Welcome to our new website!
June 22, 2022

055 - The future is exciting with Arnold Dix (part 2)

055 - The future is exciting with Arnold Dix (part 2)

I once said the future looks stupid... but after this discussion with Arnold Dix, I know - future is exciting. And for Fire Safety Engineers and others involved in fire protection - the future seems to be super exciting! In this episode, we let go and try to discuss the future tech in the world of tunnelling. From autonomous vehicles in tiny (and seems a bit dangerous) tunnels, McDonnaldization of TBM's, Hyperloops to city concepts build all the way around humans (and tunnels!). This is a future to look for, and I hope to live through at least some of these inventions. They will not come without challenges, but that is the point of being an engineer, right?!

This is the second part of two-piece interview with Professor Arnold Dix. If you can't get enough of Arnold (like me), I have great news for you. There are six episodes of the Tunneling Journal podcast exclusively with Arnold, that you can listen here: https://tunnellingjournal.com/podcasts-tunnelling-journal/ 

Highly recommended!

Transcript
Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Hello, everybody. Welcome to the fire science show episode 55 today. I'm again with professor Arnold, Dix parts, two of our interview. If you listen to the episode one week ago, you know, it's worth listen. And if you have not, then you should definitely try because, uh, these are two great episodes. Professor Arnold Dix is, um, the president elect of International Tunneling Association, and one of the smartest people in the tunneling industry, one of the best fire engineers in the tunneling industry and absolute well of knowledge in terms of tunneling and safety. And last episode with Arnold, we've discussed tunnels as intergenerational projects and. Some consequences of that, uh, how sustainable they can be. If you start looking at them as a piece of infrastructure that would serve the society. For hundreds of years, we discuss about the phase of design of tunnels and more interestingly about the operational phase of the tunnels and with the parts that fire safety engineers will play in them. So that's definitely a great, piece. If you're interested in tunneling engineering. Today with Arnold, we hop into world of exciting technologies and tunnels and some future. It was really interesting to pick his brain on what he thinks about new futuristic approaches. Well, we, we start very conventionally with, approach in engineering and optimization when the tunnel is a part of a commercial activity, not a public, investment, but then we quickly move into super sexy stuff. Like the boring company tunnels, Teslas. Hyper loops and future cities based upon tunnels. So yeah, I think this episode is, is for you because it'll cover the future of fire safety engineering as, as we predicted. And I hope we're good in predicting that actually, and a little spoiler in the end. Arnold's gonna reveal his, super cool hobby. And that's something that I was not ready for. I, well, actually he was introduced to me as a Barister and I thought he's making coffee. Well, then I learned it's another word for lawyer kind of sucks when English is not your first language, but he's a pretty chill person and he actually explained it to me. But yeah, if you think about his hobby and I think the way I thought that his hobby is making coffee, that's, that's two completely different worlds and, and his hobby is exciting. You have to listen to the end to learn that. So that's a secret and that's a motivation to reach the end of the episode. Anyway. I'm standing here between you and exciting future five safety engineering. So I'm gonna move myself away. But before I let you go, I also need to ask you for something I need to ask you to give me a five star review on apple podcast or Spotify or wherever you're listening. It it's more, increasingly more and more important. thing to, to the podcast to be discovered by people. And one way to discover is by this podcast being recommended to people and it will not get recommended if you do not recommend it through the five star ratings that you can give me. So if you would like to help me growing the show, I would really appreciate if you could switch off for a second and drop five stars, that is really helpful to the growth of the show. Hello everybody welcome to the Fire Science Show today. I have professor Arnold Dix spar two. Hey Arnold. Great to see you again.

Arnold Dix:

great to see you again. This is all so familiar now. Part two, my goodness.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah. Yeah. I've asked and you delivered. Thank you so much, you know, for 50 episodes, I always put this little tunnel insights into the podcast because that's my main thing I do in my work somehow. And, it's always to fire scientists who deal with everything else. And now I have a to guy. Yes. I can go all all way in on the tunnels. I love it. I hope people like it though.

Arnold Dix:

I'm excited.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I think everyone likes tunnels. My, my five year old daughter tunnels. So every everyone is excited about tunnels. So yeah, Arnold. Last episode, we've talked about sustainability, some aspects of the tunnels , as a foundation for the future, as a means to build a better future for the planet as a very convenient way to do that. And today I would love to pick your brain on some particular. Aspects of tunnel link technology, including ones that are maybe more down to earth and more engineer friendly and ones that are kind of futuristic. And really, uh, I wouldn't say crazy, but really ambitious, like, like hyper loops and, and stuff. So, so it's gonna be great episode. So, let's start with the boring one, tunnels. So I know you live in Australia, so you, I assume you were, involved in some tunneling projects there and that's a big market for tunnels. I also know that in Australia, a lot of tunnels are built as a commercial project where the value of the tunnel, the risk is on the, the contractor that the tunnel is commercially, uh, success. They charge people when you enter. So. I would assume these guys would, do anything to lower the cost of the tunnel to the absolute minimum because whatever they pay goes from their pocket, in my country, it's usually public investors. So it goes from pockets of, of us all, but not in the same way. So, First, could you tell me, do you see a difference working with like public agencies and the commercial companies that, own tunnels and, and build tunnels for drone?

Arnold Dix:

Really really interesting question. Great question, actually, cuz you can imagine, and indeed you've just said you think that because it's the private sector, that's there delivering this tunnel that they're gonna charge for its use that they're gonna build it as cheaply as they can, but actually that's not what happens at all. And that I think has been one of the great lessons for me in my career is working with both public and private sector to deliver underground infrastructure and where it's the private sector and they're charging for access to the infrastructure, what I've seen. And I mean, I've seen it, I've touched it I've felt it is that the private sector demands that the tunnel's available, that they actually need it to be fully functional. They actually don't want it to get damaged. So safety becomes mission critical. For the business. So actually safety, isn't some separate subject safety is central to business as usual. And I see that, um, there's a company that does quite a lot of work here in Australia and also in other parts of the world called Transurban and Transurban. Aren't a tunnel company. They're a big investment organization, but they love tunnels. And so they've got this incredible depth of expertise in the engineering side that they apply to make their tunnels really, really robust and really, really robust means safe and safe means not only don't you get injured in them, but in the event that there's some sort of an incident that tunnels up and running really quickly. Like really, really quickly. So the whole, the whole approach to the fire engineering is part of the total engineering package of a robust, absolutely resilient bit of infrastructure that generates income and is available all the time. So it's almost the opposite of what you expect. I would've thought they build 'em cheap,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I thought as well, yeah,

Arnold Dix:

So typically for those of your audience who are tunnel affictionados in their tunnels, they've got active fire suppression systems. Normally a, maybe in other parts of the world at expensive item, they've got, dedicated, usually smoke extraction, depending upon which part of the world they're in, but either dedicated smoke extraction or very advanced longitudinal ventilation systems really, really, active and advanced incident detection systems computerated, um, with, you know, the, artificial intelligence overlays, dynamic risk. assessments where instead of just having a set of minimum operating requirements, they actually quantify in terms of risk, the consequences, say for a loss of fans or a loss of senses or a, whatever, it might be in their systems and try and actively manage the risk in order to maintain the functionality and the cash flow and the safety. and so that's, it's so not what you expect

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

It's one of these things, like when someone tells you it's obvious, like if the tunnel is closed, they do not earn money. If, the tunnel is perceived dangerous, because there was a major fire in it and no one takes it, they do not earn money. Say so in the end, you're right. It makes sense. if you positioned it in that way, it absolutely makes sense. And, and you could even say that in here, resilience of the tunnel is a really huge thing. Be, be able to bring it back to life after a fire incident is the, the number one mission. So, I really love that. But that also probably means I, I also don't think they just spent cash. Oh yeah. You have seven normal more systems. Please drop them. No, no, I, I, but, but that also means they must have worked out what's most cost, cost efficient. Like, what is the cheapest way to. Provide safety. You've mentioned sprinkler blinker systems. I have really difficult or general what extinguishing systems. I have really big problems convincing, public clients that, that this is something worth investing in. So did you have any experience in, convincing, a party there or maybe they were just convinced at the start.

Arnold Dix:

No, no. Weren't convinced at all, a lot of fighting, a lot of grinding of teeth and scratching of nails and all those sorts of things. Well, what's, what's interesting though. And again, for, for your audience is as fire engineers, the fundamental safety concept in tunnels varies around the world. So if, if we are talking from a, say a Western European perspective, traditionally the safety concept is one in which maintaining stratification for the, evacuation self evacuation phase is really important. And that's that typically underlies the I'd call it the traditional Western European approach. And, and of course, that makes sense too, in Europe where temperatures are often very low. And so the idea of introducing water or active suppression systems into a tunnel environment that might be Sub-Zero is a bit counterintuitive on its face, but. On the other hand, in other parts of the world, or even in those parts of the world, if you put your mind to it, you can have a different safety concept from a fire engineering point of view, and you can say, you know what being so hung up over stratification of smoke is being a bit defeatist because it's assuming you're gonna have a really big fire and we're gonna have all of this stratified smoke hanging out here in the tunnel. What if we were really aggressive with active fire suppression so that we could be confident the size of the fire event. In the event that occurs is substantially minimized. So in terms of our frequency distribution of fire size, we can have confidence. It's only gonna be little, and if we can make it little, then the probability that we interfere with the structure of the tunnel. So the actual fabric of the tunnel and compromise it structurally, which is often important, either under mountains or underwater other water bodies, cuz you don't want the things. Go from a tunnel to a drain pipe and fill up with water, or, where you want to protect the systems in the tunnel. So, you know, all of your, digital information systems, your linear heat, detections, your, you know, all the coms, all of the cables in either case, you can go, no, we're gonna go for active fire suppression. We recognize that it will have a de stratification impact. And the de stratification impact will to some extent, impact on self rescue. But in the other hand, what this delivers is smaller fires and it delivers much more robust tunnels because we think we can keep the fire small and not have the catastrophic runaway events, like what we've seen in, um, month long, other. Other fires over the years and the argument in Australia's been one on that basis that the number crunches say, we can deliver a high level of safety. We can minimize the number of large events. We accept that there'll be de stratification of smoke, but there's gonna be very few events where it's really gonna matter. And that's been our experience. And it was actually Japan that led with this rationale, cuz Japan had had a catastrophic fire. I think it was back in the fifties. Uh, and then they put in active suppression systems and they used their tunnels for years and nothing much ever happened because whenever there was a little fire, it stayed little. So really interesting, really counterintuitive, and highlights the cultural dimensions to fire engineering in different parts of the world and the stratification approach traditionally in Western Europe. And now what we're seeing is sort of the more the Australian, Japanese, and increasing the European, particularly with the misting systems coming out of Europe, where we go for let's keep the fires small. And to the extent we've lost stratification. So what, cuz actually it's safer

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

yeah, you

Arnold Dix:

the infrastructure's gonna

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

it's super interesting because here you touched the very fabric of fire safety engineering. Like we have these concepts that are, who, you've said in the previous episode that some, engineers would, uh, think about their. Uh, tunnels like sacred structures, but in, in the same way, the fire engineers can look at some concepts of fire safety engineering, like they're, you know, sacred rules then commandments of fire engineering. Those shall keep the smoke above the head the evacuates, and, It makes sense in certain social technical context in which this rule was formulated, but if your social technical context has changed in the meantime, it may not make that much sense, uh, anymore the same with like 10 meter visibility rule. there there's many critical velocity in intelligence comes to my mind as a concept. That's almost, Religion it's and I hate it. I hate it. I, I, I loved how an FPA has, went into increasing the, critical velocity, um, in like 2019, if I'm not wrong. Addition of 502. Then, there was a mass criticism over the world and I've also made a troll accountant that participated in that, but there was a massive oppress in the engineering community that we see that for one, our systems that we were designing for years were meeting performance goals in terms of fires and making the smoke go where we want. and two, we see that new values give you much higher numbers, which means you have to design 30, 40, 50% stronger systems. We also identified the potential source of that going to scale model tests and the way how some data was extrapolated in a good faith, because that was the best knowledge available at the time. but it didn't really click. And I highly respected N FPA, , community and the group. And you are important member of that group. So, my congratulations for the whole group go to through your hands to them. I, I really appreciate that they've, backed to the previous solution based on scientific evidence. It's not common. That someone would back off from a solution that may not be working too often. We find the solutions being pushed on people to heart and even further. With this backing up. I, I think it started some movement to rethink the concept. And as Norman was showing , at Graz conference, maybe we can talk about not critical velocity, but confinement, velocity, where you allow some level of back layering, which sounds bad as a word, but it's not really that dangerous as a concept and find more optimized solutions for ventilation. For me, that is. Mind break, like world break thing, because this is my main goal that I work with. So back to the social technical systems, this critical velocity concept maybe have worked in the world where we didn't have experience CFD. Uh, you know, we were incomplete Memorial tunnel times.

Arnold Dix:

Well, I'm glad you're excited about it. It was probably one of the most painful things for us intellectually to do on N FPA. And I, I think you're right. It showed a real strength by us to stop and re-look at our own work and back up and say, you know what? There's a better way of doing this. And. And you're exactly right about the social technical cuz what, what we are witnessing right now. Like, I mean right now, like what, what is it, whatever date it is today is saying we're gonna take a different conceptual approach, the overall fire engineering approach. We're gonna talk about having authority over the smoke or command over the smoke and not just arbitrarily say there'll be no back layering. And by doing that, it liberates the fire engineer to be more holistic about what they're actually delivering. And isn't that what it is to be a fire engineer, to be professional, to be able to really not just look at one dimension, um, to this safety issue underground, but to say actually, actually, you know, we're gonna look at say, like, we've just been talking, we're gonna talk about active fire suppression. We're gonna talk about. Tenability of the environment, but not just in the strict, you know, how long can someone survive, but what about intelligibility for our emergency messages? What about self rescue? What about, what about, what about, and build layer upon layer of a safety concept as fire engineers, multidisciplinary enabled fire engineers, not just critical velocity fire engineers. So I'm, I'm excited that you are excited. I mean, it's been an amazing journey intellectually, and I think big leap for safety underground for the.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

This is also why I love tunnels because for some reason, tunnels are the forefront of innovation in five safety engineering and in some twisted way, it's maybe the intellectually, the most open field for rethinking the basic concepts. Maybe after chemical engineering, the first one to implement risk methods in, in designing safety, which is already impressive. And now. you say we are at the level of questioning the fundamental concepts and rethinking them and finding possible better options. Not necessarily saying they're bad and will not work. It's just, , To know that we need to, , try and scout out if there is, something else around. And I really, really appreciate that approach from the NFP committee and. In general, the, the tunneling, committee as, as commitment to, build a better future. And, and us engineers should be excited because you give us tools in the toolbox and everyone likes to receive a new tool. Like we're, we're, we're still the children in the playground. I, I love to have, new tools available for myself. I would like to move on. Uh, we started with optimization and there's some concepts in the world of tunnel that are really interesting to me. And I know people in my audience too, there is this, company called The Boring company, by Elon Musk. Yeah, It's a great pun in the name of the company. It used to same flame towers, but now it's building tunnels as, as it was initially intended to. And every now and. on Twitter where I'm quite active. there's a discussion about these tunnels because when you see videos of these tunnels as a fire engineer, you're like Spider-Man sense. Single. You see that something is like, different. It's not like we are used to. So to explain to my audience who had never seen that these tunnels, it's like really small cross section tunnels. that bur that can mostly fit one Tesla car or one car in general. And, they're meant to, Transfer you from point a to B. So you're not stuck in traffic, but the, from B the immediate thing is like, I, see a tunnel, but there are things I do not see. I do not see jet funds. I do not see extraction points. I do not see evacuation exits. I do not see. Evacuation, uh, paths even in the tunnel because it just fits one car. So I'm very not used to this image. So what were your first impressions when you seen this as an endeavor and maybe, maybe let's try to figure out why they're trying to build them. Like this

Arnold Dix:

I look great example, of almost like McDonaldization of, of the underground, because what he's, what he's done and all credit to him, is he's got a standard, diameter tunnel. he's actually. In a very real sense, adopting a Metro concept because he's putting only his cars down there. And so his rolling stock, even though it doesn't look like a train is in a very real sense, very much like a train, because he knows about its onboard navigation system. He knows about its propulsion system. He knows about the materials it's built. He knows about the acceleration performance, the breaking performance, all of that sort of stuff. So it's not like his tunnel has just got any old random vehicles in it. No, it's got his rolling stock in it. That happens to be Teslas. Uh, and therefore he's also got a captured communications and, command system a bit like a signaling system. He's building his own McDonald's style. Metro. With cars, his cars. So I think that's, that's how he can do it because it, it just wouldn't make sense if you let me down there in my old land Rover, for example, I cause mayhem, I dunno what you drive, but it it's, I dunno if you've got a Tesla. Yeah, no, I don't have a Tesla and I'll probably never have a Tesla. not cause I don't love them, but it's just not part of how I roll in this part of the world.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I think in, in my country and in your country, our electricity comes from coal in a lot.

Arnold Dix:

absolutely. Yeah. So yeah, no, it doesn't quite work, but that, but that's what he is done. Like he's awesomely visionary because everyone's like, oh my God, it's the tunnel boring company and the Elon Musk solution. but it's so much more than that. And yeah, I reckon if you look at it properly, as engineers should, as scientists should, you'll see it's much more, the Metro closed system than anything we are used to seeing with cars, cuz it's not really like cars as we know them. Um, as he's a smart guy by standardizing everything, he gets all sorts of economic efficiencies. and, and the other thing is he just delivers, like if he promises something, he'll do it. So whenever he says something that I think's outrageous, I just think, well, I should sign up for whatever it is cuz I know he'll do it. Even if the price is crazy, he'll do it. yeah.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah, I, I, I was following that development from the very beginning, like from the first tweet about him being stuck in a tunnel saying this is boring. I, I should start a boring company and we'll build tunnels underneath the city. So, I'm not stuck in traffic. It literally happened like That It was hilarious. And, and then he started selling flame TRS for some reason, That, that was really cool. and they couldn't ship them internationally because it. was called a flame thrower. So they changed the official name of the protocol to not a flame thrower and they were shipping them like that. I mean, I appreciate good jokes and and and this is my type of humor, but, um, two things that he said while developing this concept is, one the. Tunneling process is painfully slow. is extremely, extremely slow process. It takes so long to, , drill a tunnel. and I saw this, comparisons where he was showing like, the, Molds and tunnel boring machines. And the mold was like hundred times quicker in drilling tunnels than, than humans. and. he said, we would like to at least capture the, the Mo as, benchmark. and what they did is what you said. They standardized the tunnel, boring machine to Make it more efficient in a way quicker, in a way. And they started drilling tunnels at, at the speeds that are unprecedented. I, think they're reached like two or three meters per day, which is a very large speed for building a tunnel. If you can drill three meters per day, that's a kilometer in a month almost so that's, that's insane and saying, and that, that was the number one that was the McDonaldization of the of the TBM, as you mentioned. And the second thing, which I thought. Was in a way brilliant is that the traffic network is too, dimensional. Two dimensional space. What you can do is add more lanes. And as we discussed in the green room before, it does not really work in Los Angeles, they have a lot of lanes and it still congests what he said. tunnels can be three-dimensional because eventually could put the tunnel under the tunnel under the tunnel. And probably know some geotechnical experts who got a heart attack after that. cause that's not that easy. But it's an engineering world. You find solution. So it is in a way, like, if, if they're pushing for the concept, if, they have the technology to. do that it's going to be a reality. And, as fire engineers, we, we are not there to, say, oh, your concept is stupid. but let's figure out, uh, what the real challenges are to. People who use it to the society. And let's try to find ways to solve that and maybe, put some smart legislation in place that would maybe force them to do some stuff that would make distance really safe.

Arnold Dix:

Yeah, look my take, firstly, I don't think there's any magic in the way he bores his tunnel. Um, I, I think there's a lot of hype about that, but there, there hasn't been any wonderful innovation. He's standardized the size of the tunnels that he builds. And sometimes you can have good luck by the rock you're in as well. But from, from my perspective, there's nothing earth shattering about what he's achieving in, in his actual production rates. That's just

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

so, just just general improvement in the technology that led to, and by standardization, he could just optimize the whole

Arnold Dix:

Yeah.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

rock removal process, for example.

Arnold Dix:

Yeah. like a McDonald's, you know, you wanna type four McDonald's on the corner over there. You send your order in and the, , McDonald's drops one from outer space

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yes,

Arnold Dix:

together. So that's the sort of advantage he brings, but I don't think any great technological. Improvement in his actual boring of tunnels his vehicles on the other hand, yes. There's clearly innovation in the vehicles, everything from the, the signaling systems, the propulsion systems and what have you, but I've gotta agree with you. those vehicles aren't without issue and they do catch on fire and modern materials do burn like hell. Um, and that's quite apart from the, the propulsion systems themselves with the, uh, electrical, systems on board and what have you just, just the plastics and all those new light materials, they burn fast and, and they burn toxic. So having them in a environment which is confined without a ventilation system from fire engineering, 1 0 1 point of view, I think that's a dangerous. and, if we were being politically correct, I'd call it brave, move by anybody to do we're bold. Um, yeah, I, so I don't, I don't approve of that. I think that in fire engineering where big enough and ugly enough to know that tenability particularly in a confined space space for human beings is so fragile. And yeah, sure. When you look at the graph, there's only three minutes there where we can't breathe, how bad can that be? And of course, the answer is we know is really bad. It kills us. So you know, that, and so says access to a safe place and ventilation, I think are no brainers and you're right. I think there should be an overarching regulatory requirement for that. And to the extent that's regulating, the market. So be. I just think that's fair. I don't like, for example, how any of these autonomous vehicles, whatever they're called, get to be on our road systems without an independent licensing authority verifying the performance of the robot and whether it's underground or on the surface. So that's another thing I don't like. I don't think in a pub, particularly in a public place, so in his private system, I can understand it, but I think the vehicles in a public place, a public tunnel there, there really should be some independent verification of the auto piloting because they're with us, the robots, the robots are sharing the space with us. You've gotta be licensed. I've gotta be licensed. I want the robot to be licensed too, cuz you know, it needs an objective set of performance for how it behaves. Otherwise it might harm me

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I had a firefighters spot, you know, the Boston dynamics dog chasing me yesterday And and the conference in here. And it was amazing piece of technology. I, I love it. I hope they don't give it the gun though.

Arnold Dix:

yeah.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I've watched too much black mirror. I'm it's at the same scary and, and, and interesting. um, from the concepts we we've talked. I did, assemble a group of scientists, we can call ourselves Avengers. where

Arnold Dix:

Yep.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

with the, goal to understand the. risks related to these tunnels, we want to build, um, the models of the tunnels we want to solve the, piston effect in the tunnel because that's, to me, that's number one thing. The, the way how momentum is transferred from vehicle to the air in the tunnel. All the lag coefficients, like how long it takes for air to stop in the tunnel. Like If your vehicle stops and the, there another vehicle in coming behind you how. Much of error. Is that vehicle pushing on you? And how long will that last can is this like a valid longitudinal ventilation or not how buoyancy will affect it? We basically can smoke go to the way where people are, because I, I heard claims that this tunnels are, are smoke, ventilated, almost all our smoke related and I build smoke ventilation. They don't look like smoke ventilated tunnels to me. I don't see these devices. I'm sorry. Maybe I'm I'm blind and they should take my license , to ventilate, but I don't see that So the to me, they're UN unventilated spaces and. Now in the non ventilated spaces with no evacuation paths, you've essentially removed the, whole layer of safety, which is evacuation. There is no evacuation. you have to be rescued And that's gonna be problematic too. It's not that the fire, we had this joke in the firefighter school that, uh, when, when we have our school has received this huge American truck, you know, like you see in the movies, this giant vehicle, and it was so loud and noisy, it was, there was a running joke that when this truck enters on thes signal, To the this was strata tunnel in Warsaw, the cars switch to the ceiling to make space to it because it's so loud And UN obnoxious, but , unfortunately I, was just a joke. It doesn't work like that. The, the cars in that tunnel cannot make space for a firer. It would not even fit inside the tunnel. So it's also, You don't have really great way to rescue people. it's a huge challenge for me and. if, I go into this thought with an open mind that you cannot evacuate, you cannot be rescued. Then the only. Reasonable answer I get to fire safety strategy is that, you cannot have a fire in there You have to make sure reliability of the system is high enough to not have a fire. And the second thought to limit the consequences. I think this is the first in infrastructure in which traffic management. Could be even more important than I dunno, ventilation or, or fire resistance of the walls. Like traffic management would be everything we do not allow traffic jam to form in that tunnel that you already exponentially increase the safety of the, of the thing. But it it's a challenging concept. And I think not only the fire community, but the whole tunneling community Must, think about it because it seems like more and more cities are contracting their services and these towns will be, are going our way and we're not stopping them.

Arnold Dix:

Yeah, look, I, I couldn't agree, with you more, your point about just not having fires is central to that earlier. comment I made about, you have to draw an analogy between the Tesla and a Metro train. Because that's what it's like. It's like a fully controlled vehicle. I on a vehicle like a Tesla car, uh, I mean, what Springs to mind? I know it's a very old fashioned, but having onboard fire suppression systems in the vehicles themselves, just like we've done for many years in, in high risk, vehicles in the engine bay or what have you. And so, you know, in a, in a Tesla, it might be where the, the wiring looms are. And maybe the, probably the wiring looms and propulsion systems would be the main source of ignition. But you know, like you, I could imagine you could do it. Pretty quickly and it doesn't have to be a big system on board. you ride about the traffic control. You just can't afford to have congestion because if you have multiple Teslas, all bumper to bumper and you get a fire, it's gonna spread really quickly because you've got all of that energy in the vehicles, both in terms of the stored chemical electric energy and these modern materials. I mean, they're essentially plastic vehicles. and you know, like when we were growing up, we used to have metal vehicles. I dunno if you remember them, but they were, they were an old fashioned concept. These are, these are mostly plastics now, apart from, key, key structural elements,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

in my part of the world, there was Trant vehicle and do plastic so that, Yeah. they had plastic, they had PLA and there there's even, I think some, hit release rate curve from Trant vehicle from like, um, eighties and it's insane. It's like insane peak. And everyone was saying, oh, but that's a, Trabu, that's a plastic vehicle. Maybe that's more relevance to the modern cars than

Arnold Dix:

Yeah. You were ahead of your time. Yeah.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

was, it was these Germans we, we had worse in Poland. Yes, we had, funnier vehicles, but Yeah. that's now they're all called legendary, you know, everything that was incoming time is now legendary. car of, It's not that they're all the useless they're legendary now.

Arnold Dix:

You just

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And their legend was born because you didn't have really a choice of of purchasing a different one. Anyway. I loved, this and, there there's one more concept. Also, Elon was, uh, a huge advocate for that. and it's also in safety strategy. It's, it's very similar in a way, is the Hyperloop concept, the, the concept where you would, build, a pipe, a tunnel, or. Or just a pipe on the ground, I guess, for our considerations, you could consider the same, in which you would create vacuum because where goes energy of your transport vehicle When you move, it goes to the friction O of your tires, and it goes to the airflow resistance. It faces that's primary sources, why you need, so much horsepower on your car, and on, on your train. and hyperop, as a concept, you remove the, air by creating a vacuum. So no air friction anymore. You levitated on a magnetic, field, so no tire friction anymore. And you can basically shoot them at, at a speed of I thousand kilometers per hour. There's no sound speed because it's in vacuum. So, so literally you, can go as, as Much as you? wish, pretty much so, so the idea is this this could be a new solution. long distance transport, not the short distance, but long distance transport in a very, very quick way and. also like there's this hyper contest. They have a demonstrator build They it's, it's a growing thing. So, So what is uh, what's your opinion on that technology? as a, as a future?

Arnold Dix:

I love anything that, stretches us as engineers. So I'm a big fan of innovation and change. And what have you. In the Hyperloop example, I'm not as worried about fire and life safety, but I, I mean, I am worried of course, because it's a confined space, but I'm actually much more troubled about the fundamental physiology of human beings. Um, being propelled at say a thousand kilometers an hour. and at any moment only being, you know, 10 mills or 20 mills from having to do a crash landing. and the, reason that really troubles me is. cause you know, I'm sure you're aware. I investigate disasters. So I'm a bit of a, the man of the shadows who investigates when I've got dead people and um, and you know, and I investigate regularly in, in tunnels and, in construction, typically people die because they collapse on them and we discover that humans aren't very strong and they just get killed. You get squashed and doesn't take much, uh, then in operational tunnels, people tend to die from fire, but not from the actual fire itself, it's from the smoke. So I've never actually had a death that I've investigated where the fire has killed someone. There've been, people burnt subsequently, but always the blood analysis has shown it's been the smoke inhalation that's killed them. You can see by the, the blood toxicity, what have you. But I think the, the, the thing that troubles me in the Hyperloop scenario is the deceleration. With such a, a very shallow, you know, 20 mills or 30 mills to land the thing from a thousand kilometers an hour in the event of some catastrophic failure in the vacuum. and I don't think that's been handled correctly yet. So even though we're fire and life safety engineers, I actually think the big risk there is in it's the analogy it's like in airlines, mostly, for those of you who investigate airline disasters, mostly it's people's heads coming off in airline crashes because of the, deceleration, when you bump into the ground at somehow outrageous speed. Um, and, so broken necks and heads coming off. And I think that's really the big risk in the, the Hyperloop. It's this? How do you manage deceleration from a thousand kilometers an hour where you are flying? If you use the aircraft analogy, you're flying at 30 millimeters. You're traveling at a thousand kilometers an hour. Oh. And now we're gonna do an emergency landing and we don't wanna slow down too quickly cuz everyone's heads will fall off. So that's, , that's my rather grim view of it. but I, but you know, if we, if I think we can solve other issues, I think the, the vacuum, you know, there's issues about if we get sudden catastrophic loss of the vacuum, of course everything's in trouble along that pipe. How do you get intervention? How do you get out of the vehicle? So you're now in a vehicle there's been catastrophic loss of vacuum outside. your suddenly the heat transfer situations change, cuz you've not got a vacuum outside anymore. How much air supply have you got on board? Who's gonna come and help you like. Because cuz it's long distances like you at a thousand kilometers an hour, typically these things are put in for, um, I think they're modeled, you need at least 500 kilometers and typically one or 2000 kilometers to make them really stack up as a tra as a mover of people. So where your intervention stations gonna be, where are the people gonna be to intervene? How are you gonna get them there in a hurry? What are they gonna find? How do you get like some big questions, great concept, but really practical questions relating to the fact that we, as humans are fragile things, we're really fragile things.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I think, again, this is a reliability based system and that's the only solution because you can actually provide, sufficient level of fire engineering there to limit the consequences of your fire. There, there is just no, no way, uh, Especially in terms of, of, of human evacuation. If for some reason, this vehicle can stop in the tunnel and the. people can survive the acceler, the acceleration, you are basically left with oxygen. You have in your tank because you cannot, UN vacuum the pipe that quickly. So that definitely brings a completely new array of, challenges that engineering has not met, but has to fight. Looking at this hyper system, I, really wonder. are aren't we good enough with high speed trains? I mean, there are already high speed trains that go at 400, 500 kilometers per hour. And they, they use just this stupid wheels and this metal, uh, rod on which they drive called the trucks and, and, And, they work it's proven technology is the safe technology. And, do we really need this to, cut another 30% of the commute time?

Arnold Dix:

isn't it. Isn't that the fundamental question looking forward, we've got a planet in crisis. We've got the climate emergency, we've got a call for cities to be more human for the dimensions of the, the journeys that we take to be more human, to, to improve the efficiencies of what we do. We've got that in our left hand. And then as you say, we've got a, an unproven technology to propel us in a vacuum at a thousand kilometers an hour with all sorts of other complications, at a time when maybe that sort of transport is being questioned. Maybe that's not the cities of the future. Maybe that's not where humankind is going. Because actually the planet can't handle it anymore. I mean, it's, there's some really interesting fundamental questions and you're right. The high speed trains are really, really reliable and really proven. So, you know, maybe, maybe just concentrating on them is enough instead of propelling human beings in vacuums. So, but I feel bad. I feel like I'm an old person talking like that. Surely I wanted,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

yeah, yeah, it's cool. it's the future it's like in Jetsons or, or some other other, uh, sci size fiction, um, videos that, yeah, it's nice to be excited about these technologies, but as engineers, we also share responsibility, especially fire engineers, because we are in our unique nation. As I said, in my, in my, previous episode, it's we need to communicate better and. To communicate. You need to listen to people and that's number one thing we need to do. And, it's not that, we, we should go and say, oh, it's stupid idea, but let's listen. Why they want to build it, how they want to build. And maybe we can find a solution, okay, by this doing this, you can build it safer. You've mentioned about, the future of the planet and the concepts around that. And, uh, that brings me to the final, , question I wanted to ask you, cuz there's this brave, idea, in Saudi Arabia to create a city oriented, around the human. So most of cities we live in, in the Western world are oriented around vehicles, cars. The cities are built to accommodate cars pretty well. And in Saudi Arabia, they, there, there was this concept of Neum. it's um, I, I find it in the internet through the name of lion city is like a city that stretches in with like 170 or 200 kilometer line. And. It's a concept that it would be city oriented around a human being. So you could basically reach anything you need within like, I don't know, 20 minutes or something. And, you do that by public transport, which is massively underground, public transport. And, uh, the upper layer is like parks, recreation, and activities. And this it's really like a, a beautiful concept and the tunnels lie in the very central point of that. Concept. what, what do you think about, such, ideas for cities?

Arnold Dix:

Look, I, as much as I have some reservations about the Hyperloop, I get a bit of a sexy feeling about the neon concept and the reason that it excites me is because it's putting human beings first. it's actually saying, what could we do? As citizens on the planet now to create a place for humans to thrive and credit where credit's due to have a city with a fundamental concept, that there are no cars that almost everything is within five minutes walking of where you are. And if it's not within five minutes of walking, it will be within 20 minutes of a transportation solution, which will be provided to you by a smart system that learns cuz that's the other thing. That's not just a city, it's this intelligent high tech learning city that adapts and adjusts itself to seek, to suit and respond to the needs of human beings. I mean, what a concept, putting humans at the center of a city like this. So, look, I. I'd love to see it. I think it's, it's fantastic that a government has got the resources and the vision and the ability to make the decisions to actually just build it. Cuz as you know, they're building it, I've got a real soft spot for Saudi. I've been working there for better part of 10 years and transportation and city building, as I've seen it, for example in Riad is truly socially, um, it's social engineering. it's fundamentally changing Saudi society by providing transportation options like on the Metro that's being put there. and then you have this in the neon concept. Now I take my hat off. I, I think this type of thinking, , Is going to help us in all our cities with our future decision making and neon might become the example of how you do it when you've got a Greenfield site, but it'll become inspirational for other cities where they're say want to, re-energize part of the city, or they want to, liberate the space on the surface for humans and put the utilities below. yeah, I I'm ex actually I really am excited by it. I just think credit where credit's due. Great visionary stuff.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

for a long, long time in Warsaw, we just had one Metro line, like a straight line. And, it was built in an open field because they first built the, service center. And then they started building tunnels from that point. So essentially it at the start, it connected few fields together with not really connection to city center. 30% 40 years later, it's, it's a very vibrant residential area. Obviously it's focused around cars because that's how we build our cities. But the Metro as a bloodline of that system is really, I, I lived in that place and I confirm people in that space have the mentality. If something is not working distance from the Metro line, it does not exist. it's so convenient and, and I can see, uh, using that as a concept to build a city around. I.

Arnold Dix:

Yeah, I've lived in Japan, in Tokyo and also to some, , for a little bit of time in Osaka and for an urban dweller, with a dense system of underground public transport, you get to have a great life and you don't need a car and it's liberating. And so, yeah, I'm, I agree with you. I, I can imagine what you've described and, and how it's grown. Um, and also these concepts of underground cities. I have a sneaking suspicion. I recall going under the Eagle mountains and discovering what looked like the beginnings of an underground city, dating back to the 1940s. but you know, so this concept of having. self-reliant quite small com communities, no reliance on cars. It goes back quite a while. And I, and it makes sense. I think, as a human being I'm I like it.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

but from our perspective from fire engineers or safety engineers, the concept of fire is obviously important there. And the, resilience of infrastructure will be unprecedented because if the tunnel transport is the bloodline of your city and you stop that. you basically have a heart attack And, you don't want that in a city where you don't have a different. Traffic flows possible. But I, I also think because we are talking about moving a lot large groups of people through the city in, a reliable manner, it's also gonna present some challenges in crop management you you've mentioned The AI approach to optimize it as it goes. So I assume it would dynamically change the, the traffic directions in some tune tunnels, maybe in the morning, one way and the evening, the, other way, or maybe on the fly. in this 15 minutes, we need more trains this way, but in another 15 minutes we need all them back. So our systems now, in terms of how you design Metro stations are quite rigid in a way, how you design the flows of people and, And, adaptive system, that that brings a completely new challenges. And, I see our colleagues from, uh, crowd psychology and the crowd dynamics. They're gonna thrive in this new world because there's gonna be so much work for them.

Arnold Dix:

Hundred percent. Yeah. Look like, and, and really our discussion before of the tunnel boring company and what we are now talking about. I can imagine the future. Isn't going to be great, big trains, but it's going to be autonomous vehicles, the analogy being like the Musk vehicles, but let's not call in the Musk vehicles, whatever they are, they're autonomous vehicles. And these things can do pretty much anything, cuz they're not gonna have drivers and they can go in any direction. And because they've got artificial intelligence on board, they're not gonna crash into each other because we've got all that crashing stuff under control. Cause we haven't got human beings at a steering wheel anymore or even in a train or what have you,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

you, significantly improve the, the capabilities to not crush by removing the monkey. it's is it's a huge improvement.

Arnold Dix:

Yeah. It, it, isn't it funny, , with the train you're destined to crash, unless you can stop the thing, cuz the tracks are gonna crash you into the other train. I mean, what a recipe for disaster, if you think about it. so I think the future, this combination of technology on demand, smart, artificial intelligence, big data, very responsive, trying to stop title flows of people. So the old workplaces, as we knew them, which I think are really modifying themselves anyway, you know, the old nine to five thing, it seems to almost be dead now in many parts of the world. So we're almost humanizing the planet in our cities right now and there's various motivations for it, but I think it's happening. And I think what we're seeing in Saudi is an expression of it. And I think there's gonna be more of it to come. And it's likely to make the

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

If it works, it's gonna be the case study. We're gonna develop other things. I, I mean, it's not that we're gonna change, Melbourne, London, or, or WASO to line city. I, I don't think that's feasible, but maybe we can learn and just improved the transport or the way how the transport it's now oriented around the train. Maybe it should be oriented around the human and that's exciting. I I've read at some point, in the internet. I was trying to charge my book, but my wife was charging her cigarettes. Future is stupid and, and after this discussion, I would say future sounds exciting and. It's going to change, like all the things we've discussed in here. It's new engineering. We don't know yet, but, uh, we are engineers. We're gonna figure it out and it's going to be a great time. And I always tell my audience that, future of fire safety engineers is very secure. it's a good, it's a good place to be. We're always gonna have work. Oh. Yes. Yes. Okay, Arnold. Thank you. I know you also had a podcast series around tunnels, so I'll advertise that and link that in description. If people are. That listen more of your, uh, voice on, on tunnels. And, uh, maybe, maybe for, for the end of this two part episode, can you tell me where, where are you going now? What's what's in your head now. What's the next project of Arnold.

Arnold Dix:

Ah, so, next project, next project of Arnold. Dix I'm desperate to get how we quantify and communicate the benefits to the planet of the underground. I want to really focus on that. So I'm heading, over to Europe and the us to talk to the key, infrastructure measures of performance and to ask them whether they'll join me at the ITTA in producing a. like a, him Booker a guide, Booker a narrative, a common way of describing what it is about the underground that helps deliver the future for humanity using the new language of sustainability development goals and, and what have you. So that's, that's my next thing. Um, privately what I'm doing is you might have heard of the a code of Hamurrabi which is the most ancient expression of engineering and legal stuff, coming out of the Europe well out of the Western world. and I'm myself and, a good colleague of mine from Oman are trying to find the source of the stones upon which the code of Hamurrabi are written. And we've got an expedition into the middle east to see if we can find them. That is so cool. That's way. Cool.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

That's cooler than tunneling. Let's start a podcast on that. That is so good. Make sure to record your way. It's gonna be great video to watch

Arnold Dix:

Ah, it's. wild stuff. That's engineers. So that's engineering stuff for all of our engineers. That's the beginning of engineering back in the code of Hamurrabi so I'm so excited by that. But anyway, That's my spare time. That's my crazy hobby.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

that's that's wow. That what a hobby, like people collect posts and what you do. I am, I'm trying to find the origins of good of Hamurrabi that's Yeah. Nice hobby. Fantastic. Arnold, was, uh, such a pleasure to, to have you. , and I hope we'll, we'll see each other again, and there's, uh, many more topics to be discussed and I'm really looking forward to the outcomes of your. Expedition, both in terms of finding Hamurrabi code origins and, finding a common language of sustainability in, in tunnels and how to communicate it to stakeholders. I, I'm not sure which I'm excited more about.

Arnold Dix:

important Yeah. Oh goodness. Thank you. for having me. It's been really fun. I've enjoyed the chat.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

That's it. I bet you didn't, guess that his hobby is finding origins of code of Hamurrabi that is so crazy. And I, I really hope his expedition goes well. It's it sounds really exciting. Maybe even more exciting than the tunneling projects. And I really love How he's seeking the sustainability equation in tunnels, you know, how sustainable the tunnels really are, how we can measure the performance in terms of sustainability and do convey that to stakeholders in the way they understand to highlight these aspects of tunnels. I also think that the discussion about Hyperloops and, and I Musk stance was very interesting. I really enjoyed the discussion about Neom the city in Saudi Arabia that is going to be built, based on tunnels concepts. So that certainly a lot of interesting futuristic developments happening in the world of tunneling. And I'm really happy that we get to live through that. So my, uh, fellow fire science engineers, I hope you really enjoyed this talks for me. It was a huge pleasure to finally talk about tunnels in the podcast because that's what I do daily. And that's what that is. What makes me happy. So I'm hope you are happy as well. Next week. Next, uh, great episode, more fire safety engineering coming your way. See you there next Wednesday. Bye.