Last week we gave a warm PBC welcome to our new Principal Fire Safety Engineer, Kevin Boyle.
Now and again we take an occasional shortcut in our lives. Which may just be crossing the road that is not at a pedestrian crossing. It is an action an individual takes assuming it will save time and/or effort at the risk of more severe consequences.
The safety and wellbeing of people is far more important than the short-term benefits of meeting deliverables before deadlines, or choosing to achieve objectives in a cost-effective manner because of a ‘time is money’ attitude. We take shortcuts because of short-term thinking, rather than the long-term consequences involved.
Is it just human nature to take the path of least resistance? Is this why individuals continue to take shortcuts?
The recent fires in Lacrosse Docklands, Victoria and the Grenfell Tower in London have highlighted the risks and consequences when safety measures have not been met or properly maintained throughout the building’s life after the initial development.
The Lacrosse Docklands’ fire demonstrates the risks of an external fire spreading up the external façade of the building, involving the external composite cladding panels. In the London Grenfell Tower, which is still under investigation, the severity of the fire is suspected to also involve the use of an external composite material and its installation.
Throughout the team at PBC we have performed fire safety engineering on a wide variety of buildings. If you have any concerns about your building or simply want to know more please contact us.
Our sincere thoughts go out to all those affected.
Diversity in the work place has more to do than just the variety of differences in ethnicity. A Diverse workplace is an ensemble of employees with differentiating characteristics including but not limited to gender, education, cultural background, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation and lifestyle.
Here at PBC, we are committed to promoting equality and diversity as a part our company’s culture. We are creating a company culture inclusive of members of various attributes. We have set up our company culture on a foundation that encourages individuals to retain their identity instead of requiring them conform to another character and being someone else when they are at work.
We need as many perspectives as possible so we can interpret challenging problems and objectives from different angles in identifying a solution.
Our active lifestyles are permitted by convenience – which often comes at the cost of energy and resources. We can enjoy all the conveniences available to us but also need to be conscious of our decision making and the greater scheme of the impact it has on the environment.
For instance, what used to be a task of preparing food has been replaced by a virtual button on a smart device to have food delivered on demand protected by disposable packaging. It takes a significant amount of energy and resources to manufacture these single use items, which will be immediately discarded.
Recently at PBC we have provided our employees with reusable water bottles to encourage them to drink water instead of sugary drinks, stay hydrated throughout the day and to eliminate the need for single use water bottles. It’s a small step towards being more sustainable, and most importantly it’s a step towards being an environmentally conscious company.
ABC recently presented a program titled ‘War on Waste’. Craig Reucassel (of Chaser’s War on Everything – an influential program on my childhood) teaches us about the life of bananas – how they are picked and sorted and ultimately delivered to the supermarket display. Craig reveals that up to 40 percent of bananas are thrown away by farmers because they don’t meet supermarket standards. They are too bent, too straight, too long, too short, too fat or too thin – superficially inappropriate, and therefore unprofitable.
This was met with outrage by many of my friends! How could a company justify throwing out perfectly edible food when there are so many people starving in the world?
But I wasn’t concerned, or even phased. Four years of a mechanical engineering degree has taught me enough to be familiar with manufacturing design – this level of discard is standard practice. Anything mass produced incorporates copious amount of waste and unused product. Efficiency is only considered if it produces profit, or is required by regulation.
This mentality is foreign outside of engineering. People are used to making life decisions and considering a whole range of factors – ethics, convenience, effectiveness. They aren’t familiar with the engineering mindset of designing specifically and directly to achieve a set of project requirements. This is what we are paid to do. The engineer will only incorporate sustainable principles if they are contractually obliged to.
Sustainability is captured by those who set the requirements; the financiers, the managers, the corporations. Why should they incorporate sustainability? It will cost them more to produce the same quantity, reducing shareholder value and sacrificing profit. Losing jobs. The level of responsibility implemented by the people in power is governed by whether it is profitable to do so.
Sustainability will be implemented when the values of the culture and society require it – when the consumer will pay a premium for a product manufactured with ethical principles. The agent of change in society, in engineering, in the world, is the end user – and when they decide they want sustainable products, industry will follow.
Let’s start with the obvious. Improving the fuel efficiency of a car is the right direction to go. There are three ways I can think of why fuel efficiency is important:
Saves the customer money
Less carbon emissions into the environment
Might indicate the quality of the engineering
The first and second points are straight-forward: less fuel use saves you money and less exhaust saves the environment. I don’t think anyone can make a sound argument against either of these two points. However, the third point is curious and will be explored further. Below is a table which outlines some popular cars, hybrids and sports cars in terms of their fuel efficiency, power and torque figures.
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km) Power (HP) Torque (Nm)
Toyota Prius (maximum performance)
(3 L/100km) (130 HP) (120 Nm)
Kia Rio (maximum performance)
(3 L/100km) (110 HP) (135 Nm)
Porsche 918 Spyder
(3.5 L/100km) (762 HP) (528 Nm)
Subaru Outback (2.0 L, petrol)
(5.7 L/100km) (150 HP) (350 Nm)
Toyota Landcruiser (4.5L diesel)
(11 L/100km) (300 HP) (439 Nm)
In January this year, I was driving a 2016 Kia Rio along the NSW south coast. Several times throughout my journey I was going up a hill, with the foot to the floor and the engine above 4000 RPM, and I was still losing speed. If a car doesn’t have the power to get up a hill, or make a highway overtake even while dropping to second gear and mashing the throttle, it somewhat defeats the purpose of dropping the engine size.
The point I am making is being obsessed with fuel efficiency can lead to underpowered, unsafe cars. Fuel efficiency needs to be carefully considered in conjunction with the performance of the engine. In my opinion, a car which does 5.7 L/100km with 150 HP and 350 Nm of torque is much more sustainable as an all-round form of transport than something with 3 L/100km making 110 HP and 135 Nm of torque. Cars are built for more than just the multi-storey carpark and should be treated as such.
They say that if you can keep a potted plant alive you can nurture almost anything. When it comes to sustainable businesses, most want to see their indoor plants grow as much as their people do. When we come together at work a significant difference can be made. There are lots of ways to do this and even a small office can become more environmentally-friendly without making massive changes. Here’s seven ways you can get "green".
Carpool not Deadpool: How to reduce carbon emissions
Engineers and the construction industry tend to be known as rather competitive and scientific types, so why not hold a carpool emissions reduction competition with a business partner? After all, mums and dads have been running the school carpool for generations and they can’t be wrong! Plus, it’s a great start to your day. Why not make one of you designated coffee person and the other on baked goods duty? And, if you don’t have a car, why not cycle in together? it’s good for the planet and good for your body. You don’t have to do this every day - just once a week can make a significant impact on our carbon footprint.
If your office has a coffee machine or buys freeze-dried coffee or tea, it's best to opt for free-trade and organic. The process of making the coffee and tea involves plenty of steps that do damage to the environment. But when you buy fair trade, organic coffee and tea its processed with least damage to the environment, plus its tastier too. Fair trade coffee/tea are made with respect to people and planet. Fair Trade CertifiedTH products meet environmental and workplace standards such as providing fair wages for workers and restricting the chemicals used on crops that are harmful on the environment.
I can see clearly now
Let the natural sunlight in. Not only will it save on your lighting and heating bill, it has bigger benefits for all your people too. Exposure to natural light during the day will set their circadian rhythms (that's our biological clock which is modulated by external cues such as the temperature and sunlight) People get exposure to natural light during the day will sleep for an extra 43 minutes per night and the quality of the sleep will be better too.
Go paperless or reduce your paper wastage
If you're not game enough to go completely paperless, set the office up for a black and white and double-sided printing default protocol. The likelihood for actually needing to print much of anything is very limited. The general rule is that if a document requires a hard signature or needs to be filed then its worthy of print. Otherwise, keep it in the cloud!
Reduce, reuse and recycle
It’s not just paper that can be recycled. If your office uses coffee pods, containers of condiments and spreads they can be recycled to as well as milk bottles and empty tissue boxes. Not to mention old and broken hardware, printer ink cartridges, and batteries.
Turn off the heat, bring in your woollens
Don’t go crazy with the air conditioning. Twenty-one degrees might be a prefect temperature if you are a man (who tend to run hotter than women) or/and if you wear a 3-piece suit and a tie - hardly standard business attire these days anyway. But by keeping your office temperate, your people will be more comfortable to leave their cardigans at home and you’ll be saving the planet and your power bill.
Be green when you clean
Switch over to "green" cleaning products. You don’t have to be a crunchy hippy who uses vinegar and bicarb to clean everything, but even a small change can make a massive difference. Go for a biodegradable when you can. Likewise opt for a cleaning company that uses sustainable products.
You’re such a turn-off
"Turn the lights off as you leave." Sounds simple huh? But why stop there? Switch off as much hardware as you can at the switch, kettles, toasters, sandwich presses, coffee machines, phone chargers, desk fans, to save extra dollars and environmental impact.
This list is in no way complete but it’s a great start to a more sustainable way of working.
It's up to all of us to take the opportunity to look around the office and ask how we can be kinder to the planet.
What’s your sustainability short-cuts? We’d love to know!
As designers, we have a duty of care to the people that use our products, buildings and systems that have been conceived and put in place by us.
Safe design is the combination of identifying hazards and assessing risks early in the design process to remove unnecessary risk, and to reduce the risk of injury for the duration of the product, building or system life cycle. Safe design has the most influence on projects at the earlier stages of the design process. Once significant resources have been invested into the design, it becomes difficult to revise fundamental safety issues which may have been already incorporated into the basis of the product. It is best to address these factors while they are still concepts.
Advantages of safe design include a stronger understanding a design’s requirements and limitations, prevention of injury, improved usability of the product, building or systems that can lead to improved productivity, meeting safety regulations, innovation, and adjustment for revised regulation. Rather than considering safety as a limiting factor, safe design can introduce opportunities to improve the existing product and allow it to work more effectively.