to one of the STGs improving health and wellbeing that can be indoor air climate. It can be the materials that are being [00:11:00] used at different things like that.
[00:11:01] Margaret McNamee: Protecting water resources, improving biological diversity, promoting sustainable and renewable energy sources promoting sustainable economic cost associated with buildings and so on. I mean, we have a number of different sustainability objectives that we put forward as we're trying to develop a sustainable built environment.
[00:11:22] Margaret McNamee: A focus for this has probably been , the, idea of having zero energy or positive energy buildings, for example, that we've been working with for a number of years. And you know, I don't think that we should argue that this is, something that we don't want to do. We do want to have zero energy buildings.
[00:11:39] Margaret McNamee: We do want to have positive energy buildings. We do need to reduce the climate impact of our built environment, but we want to make sure that we're doing that in a way that is not going to be increasing the risks associated with the built environment. And this is where I think that we've been missing the Mark a little bit. [00:12:00] As we've been trying to create sustainability and been increasing, say sustainability objectives in our built environment. We've not been making sure that we take into account the impact that those sustainability objectives may have on say the safety objectives that we've had from the beginning.
[00:12:20] Margaret McNamee: And so that's when we create things like what happened in the Grenfell Tower, for example. And that's, it's an example that we often mentioned, but it's not the only example of a building with combustible insulation that's been put in place in order to reduce or increase the energy efficiency of the building.
[00:12:39] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I'm afraid the biggest fires are still ahead of us because, due to the low, probability the events and the way this is all new things that we've just built it. It suddenly made the time for the big, big tragedies to develop. And we certainly have created a lot of, let's say challenges for ourselves with, with this [00:13:00] blindsided vision , of just narrowing down to one goal.
[00:13:03] Wojciech Wegrzynski: You've mentioned that in, the, in the beginning like sustainability would be synonymous with environmental, , aspects. And, if you frame it like that, it makes. Easier to make your building sustainable. If you narrow it, that there, just to the environmental part, because you can just use sustainable materials and, you can figure out how to insulate the hell out of your building.
[00:13:25] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Put a lot of energy generation on top of it and you're done. But, what you've created is probably a net zero energy building, but it not necessarily is sustainable And I think these companies that certified buildings they've realized that fairly quickly. And that's actually a good thing, because if you would like to have BREEAM or Leed certificate for your building, it's not only the energy passport of your building being assessed.
[00:13:55] Wojciech Wegrzynski: It's a lot how you manage waste. what is the access to the building? how well it's [00:14:00] connected with mass transport, what materials are being used, how water is preserved,what's air quality isnide. So suddenly these goals like create this. Insane, combination of multiple targets that you would like to hit to make the complete building sustainable.
[00:14:19] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And in every single of these aspects, there is some sort of innovation involved. And now what you said is, is very close to my heart, that we sometimes pursue this without thinking about limiting the risks we create solutions that would expose us, to the risk of fire And now, How can fire science become a relevat partner in this, a sustainable discussion? Can we jump in and say, Hey so sorry, but you forgot about the fire. It's going to burn down. We need to do that because I have personally a feeling that it doesn't work out [00:15:00] for me, at least very well to be this annoying guy who says, he's going to burn down, how can we talk with this actors?
[00:15:06] Wojciech Wegrzynski: To make them more sensitive about this issues.
[00:15:10] Margaret McNamee: Um, and there were a lot of, points that we can discuss related to this really, Yeah, I think one of the key issues you're talking about is the fact that we're just still working very much in, silos where we have the architect is working in their silo, designing what they think is going to be an aesthetically, acceptable, or at least interesting building or whatever.
[00:15:33] Margaret McNamee: they're working on, their different objectives. The fire scientist is working on this, the safety objectives, maybe the energy efficiency guys working on the energy efficiency objectives. And so on. I mean, there are a number of different engineers or disciplines that are involved in the development of any building.
[00:15:51] Margaret McNamee: And what I think is important is that we start breaking down these silos between the various disciplines and making sure that we have [00:16:00] a, like an iterative, multi-parameter optimization problem that we're using one we're defining or designing some of these buildings. And in some recent research that I conducted together with Brian Meacham, then we did some work on developing what we called safer Buildings Concept which was sustainable and fire resilient buildings. And in this case, we were working on the concept of sustainable buildings, making sure that we've got a number of sustainability objectives, which are the objective. Say the, , various green building certification systems are using, and then we're combining them with the concept of fire resiliency, in order to make sure that we're actually optimizing both of them together.
[00:16:47] Margaret McNamee: So not only looking at the sustainability objectives as if there's something that are existing in a vacuum and everything else has been already fixed, but recognizing the fact that when you make [00:17:00] sustainability choices, then that is going to actually impact on the resiliency, the fire resiliency of your building, and that you need to actually go back and have another look at fire safety types of questions to make sure that the choices that you made for sustainability are actually not going to have a negative impact on the, resiliency or the fire safety of your building.
[00:17:24] Margaret McNamee: And one of the reasons to do this is not just that we want to make sure that we have fires. Or fire resilient buildings, but also in recognition of the fact that buildings that burned down are not sustainable. And so this is part of the sustainability objectives as well. The fact that we want to make sure that the building is actually going to be there for its full life cycle and not have that life cycle, you know, cut short because of the fact that it's involved in a fire
[00:17:52] Wojciech Wegrzynski: This is probably the most difficult one to account for. And come back to Greenfield example, not in terms of the tragedy, but in terms of the [00:18:00] economic impact, if you introduce the technology into the market, you used it, it costs a horrible tragedy, or maybe not just the technology, but it was, let's say, involved in the tragedy.
[00:18:10] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And then the society considers it unacceptable. They don't want to live in this type of buildings because they are afraid of, and you have to replace it on living, building. That's a hell of a cost involved like that is the absolute opposite of sustainability
[00:18:28] Margaret McNamee: absolutely. I mean, the cost of the financial cost associated with this, but also the huge social cost associated with what happened in a fire like that, or what can happen in a fire like that. There are huge social implications for it.
[00:18:43] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Now I'm thinking in my head if we look at the sustainability as a bunch of goals to be, secured. Would you rather put fire safety as a separate goal, like, , next to energy efficiency or something else? or would, would it be better if fire [00:19:00] safety falls under every of these goals?
[00:19:01] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Energy efficient and fire safe, I don't think you can take out fire safety and make it as an independent goal because you create a silo and that's actually the opposite of what, what would you like to do? Right?
[00:19:15] Margaret McNamee: Yeah. So in this, a Safer Building or Safer Built Environment concept that we developed, then the idea is that you would actually do an optimization based on both sustainability and fire resiliency goals or objective. And so you would be looking at both of them at the same time and it would be an iterative process where you would be going from one to the other, as you optimize one, then you have to make sure that you haven't compromised the other and move back and forth in an iterative process in the same way that you were doing modeling until you've reached a situation where optimizing one doesn't change the other.
[00:19:51] Margaret McNamee: And so you've, got some kind of convergence, if you will, of your system and the optimization of the goals. And by doing that, by [00:20:00] understanding the complexity of the system and trying to make this multi objective optimization, then you are actually going to, be able to create something that is actually sustainable rather than something that is sustainable only based on say. The environmental energy requirement, those kinds of goals, but actually looking at something in a broader sense to make sure that it's sustainable. And there are lots of ways that we can do this. We can make choices about materials. We can make choices about, different systems that are in buildings.
[00:20:31] Margaret McNamee: We can make choices about compartmentalization. Um, I remember, professor Guillermo Rein, who's also been on the podcast previously. He has, described this very succinctly in terms of having layers of fire safety. There are a number of different ways that we can create a building that is going to be fire, safe.
[00:20:54] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I love how sometimes fire safety is framed as a process, not a goal. there [00:21:00] was this episode with Jaime Cadena Gomez and David Lange who were talking about. How to introduce risk management, but as a process, like you should focus on doing things, right. Not achieving a goal because if you actually do these things right, and consider all the aspects of the process, it's very unlikely. You will end up with a very fire, but solution because this way of thinking about the building or a way of thinking about the risks about the fire risks make, makes you, take better decisions.
[00:21:33] Wojciech Wegrzynski: if you defines fire safety as a simple goal what is it? You have two hour rated walls and that's a fire safety. That's not fire safety. That's a part of it. That's a tool. That's a, that's a mitigation technique, but not, not a fire safety goal.
[00:21:46] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Fire safety goal is not to die in a fire, uh, not to create a abnormal environmental release, Unproportional to the fire and maybe not cause a progressive collapse of your building, not a endanger people living around your [00:22:00] building. That's fire safety, 2 hour rated wall for me, at
[00:22:03] Margaret McNamee: Well, I mean, there's some interesting thinking there in terms of say the, were used to, in some situations working with say ISO 9,000 or ISO 14,000, so quality assurance or environmental, certification of say businesses or whatever. And, in those documents, there is a concept of incremental improvement over time.
[00:22:26] Margaret McNamee: And I think that, we need to see as well that because of the fact that the built environment is something that is here for a very long, extended period of time. It's something that you started off talking about at the beginning of the podcast here, the fact that we don't want to be creating buildings in 2020, that are going to be hugely problematic in 2050 or 2080, because we know so much more, we're not going to have that problem if we can make incremental improvements over time, if we can make sure that we're not, building something and then it's done and we're happy with it there, we need to, to [00:23:00] make sure that we're improving it.
[00:23:02] Margaret McNamee: This is also part of the sustainability concept. The fact that, one of the ways for us to, improve sustainability of the built environment is actually by increasing the amount of reuse that we have of our built environment. So we typically say that a building is, has a lifecycle of say a hundred years.
[00:23:22] Margaret McNamee: But in fact, we know that in 2050, for example, in Sweden, the Swedish housing commission has put out a document that says that they expect that around about 80% of buildings that exist in Sweden in 2050, which are already built today. They go, they're going to be there for a very long time. And so when we build new buildings, we have this huge amount of material that is already an existing building.
[00:23:51] Margaret McNamee: And that we can try and reuse in different ways in new buildings. And this is going to present fire safety [00:24:00] challenges for us as well. And so I think that in order to be creating sustainability, our objectives, and not just in terms of energy efficiency and so on, they're also in terms of things like trying to re reuse material, you were talking about trends before.
[00:24:16] Margaret McNamee: I think this is one of our major trends at the moment is the fact that we're going to have an increase in the amount of material that have been products that were developed, maybe. 10, 20, even more years ago that we're wanting to reuse in modern buildings. And how do we ensure that this isn't just a good choice from a sustainability point of view because we're reusing material.
[00:24:38] Margaret McNamee: We're not having to produce new products and material all the time, but making sure that they're also good choice from a fire safety point of view without having to retest materials, because they're not being, they're not in a production line. So there are a number of the challenges that we need to be dealing with here in terms of, being able to [00:25:00] create a good, sustainable built environment, not just a building, but the actual built environment itself.
[00:25:06] Wojciech Wegrzynski: you're venturing almost into circular economy where the materials are being reused and, you, again, I'm not sure how much of that you see in the fire safety, but you see a lot of that in concrete where the use of things like fly ash, the products of energy production in coal power plants is now insanely used to do an unprecedented scale as a part of, concrete mixtures and, as my, mentor professor Czarnecki in ITB has said many times.
[00:25:38] Wojciech Wegrzynski: It's not that the concrete needs fly ash, is fly Ash that needs concrete to, be removed from the environment and. I assume with this concept of circular economy, we will see only more and more of the reuse of these materials. And, I don't know, there are things that are easy to reuse, like rebar. You can turn into fibers [00:26:00] and use them reinforced concrete. some other composites you can use as aggregates for concrete. So we'll see where, where it goes. I have this, when you said that, you know, I had this horrible feeling like, damn, we have it easy to reuse the materials used in the eighties, but people, if they want to reuse our materials in 2050, they're going to have a bad time because our materials became so complex. And that, is, in a way frightening, you know? I wonder, so do you think we, today we should be, , considerate about, will our materials be able to reuse beyond their like life, if you look at the facade, the lifetime of facade would be, I don't know, 20, 30 years.
[00:26:46] Wojciech Wegrzynski: How would you judge a modern facade? I don't give it more than 30 years. So what's going to happen. What's going to happen with that afterwards.
[00:26:54] Margaret McNamee: Y you know, you asking questions that I don't think we have answers to at the moment, but, if we put this into a [00:27:00] really general context, then we can, we can talk about, I mean, there are many different aspects of sustainability and fire resiliency or fire safety that we could talk about. But if we, start off here in terms of say a circular economy, what we've worked with previously traditionally, is that we've had.
[00:27:18] Margaret McNamee: Take make dispose type of culture where we've had this linear economy. And we know that's not going to work over time because we just do have, an endless amount of resources that we can use. So we, we do need to have some kind of circularity if you will, with in our society. And so the built environment has really been working hard in, or the building sector, if you will, has really been working hard and trying to get over.
[00:27:46] Margaret McNamee: Uh, linear economy into something that, that is much more circular, but it has a whole lot of challenges associated with it. And one of the challenges associated with it is the fact that I know the statistics for Sweden, but I, you know, I [00:28:00] assume that Sweden is not so different from many Western countries, but in Sweden, at least, the building sector is the major producer of waste in our society.
[00:28:10] Margaret McNamee: and, huge amount of waste is produced from various parts of the built environment. And of course the majority of the waste that is being produced is from this 20% of new buildings, which has been built all the time. and there are a lot of existing buildings that are being renovated and so on over time and they provide a resource for material. So in the waste that's being produced, the European commission has put together something that they're calling waste pyramid. It can be called a waste stairway where they're talking about. There are a number of different ways for us to be able to reduce waste. And I think that many of these different ways to reduce waste actually have fire safety implications.
[00:28:54] Margaret McNamee: The best way to reduce waste is to actually avoid producing it in the first [00:29:00] place. So to have better flows of material within your project to reduce the amount of waste that you're producing from the get go, if you can't do that, then the next best way of reducing waste is by reuse and by reuse in that context, I mean, actually not.
[00:29:18] Margaret McNamee: Um, using fly Ash or not, crushing, concrete and reusing that as ballast in roads or something like that. I mean, actually taking a door or a window or, some kind of a bricks is a system that we can work with that we have actually CE marking of, reused bricks in the European Union.
[00:29:40] Margaret McNamee: So using products with a minimal amount of, cleaning and, rejuvenation and so on, and then reusing them in new buildings. If you can't do that. Then you can do recycling and recycling can be, it can be energy recycling, it can be material recycling. And this is where you're using fly [00:30:00] Ash in, new concrete or whatever.
[00:30:01] Margaret McNamee: But you're actually going back to the manufacturing stage and reusing material to manufacture new material, if you will. And then finally, if you can't do any of the above, then you can put it into a waste facility and bury it somewhere. But obviously what you're trying to do is reduce as much as possible that just goes to a waste deposit facility. And, in, reducing the amount of waste that's produced. It doesn't really have any fire implications, but the other two main streams, the reuse and recycling stream. Both have very serious fire implications and we can go into all of the details of all of them, but I don't think we can do that in an hour.
[00:30:45] Margaret McNamee: So we'll have to come back and do that in another podcast. But if we just talk about the reuse, which is an area that I've been doing some research in, then, there are a number of things that we need to do in order to be able to [00:31:00] facilitate reuse of material. But what happens if you can get a large amount of reuse of material, then you can actually reduce the carbon footprint of your buildings, whether they're being renovated buildings or whether you're producing totally new buildings.
[00:31:17] Margaret McNamee: But there are a whole lot of questions that we really haven't solved in order to be able to do this. In large scale. And if we specifically look at products that have some kind of fire safety requirement associated with them, then we're really in a situation where it's very difficult for us to be able to do large scale reuse of products.
[00:31:40] Margaret McNamee: One of the things that is clear from some of the research that we've been doing is that, if you have products that are part of the actual structure of your building, if you have cement elements that are part of the structure of your building, or if you're looking at wood, that is part of the structure of your building, , the bricks and so on things [00:32:00] like this that actually have a huge amount of environmental impact, then by reusing them.
[00:32:06] Margaret McNamee: You can actually reduce the environmental impact of your building significantly, but then you need to make sure that they're still fire safe in this new reuse. And so we need to develop new methods in order to be able to assess the fire safety of these different types of products and materials in a new situation, whether or not part of a production line, um, our typical assessment of the fire performance of these products.
[00:32:34] Margaret McNamee: It just doesn't work. and so we need to try and develop this. And I think that there's a lot of interest in this area, in the building, sector, at least in Sweden at the moment. We have some ideas about say participating in some case studies where we're actually looking at specific building projects and seeing, okay, well, how do they solve these things that need to be solved?
[00:32:57] Margaret McNamee: How do they do it on the fly to see if we can [00:33:00] learn something about that, and then apply it to a methodology that doesn't need to be done on the fly, but can actually be implemented large scale.
[00:33:09] Wojciech Wegrzynski: We've started with the big question. What's sustainability, and now you've brought the discussion to like something. That will affect lives of every fire engineer in the world. If these targets are put on paper for a building, you're going to have, a difficult time solving this issue. It's a completely new challenge that has been unmet.
[00:33:30] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And you can fork this into two problems. One is the fire safety of reuse solutions. Like you've mentioned bricks and other parts of the building. And the second part of the fork would be can you actually reuse fire safety solutions from previous buildings? And that is a hell of a problem. We had this, discussions with, building, investors in Poland and we asked many of them.
[00:33:55] Wojciech Wegrzynski: how would you. Just straight out of your head judge, [00:34:00] how much of the building cost was the fire safety in your building. And we were talking about large buildings and the answer's usually a converged around 10%. So that's a significant part of the cost of the building. And we were talking about all the fire safety, including passive and active systems.
[00:34:18] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And now if you start splitting fire systems into branches, what can be reused? I immediately reach an issue that most of our solutions are single use. And I don't mean they will burn down and not work anymore, but, basically every solution that you would apply on other solution is a single use. You cannot reuse intumescent paint, or at least I cannot figure out a way to do that.
[00:34:43] Wojciech Wegrzynski: You cannot reuse the sealing joint, or, sealant for a pipe that's been wrapped around the pipe, hell you cannot even use reuse cables. That's. I mean, you can recover the materials from a cable, but if a cable was cut you cannot [00:35:00] take that cable out and reuse it in other buildings, , easily or without raising questions for safety and cables would be significant part of the installations.
[00:35:10] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I wonder if manufacturers today start looking, 2050 or 2030 and think, can we make, Fire safe solutions that are potentially reusable and make a business out of it because it looks like such goals will be posts more and more. I don't think anywhere soon we'll go nah lets go backscrewed the planet.
[00:35:31] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Let's go back to wasting. I mean, if it's going to end up, we're going to have fun now. I don't think we go there. I hope so. I hope, after this Netflix movie, this doesn't look as a, as an impossible scenario though.
[00:35:46] Margaret McNamee: Yeah,
[00:35:47] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Let's, let's finish this up with a party.
[00:35:51] Margaret McNamee: I hope we don't grow there, but, , you're right. But I think that one of the problems that we have is that a common way of looking at things [00:36:00] is what are the problems as opposed to, what are the, the easy things for us to do to start with? And certainly there are some types of fire applications or fire safety solutions that aren't going to lend themselves to reuse.
[00:36:17] Margaret McNamee: But I think that there are a lot of fire safety solutions that at least with a little bit of rethinking in the way that they're implemented, they could easily be reused. And one of the things that we're talking about in this field, which is not only related to fire safety solutions, but could certainly be related to fire safety solutions is the concept of design for deconstruction.
[00:36:40] Margaret McNamee: So when we're actually designing the building, we put together the different solutions that together make up the building in a way that it would be easier for us to actually dismantle the building at some stage towards the end of its life cycle, in order to be able to take the various pieces of the building out and reuse [00:37:00] them in the new building.
[00:37:01] Margaret McNamee: And there are a number of things that could be done better in order to be able to improve the design for deconstruction. If we had a standardized side size for, concrete building elements and it would be easier for us to actually, and if they will put together, not by actually, cementing them together, but that they were screwed together or something like that, then, then it would be easier for us to actually deconstruct the building into a number of standardized elements sizes, and then be able to use that in a new building.
[00:37:32] Margaret McNamee: and the same thing could be said for a number of different, products that have five safety, requirements put on them, doors and windows, for example, now that. A very, very small part of a carbon footprint of a building today. But if we start say reusing certain parts of the actual building structure, like the concrete elements or something like that, then that would be removed from the overall carbon footprint [00:38:00] of the construction.
[00:38:00] Margaret McNamee: And then those things that are only a small percentage today would be a much greater percentage in the future, the overall carbon footprint. And you know, reusing, five safety doors or reusing, different types of glass structures, in new buildings. if the product is designed in order to be able to be removed easily from an existing building, It's doable.
[00:38:26] Margaret McNamee: I think that some of the things that we need to solve a okay, well, how do we ensure that the performance is acceptable in if we've got a building that was built in the sixties and it's got a number of different doors, do we want to reuse those doors? Can we reuse them, in a new building, maybe we can't reuse them in the, the boundaries between the different fire cells, but maybe we can reuse some as a door somewhere.
[00:38:53] Wojciech Wegrzynski: decreasing their functionality, but still being useful at some aspect. Yeah.
[00:38:57] Margaret McNamee: Yeah. So, I mean, you can do some down [00:39:00] cycling, still reuse the product, but maybe not reuse its full functionality that we had designed it for it to begin with, but that won't necessarily be necessary because it may be so that we can actually assess that the design that was used. 50 years ago is actually still creating something that's acceptable in terms of performance today.
[00:39:22] Margaret McNamee: But we need to have a methodology for doing that assessment. Now in a project that we recently completed here in Sweden, looking at these questions, then we were able to determine that in fact, the building regulations that we have here in Sweden, they do allow us to do this. We can't use prescriptive design, we'd have to use analytical design types of methodologies in order to be able to set up ways for us to assess the performance of the materials that we're wanting to reuse.
[00:39:50] Margaret McNamee: But the existing regulations do allow it. We just have to rethink the way we're applying them.
[00:39:56] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I'm smiling because when you've mentioned that we need to standardize [00:40:00] the block sizes and so on immediate thought I had got dammit communists were right, because that's what we had in eighties in Poland. You know, we had this large block buildings that if, you reach into your mind into an image of what a communist city looked like, it's like a bunch of these gray blocky buildings, but they were constructed like this.
[00:40:19] Wojciech Wegrzynski: They were, they had standardized dimensions of blocks that were multi multiples of 60 centimeters. And you could actually carve like from Legos, you could carve a building out of them. And, in fact, these buildings are still doing great and, Surprisingly the sustainability wave of the nineties has saved them because by improving their energy efficiency, many of the issues related to connections between the blocks were solved by securing them with additional layers of protection.
[00:40:49] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And this buildings have great future in front of them. So in fact, they're excellent in sustainability. They
[00:40:57] Wojciech Wegrzynski: were,
[00:40:57] Margaret McNamee: Maybe.
[00:40:59] Wojciech Wegrzynski: yeah. they were [00:41:00] built to be like simple, , quick to assemble, but this promoted their abilities to be reuse, renovated, and fixing long-term. In fact, it's like, God damn it.
[00:41:13] Wojciech Wegrzynski: They were right.
[00:41:14] Margaret McNamee: But I think, to just put a little bit of nuance onto that, you can think in a situation where you have a number of standardized elements in your building that can be reused in different buildings, but then you combine them with non-standard elements. So it wouldn't be that in the future.
[00:41:30] Margaret McNamee: I'm not saying that buildings in the future should all look the same. There are a lot of different ways that we can use standardized elements to create different types of solutions, depending on what the needs are. And, uh, and this actually brings me into something that I wanted to make sure that I mentioned, you mentioned David Lange and some of the work that he'd been doing.
[00:41:51] Margaret McNamee: I know at the university of Queensland, they've been doing some really interesting work about trying to contextualize things, trying to make sure [00:42:00] that we understand, You know, what is the setting that the building is in? What kinds of connections do you have in a community and how does this impact on.
[00:42:08] Margaret McNamee: Safety questions as well. And I think that, while David hasn't necessarily been applying it to sustainability thinking, I think that it does apply very well to sustainability thinking that we need to remember that sustainability is not one size fits all. It is very context dependent. One sustainable solution in Poland is not going to necessarily be the same as the sustainable solution in Sweden is not necessarily going to be the same as a sustainable solution in the U S.
[00:42:41] Margaret McNamee: And definitely not the same as the sustainable solution in India or in China. You know, we need to have different solutions for different contexts and there's absolutely a need not only to develop what do we mean by sustainable solutions that are both sustainable and fire resilient. So according to the model [00:43:00] that, , myself and Brian Meacham defined, but also that are not necessarily context specific, but are context sensitive that are going to take into account.
[00:43:10] Margaret McNamee: The fact that the solution may be different depending on the context that you try and apply it.
[00:43:16] Wojciech Wegrzynski: So I also have this idea. Is a simplification of a building, a goal in the design that could bring buildings, , closer sustainability, because if you look at the modern buildings, if you go into construction yard and before the false ceiling is put in place, you see an labyrinth of ductwork cables, extremely complicated, solutions to solve some basic issues in your building, including fire safety. And now if you would like to design your building to be disassembled, or even if you would like to design a building that would promote easy renovation of that building in 30 years, you would need things simple. So [00:44:00] maybe there is a point in our design where we could maybe sacrifice some of the extreme goals we have in our buildings, like extremely ambitious goals and in their place put, simplification and then this ability to perform this actions in the buildings.
[00:44:18] Margaret McNamee: I mean, it's an interesting thought. I think that, my immediate thought is that, typically it's difficult to try and get a building sector, a sector in general to, , move towards simplification because of the fact that we are wanting to, Include new technology and new ways, new solutions and so on.
[00:44:40] Margaret McNamee: I think there are a couple of ways without necessarily saying that, okay, we're going to go back to basics. We're going to remove some of the systems that are becoming more common in buildings. I think that's maybe a little bit unrealistic that it's, we're more moving towards a trend towards smart buildings and so on as part of the [00:45:00] energy optimization and things like that.
[00:45:02] Margaret McNamee: but two ways that we can try and improve this situation, one of the ways is by trying to break down the silos here as well by actually having, uh, you have multiple cable networks put into systems to, work with different types of, solutions that are put into the building that may be, if we broke down the silos between those different solutions, we could actually.
[00:45:24] Margaret McNamee: optimize some of the material that's put into the building by having multiple use of some of the cable networks, for example, that we maybe don't have today. so breaking down the silos is one way to improve the simplification of the building. Another way to improve the future renovation or reuse of materials and so on is to actually improve the way that we use the BIM model.
[00:45:48] Margaret McNamee: So building information models that we have in buildings today, modern buildings today, where we would include information about, the fire performance of the different products or materials [00:46:00] that are in there, how they're being used, what happens during the building life cycle and so on, so that we would have a lot more information available about the various materials that are actually in the building that would help us make choices when we're actually doing this deconstruction of the building to reuse it.
[00:46:17] Margaret McNamee: For example, or when we're trying to make sustainable decisions about what needs to be replaced or renovated during a renovation of a building
[00:46:29] Wojciech Wegrzynski: A lot of these, additional complexities come with the fact how the building must be , compartmentalized, in many cases, excessive amount of, fire doors. Like every time you want to compartmentalize your, let's say a floor of a hottel you want to have one hour rated wall of the corridor between your room the, and the corridor.
[00:46:51] Wojciech Wegrzynski: It's not just the wall. It's everything that goes through that wall that has to be fire rated. And that is insane complexity in your building. [00:47:00] If we talk about HVAC systems, , if you want to have the separate climate control zone in every possible room in your building, you're building extremely complex HVC system.
[00:47:10] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Maybe there would be a way to make it a simpler. If you're going into a fire alarm, for example, , and systems to detect fire. I mean, it's an challenging thought maybe wireless system would be a solution because like they remove wires. That's what they do. I'm not sure what's the stage today in how mature are these technologies, but they're emerging.
[00:47:36] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And I'm asking that because if you consider the economic cost of your building, like also in terms of how much time it takes to build it up, how much money it takes to build it up, how much money it takes to take it down a renovate or something. Adding complexities in your systems, especially when systems overlapping makes this costs rise exponentially.
[00:47:58] Wojciech Wegrzynski: If you have to put [00:48:00] five layers of ducts, one under another. And suddenly you realize there has been a change in the duct work in the middle. There's not much you can do anymore in the building. And that definitely is not sustainable in a way. Also the second thing is the space optimization in buildings.
[00:48:19] Wojciech Wegrzynski: like what's the most expensive thing in safety systems in the building is the space they take out of the building. So they're optimized to be the smallest possible to gain maximum leaseable area of the building to be sold. Right. And, maybe if we were not hyper-focused on efficiency in, this gain, we could build our systems, less complicated, more accessible, easier to replace , refurbrish, and in the whole life cycle of a building.
[00:48:50] Wojciech Wegrzynski: If you consider a hundred years of the building, when it will be renovated three times and each time you shorten the duration of the renovation from two years to one year, [00:49:00] maybe it would pay out this immediate gain of two square meters that you gained by lumping them together.
[00:49:06] Margaret McNamee: Hmm. I mean, I, don't have a one answer to any of these questions. I mean, I think that because of the complexity of the built environment as well, there isn't one answer to any of these questions. There, there are a variety of answers depending on the building application and the age of the building and things like that.
[00:49:26] Margaret McNamee: I mean, certainly one aspect of sustainability for the future is going to be having flexible buildings. So the fact that, you know, we don't know today when we're building a building, that it will necessarily have the same use over the whole hundred year life cycle that we've projected for it. It may be used as a, an office building now, people may wish to turn it into a hotel later it, and then it may go back to being an office building or an apartment building, something like that.
[00:49:55] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Or a farm, you don't know that.
[00:49:56] Margaret McNamee: We don't know, because we don't know what's going to [00:50:00] happen in a hundred years' time. We can look back a hundred years and say there are so many changes that it would have been impossible for people a hundred years ago to predict how society looks today.
[00:50:12] Margaret McNamee: And just by projecting from that, we could say, well, we don't really know what society is going to look like in a hundred years. So flexibility in our buildings is going to be a cornerstone. I think of sustainability in terms of creating a sustainable built environment.
[00:50:28] Wojciech Wegrzynski: one thing for sure. Fire safety engineers will not run out of their jobs anywhere soon. Anyway,
[00:50:36] Margaret McNamee: not. I think, there's, this actually brings us to a totally different topic about the, the standing of five safety engineering internationally. And the fact that I think we, we will see an increase of a time now of the standing of the fire safety engineering profession, because of the fact that this is a cornerstone, as we're trying to [00:51:00] create sustainable buildings and a sustainable built environment in the future.
[00:51:04] Margaret McNamee: If we do embrace the fact that we need to as part of sustainability and make sure that we have fire safety, , incorporated, then five safety engineers will become increasingly important,
[00:51:16] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I have one more big question. How much of a fire safety can we sacrifice to gain in sustainable?
[00:51:25] Margaret McNamee: I mean, um, the reason I fight, and thought about a little bit is I'm not sure that the question is correctly posed, you know, I, I'm not sure that we want to sacrifice either. We don't want to sacrifice sustainability and we don't want to sacrifice safety. I think that, by looking at them together, we can actually try and make sure that we, create a solution that is both sustainable and safe.
[00:51:51] Margaret McNamee: And if we're not. If we feel like we're sacrificing safety, for example, if we're not getting a solution that is safe enough, then [00:52:00] we're not doing it right. We need to make sure that we are getting a solution or we are creating a solution that is safe. When we look historically at regulations and how we've dealt with safety, then a lot of the ways that we've dealt with fire safety, for example, has been reactive.
[00:52:17] Margaret McNamee: We've had a fire incident that a regulation has been created to close a hole that we've seen, that's created an unsafe solution. And so you've got the creation of a whole lot of prescriptive regulations that are based on specific incidents. And these have been, tried to be generalized in a number of ways.
[00:52:37] Margaret McNamee: And so I think that today, some of the prescriptive solutions that we have, we don't always necessarily know whether or not these are giving us safe solutions for the present context. I mean, there's something that was defined based on historic knowledge of what happened, but not necessarily, [00:53:00] updated and, appropriate for our modern context.
[00:53:03] Margaret McNamee: And so we need to, when we're doing this optimization of sustainable and fire resiliency, then we need to also consider what are the appropriate fire safety or fire resiliency, objectives that were pretty cool with
[00:53:17] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Maybe when you define the goals of fire safety better, you don't have to sacrifice anything because, you reached them.
[00:53:23] Margaret McNamee: Yeah. Yeah. I think if we're not, if we're not reaching our fire safety goals, then we're not finding a good solution. So by definition, when we're doing this optimization and we're not sacrificing because of the fact that we are trying to actually make sure that we reach all of the goals.
[00:53:40] Wojciech Wegrzynski: or when it's not fire safe, it's just not sustainable
[00:53:44] Margaret McNamee: Yeah,
[00:53:45] Margaret McNamee: Yeah. exactly.
[00:53:47] Wojciech Wegrzynski: fire will affect so many layers, so many people societies and so on. It's a, you cannot say building a sustainable that it may potentially leads , to such damage.
[00:53:55] Margaret McNamee: Yeah. And I mean, you know, this comes as well, back to a [00:54:00] risk way or a risk methodology of optimization, where you do have to set up goals in terms of, well, how safe is safe enough. And this, this is where we can, have some problems in the definition of how we're reaching our objectives.
[00:54:14] Margaret McNamee: Because obviously there is this optimization in terms of something is not sustainable. If it is infinitely expensive in order to be able to, , create the perfectly safe building, because then it's not economically sustainable. Uh, if you try and put everyone in a concrete bunker, because that's the most safe solution, then that's not socially sustainable because people aren't going to want to live like that.
[00:54:39] Margaret McNamee: so yeah, it comes back to your definition of what is sustainable basically.
[00:54:45] Wojciech Wegrzynski: that's this that's fantastic because, you're right. If there is no ultimately fire safe building and the costs would go, , into infinite, if you would like to have a building with an infinite fire safety, and if you have [00:55:00] designed a building for which you cannot find fire safety in a reasonable. Maybe you should just not build a building.
[00:55:08] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I mean, not, every idea needs to be finished, not every building has to be built. And maybe, , you want to build your tallest wooden skyscraper maybe just to pursue, uh, a world record or, you know, to create the landmark in your town may be, this is horribly unsustainable goal that you should not pursue.
[00:55:32] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And, I think that's, great, way to summarize that we can find ways to make our buildings sustainable. And if we can, we probably should not build them.
[00:55:41] Margaret McNamee: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:55:43] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Thank you so much. And that was a great, talk. It was such fun to have you on the podcast, and I'm really excited about your ventures that I have luck to participate in.
[00:55:55] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I'm looking forward to all the submissions to the special [00:56:00] issue, and I think I'm looking even more to the handbook.
[00:56:03] Margaret McNamee: Yeah. Yeah. I'm really looking forward to having their handbook, finally come out. So hopefully around April of this year, then people can start looking for a copy of the handbook on the environmental impact of fires. , I'll take this opportunity to thank all of our collaborators in terms of the chapter authors and everything for that as well.
[00:56:24] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Thank you so much. much appreciated your efforts. thank you. And, see you around Margaret
[00:56:30] Margaret McNamee: yeah. See you around. Thanks a lot Wojciech, bye.
[00:56:33] Wojciech Wegrzynski: , And that's it. For me, it was such an amazing talk. Really. I am usually quite well-prepared for these interviews, you know, and I spent a lot of time outlining the talks and what I would like to ask, but then comes Margaret. She drops circular economy on me and my head is just exploding.
[00:56:51] Wojciech Wegrzynski: How can fire safety adapt to these, sustainability trends in the build environment? I thought this will be, you [00:57:00] know, this, Big topic episode, where we're gonna talk about the planet and saving it for the children and obviously important things like that. But we went down so quickly into what does this mean for a fire safety engineer and the fire safety industry?
[00:57:19] Wojciech Wegrzynski: I was rejoice by that. I loved it completely because it, turned out to be so practical to myself. I view some things in a completely different manner than I did before having this interview. And I think, companies like mine, which is a fire research laboratory, we, we have to adapt to this trend as well, and we have to adapt quickly and there is so many.
[00:57:44] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Challenges coming right for us. Really crazy challenges that we've never met, like reuse of complete building elements to reduce the carbon footprint of a building. That's really. And then that's something that is going to happen. And we have to [00:58:00] find a way how to make it happen safely, reuse of materials, new technologies, designing for deconstruct, wow.
[00:58:07] Wojciech Wegrzynski: That use of BIM in a wider manner and including completely different arrays of information in the modeling as well. That's some really, really powerful and great concepts
[00:58:18] Wojciech Wegrzynski: and seeing how the industry evolves towards green certification or LEED certification, , how the interest is built in. sustainability goals in the construction works. And on top of that, the renovation of all the existing buildings in the next 30 or 50 years, because you think about lifetime of a building, they must be renovated at some point.
[00:58:41] Wojciech Wegrzynski: And when we go into that, sustainability will be one of the goals of this renovation. And the final bomp, we're not really aware of how the buildings will be used in 50 or a hundred years. There is no way to predict what will be the occupation of the buildings. So [00:59:00] design for flexibility is it's an amazing concept and something that.
[00:59:07] Wojciech Wegrzynski: We will need to include in our design and that's going to be so hard because so many of our assumptions, our designs and how you're based and occupation is like the first thing that dictates how we design buildings in fire safety. So, wow. So many challenges for the discipline. I'm really happy. I had this conversation with Margaret.
[00:59:31] Wojciech Wegrzynski: It opened my eyes on so many topics and I promise I'll try to cover as many of them as I can in the podcast, learning all these things and, sharing this path, with you. I hope you've enjoyed it. Please remember we did it because we wanted to introduce to you the special issue of Fire Technology, journal Fire Safety and Sustainability Challenges and Opportunities co edited by Margaret McNamee. [01:00:00] Brian Mitcham. Hideki Yoshioka and yours truly Wojciech Wegrzynski.
[01:00:05] Wojciech Wegrzynski: Really happy that this came to life, the special issues open submission until 31st, July, 2022. So there's still quite a lot time to prepare your submissions. We are looking forward to what's coming to us on this topics, and I'm really excited to learn your thoughts about the role of fire safety and in building a sustainable build environment and beyond building environment.
[01:00:32] Wojciech Wegrzynski: So, thanks for being here with me as usual. See you here next Wednesday. Uh, yeah. Cheers.