It has become increasingly clear that PVC materials have no place in the construction industry - windows, ducts, sofits or doors. The challenge is going to be to bring the public - and our decision makers - this awareness. Our work only illustrates a part of this - see Greenpeace's recent excellent report on the growing problem of PVC at the end of its life.

It has become increasingly clear that PVC materials have no place in the construction industry - windows, ducts, sofits or doors. The challenge is going to be to bring the public - and our decision makers - this awareness. Our work only illustrates a part of this - see Greenpeace's recent excellent report on the growing problem of PVC at the end of its life.



(An end to PVC in Irish buildings by the end of the millennium...)

The widespread publicity following the Dusseldorf airport uPVC fire has
fuelled the

long-standing international concerns among health and safety organisations

for the use of uPVC. With the object of advancingnm the objectives of the
Rio Earth Summit

Agenda 21 it is now proposed that there should be an im- Mediate initiative
to curtail the use

of uPVC in windows and doors and return to the use of timber from

environmentally sustainable, managed sources, and steel where appropriate

in new buildings.


1. That the Minister for the Environment by means of amendment of the

Building Regulations, to prohibit the use of uPVC windows, doors and other

materials, including electric cable ducting on the most im- Mediately

achievable phased basis.

2. Training of Work Force into Alternative Methods or Materials.

Given the extent of uPVC use, not just for windows, but also for doors and

downpipes, a major training initiative is needed for workers to be able to

develop the necessary skills to work in other materials. This will require

no net loss of employment, but even a positive gain , since the quality of

skills required in timber window repair and manufacture are higher and more

intensive in labour, while less in material cost, which, ultimately, is

more economically sustainable and of more benefit, both to society and to

the economy.

3. Financial Incentives. That financial incentives be introduced for

property owners on buildings which are Listed or of architectural

significance, to remove uPVC windows and to restore timber sashes of the

appropriate design. The financial incentive should form either a grant up

to 20% of the cost, or a tax relief certificate for up to 50% of the cost.

For buildings with surviving old windows capable of repair the financial

incentive would be granted for repair only. For new windows he grant would

be payable only if the window replacement were to be carried out with a

sliding sash design of the correct glazing bar detail and window pane

design and arrangement to follow the original design. Any application would

require photographs of the building and of adjoining ones to be submitted

along with research information on the correct arrangement of window panes

and glazing bars. Grants or tax certificates would only be made after the

completion of work to a satisfactory approved standard.


There is now extensive international concern at the toxic effect of uPVC in buildings in fire meltdown situations. In addition to this, the bulk storage of uPVC in manufacturing, warehousing and recycling facilities also poses a serious fire risk. A major fire in a plastics recycling plant in August, 1997, resulted in dioxin levels "sixty six times higher than Ontario Provincial Government standards."

Friends of the Irish Environment have written to all the fire authorities in Ireland asking for their experiences and recommendations. FIE has also written to the Minister for the Environment, pointing out that the revised Building Codes draw attention to the danger of push out PVC windows in the upper floors of new buildings, ignoring the equal threat posed by both new bungalows and our older hotels.

The Dusseldorf Airport Fire

The worst recent fire involving uPVC was at Dusseldorf Airport. In April 1996, a fire at there caused the death of 16 people. The cause was identified as the result of sparks from a welders torch igniting uPVC cables. Because of the extent of cabling involved, and the quick spread of fire, major toxic gas emissions, such as hydrogen chloride, were created. While the victims of the fire died through smoke inhalation, the unexpected longer term consequence was that large parts of the airport were found to be contaminated with high levels of dioxins and furins. A major, expensive and time consuming decontamination programme has been required before building work can be commenced on restoring the affected section of the airport to use. A similar situation arose in a uPVC cable fire in the Dusseldorf Telephone Exchange in 1988. The fire was easily contained, the heavy dioxin contamination of the building resulted in three years cleaning up to remove the damage at a cost of nearly $12 million.


The Fire Brigades Union was established in 1918 for Fire Brigade workers in Britain, it is thus a long-established and very reputable body with a clear knowledge and concern about health and life risk issues surrounding fires. Following its consultation with the uPVC issue, the Union took the remarkable step of issuing an open letter on 30th September, 1996, supporting Greenpeace's recommendation to seek alternative materials to uPVC. Serious fire risks are clearly posed by the difficulty of emergency evacuation from many uPVC windows. The very recent, and now, dramatically growing use of uPVC on external doors raises serious issues of their behaviour in fire conditions.

FIE's research into problems encountered in Ireland and the equipment available for control and clean up of dioxins
Friends of the Irish Environment

TO: T. Gleeson Chief Fire Officer

Waterford County Borough Council

16 May 1998

Dear Sir;

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) are writing to all County and Urban Council Fire Officers questioning the fire aspects of the prevailing design and content of PVC windows in public buildings in emergency situations.

We are asking for details of any experiences relating either to the design of these windows in fire situations or the toxic fire hazard they represent. This request for information is being made under the newly implemented Statutory Instrument 125 of 1998 extending the regulations relating to Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment.

PVC as a fire hazard through toxic fumes

FIE is concerned with the increasing amount of PVC in modern buildings. These range from windows and doors to soffits fascias skirting boards pipework and internal cabling and ducting. In particular we are concerned that toxic fumes can be created before flames have appeared.

At the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in the United States 161 people died from inhaling PVC fumes from decomposing wiring before flames became visible. In the 1996 Dusseldorf Airport fire PVC cables were ignited by a welder's torch leading to the death of 16 people.

Do you have any experience of situations in which PVC materials have been responsible for toxic fumes posing a danger in themselves?
What equipment do you have to deal with the hydrogen chloride and related toxic fumes emitted from a typical fire in a building with a significant number of PVC components and what protocols are in place for their use?
Do you know of or have access to any fire toxicity tests on PVC materials?
Do you have any procedures in place to deal with the ash created by the combustion of PVC materials which contains carcinogenic dioxins which are in themselves toxic?

PVC Window Design

As to the prevalent push out design of modern PVC windows FIE notes with some concern that the revised Building Regulations with their Technical Guidance Documents which will come into force on July 1 1998 apply only to PVC windows on the first floor of new buildings.

We question the omission from these Guidance Documents the use of PVC replacement windows particularly in hotels and places where the public congregates as well as in modern bungalows. Unlike traditional sash windows the design of these windows do not permit easy escape. where other methods of exit are impeded.

5) Do you have any experience of the design of these windows creating safety hazards?

We would be most grateful for any information you could provide.

Yours etc.

Peter Sweetman

(For Friends of the Irish Environment

Submission to the Limerick City Development Plan: "In recognition of the special quality of the brick and timber sash windows which defines the character of the major part of the city's historic building stock..."
The Plasticisation of Limerick

Friend's submission to the Limerick City Development Plan Review:

Limerick, mock Georgian PVC window capital of Ireland

"In recognition of the special quality of the brick and timber sash windows which defines the character of the major part of the city's historic building stock..."

Mr. Maurice Moloney, City Manager, 8th.June 1998

Limerick Corporation

Civic Offices , Limerick.


For decades the lack of planning control on Limerick's noble streets and

terraces has been a source of frustration and bewilderment to those

concerned about Ireland's cultural heritage and environment. The current

Limerick Corporation Review of the City Development Plan presents the

opportunity to address the matter.

With is impresive Shannonside setting, medieval heart of Cathedral and

Castle, great Newtown Pery layout of steets and Crescent, and new Hunt

Museum Limerick should be poised to take its place in the premier league of

European historic cities of its size. However the Limerick Corporation

Development Plan provisions providing for the maintenance of the city's

architectural heritage have not increased in content or effectiveness over

the last three decades. Limerick's failure of planning enforcement of

Development Plan Listed Building objectives to ensure that detrimental

Material Alterations are subject to Planning Permission, is unequalled not

just in Ireland, but probably in any European historic city. The level of

unauthorised aluminium and uPVC replacement all over its listed Classical

terraces gives Limerick the dubious distinction of being open to

international ridicule as the Mock Georgian Plastic Capital.

The 1998 Limerick City Draft Development Plan shows that Limerick

Corporation is not remotely confronting its responsibilities. Despite the

high quality work that has been achieved in projects such as the Milk

Market, the Hunt Museum, the conversion of the Presbyterian Church, and by

Limerick Civic Trust in different locations, the quality of the overall

historic fabric is spiralling downhill. Uncontrolled gritblasting and

cement pointing is ravaging the city's older brickwork and uPVC windows

dominate most streets.

This situation cannot continue.

Limerick is now seeking to promote itself as a Heritage Tourism

destination, for which huge EU funding has been granted for the

overwhelmingly worthy Hunt Museum project and the very dubious Castle Lane

one. The city cannot continue to market itself in this way and draw down

EU funds, while the quality of its real architectural inheritance is

progressively diminished.

Since 1997 Ireland has ratified the CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE

ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE OF EUROPE, ( the Granada Convention 1985). This

imposes a European Treaty obligation on Ireland to maintain its distinctive

part of Europe's architectural heritage. Limerick Corporation as Planning

Authority for what is a significant European historic city is obliged in

conjunction with central government to implement a co-ordinated series of

measures in accordance with the Treaty Articles.

The most im- Mediate priority is to ensure that the current Development Plan

review process achieves a comprehensive Listing and planning control

framework for the preservation and enhancement of the city's historic

building stock. Its most im- Mediate objective must be to halt the tide of

plastic window infestation and initiate its appropriately designed reversal. As the same

time the commercial core of the city must be strengthened against the

threat of peripheral development, while reducing the level of dependency on

the motor car as primary means of mobility.







Limerick has received what is in terms of international significance,

quality of design and huge good value for the EU grant involved, the most

impressive single heritage investment in Ireland; the Hunt Museum. At the

same time it has also received what is probably the single most dubious

"heritage" development in the entire country, the £3.8 million EU and

Shannon Development Castle Lane beside King Johns Castle (above right).

This includes the "reconstruction" of a 19th. century warehouse of the very

type still being demolished in the Milk Market area. It is a Disneyesque

piece of historical conceit basically designed as a large tour bus stop

pub,while the real heritage of the city suffers progressively accelerating



As the city and economy grows the dependency on motor car mobility grows

even more dis-proportionally, due to the failure to invest in public

transport and promote cycling. The approach roads around the city are

becoming more like a mid west American city (above centre) . The design

reference for places of social resort are becoming more American (below

left and centre). When the "traditional" style is adopted in pub

refurbishment the result is over blown parody, such as "The Newtown Pery".

This adopts a bogus establishment date of 1806, but in its lumpy teak

street frontage, illiterately used Classical detailing plonked onto the

first floor windows, and kitsch clock, lamp and uPVC windows represents the

total anthesis of the simple design elegance of the early 19th. century.

The appearance of the city's terraces large and small is now dominated by

uPVC or coated aluminium windows,(above right and centre right), poorly

performing and inappropriate materials for the Irish climate as the

deteriorating new Tourist Office shows (below right).


Limerick more that any any other Irish city has commendably sought to design

new public buildings in a bold confidently contemporary idiom. The Louvre

pyramid in Paris shows how innovative contemporary design and materials can

compliment and add to the impact of historic buildings. Unfortunately the

new Civic buildings in Limerick have been let down by poor quality

materials and detailing. The Civic Offices (above) are ageing

disappointingly. The rusting gate and girders of the Kings John's Castle

Visitors Centre makes it look like and abandoned factory planthouse.


The real importance of Limerick is the extent and quality of its 18th. and

19th. planned streets and buildings. All over the major terraces original

sash windows with their delicate glazing bars and hand made glass have been

needlessly swept away and replaced by plastic flip out frames of various

incongruous designs. Catherine St.(below left and centre), Villiers

Almshouses (below right). Despite the European status of Limerick as a

major brick Classical city no concern or attention has been directed into

enforcing proper maintenance standards. However while hideous window

replacement can be reversed in the future, the abuse of brickwork through

ill advised grit blasting in the name of cleaning cannot be. This leaves

the surface pitted and its performance lifetime drastically reduced.

Blasted and pitted brickwork in Catherine St. with absurd new add on cement

detailing (above left). Brick facade in O"Connell St. being attacked by an

industrial shot blasting company in the course of a Sunday morning (above



Limerick suffered as badly as Cork or Dublin

from poor quality and out of scale buildings

in the 1960s and 1970s.AIB and Royal George

Hotel O'Connell St. (above) and various State

and Semi State offices in the Henry St. area

such as Telecom (below). Many of these

facades have poor quality facing materials

and window systems which will require

total replacement in the im- Mediate future. In

contrast the city still abounds with 150 to 200

year old buildings with brick facades and

timber doors and windows capable of

performing satisfactorily for generations more.


Of all Irish cities Limerick has been the most successful in achieving an

overall coherence of quality and scale in the the extensive development

generated by the Urban Renewal Tax incentives from the late 1980s and

throughout the 1990s. A mixture of new buildings have satisfactorily

re-established streetscapes in Henry St. (above right), and Charlotte Quay

(above centre) though the effect of the slate clad plantrooms is

unfortunate. Cruises St. though bringing about the undesirable demolition

of the old Cruises Hotel, has been designed as an open shopping precinct

satisfactorily fitting into the grain of the city (centre and bottom

right). The conversion of the former Presbyterian Church in Henry St. to

offices (below centre) is a model of sensitively designed and creative



uPVC and aluminium coated uPVC is incapable of replicating the subtle

design quality of Limerick's traditional sashes. It cannot be moulded or

modelled satisfactorily to suit arched window opes as Sullivan Insurances,

4 Hartstonge St. graphically illustrates (above left). A major fault

common to almost all uPVC windows is that the opening section is set within

the main frame, so that the mock pane divisions of the fixed and opening

sections are of different sizes and do not line up, O'Connell St. (above

centre and right). A unique uniform terrace in Hartstonge St. Lwr, exhibits

some of the ugliest window replacement in Ireland (below left). Only No.

8 (centre house below centre) retains its original camber headed Wyatt

windows on the upper floors. The flats converted Nos 9 and 10 and the

corner building forming 29 Henry St., occupied by Colin Marsden Chartered

Accountant, are treated with grotesque flat headed uPVC parodies, even

worse when swung out in an open position. However the hinged windows of No.

7 shows that wrongly designed timber replacement is as bad as anything in



Apart from representing an act of Civic vandalism all of the inappropriate

uPVC windows in the Crescent area are ILLEGAL Material Alterations to

Listed Buildings, which if subject to appeal to An Bord Pleanala would not

be given planning permission. In the 1991 and previous Limerick City

Development plans the Crescent is designated for preservation under List

"A"and the surrounding streets are designated list "B" which requires that

"any proposal to alter or demolish shall be the subject of an application

for permission to the Corporation" While the Corporation's failure to


its Statutory responsibility is indefensible, so to is the behaviour of

some of the most prominent property owners in the city.


Limerick Leader Ltd. Newspaper, 54 O'Connell St (above left)

The Jesuit Order, north side the Crescent (above centre)

Belltable Arts Centre/ Arch Confraternity, 69 O'Connell St

(above right).

The Medical Profession,e.g. Dr. Morgan Costelloe's surgery

13 Barrington St. (below left).

St. Vincent de Paul Hartstonge St. (below left centre).

The Estate Agents eg; Frontline 28 Mallow St , and

G.V.M. 26 Cecil St (below right centre and right).

The Legal Profession. e.g. Lucy Collins Solr. 55 O'Connell St.


Limerick adapted the form of the Classical terrace to create a distinctive idiom

of proportion detailing and craftsmanship. The terraces of the late 18th.

and early 19th. century are distinguished by a superb soft textured brick.

There is a hierarchy of door designs ranging from tri-partite in the

grander houses in O'Connell St (above left and right centre) and the

Crescent, where doors are flanked by three quarter columns with pilasters

framing the embellished glazing of the sidelights. Off O'Connell St the

more important terraces such as Mallow St (below left) have full columned

doorcases, while more modest examples such as in Catherine St. have half

columns (below left). The quality and survival rate of embellished

fanlights in the city is outstanding. Original windows indicate an

accomplished school of joinery in Limerick. Sashes are executed to a

carefully considered Classical proportion in the size and number of panes.

Despite rampant plastic replacement there are still hundreds of sashes of

150 to 200 years in age around the City capable with good maintenance of

being given indefinite life. These retain most of their original hand made

crinkled crown or sheet glass (above right) which give the facades an

irreplaceable patina and texture in diffusing and reflecting light, sun and

shadow. All to often old sashes are unfairly written of as jammed, shabby

or even rotten when the problem is only one of over accumulation of paint,

needing to be stripped back.


The layout of what was first called Newtown Pery outside the Medieval Walls

in the 1760s, was distinguished by a bold Classical grid plan, recalling

that of Edinburgh but equally the cities of North America with which

Limerick had such close links. The area acquired an impressive sequence of

uniform brick terraces culminating in the uncompleted Pery Square in the

mid 19th. century (above left.) . The greatest achievement was the

combination of the double Crescent and great length of O'Connell St (left)

creating a major axis parallel with the river. Off the west end of this

were streets with well proportioned terraces of the early decades of the

19th. century, notably Mallow St (below) and Barrington St. (above

centre). Newenham St. (above right) contains more modestly scaled houses.


The eastern end of the great New Town layout adjoining the medieval city

was designed with uniform terraces of shopkeepers premises such as Patrick

St (above left) and Ellen St (above right). 4 Patrick St the birthplace of

Catherine Hayes "The Swan of Erin " the most internationally acclaimed

Irish singer of the 19th. century (below left) and 34 Denmark St. (below

right), both of the early 1800s are the best reminders of the former

character of the area.


Most of what is known as Georgian Limerick is the legacy of a prosperous

merchant, professional and trading class. The majority would have done

business in their own houses. In locations such as Roches St. stone

warehouse adjoin residential terraces . As the late 19th. century

progressed the area of retail and commercial activity spread westwards

along O'Connell St,(above left) and southwards along William St (below).

Business activity became more prominent in the streets off O'Connell St.

such as Cecil St (above right). However the character of the upper floors

remained largely intact though with the original sashes very often replaced

with larger pane divisions. In some cases facades were plastered and

embellished such as the Chamber of Commerce O'Connell St.


Removal of sashes and replacement with top hung frames begun only in the

1970s initially with tropical hardwood and later aluminium. The window

replacement problem only began to make a serious impact with uPVC coated

aluminium in the 1980s followed by solid uPVC in the 1990s. The phenomenon

is already becoming second generation with plain aluminium hinged windows

installed in the late 1970s or early 1980s being replaced by mock Georgian

uPVC, showing that modern factory window systems have a performance life of

no more than 15 to 20 years. A jarring variety of inappropriate

materials and opening designs now dominates Thomas St. (entire left and

below left), O'Connell St (above left) and the Crescent, Catherine St.,

(above right ) Cecil St., Glentworth St (below left), Mallow St., and all

of the city's other main Classical terraces. The example the treatment of

Adrian Greaney's Solicitors ground floor offices in 8 Catherine Place

illustrates how even the inappropriate alteration of one floor can ruin the

character and quality of an entire building (below right).


Most prefabricated uPVC or aluminium based replacement window systems in

older buildings are double glazed and top hung. This means that the window

is impossible to climb out through in an emergency ladder rescue evacuation

situation. Because of the air cushioning effect of the double glazed seals

windows are difficult to break without heavy implements either from inside

or outside. The above photograph shows the behaviour of uPVC/Aluminium

frames in a recent fire in 32 Denmark St. Limerick. While new fire

Regulations coming into effect on July 1st.1998 require that bedroom

windows should be openable to facilitate emergency ladder assisted egress,

this is not applicable to the converted flats such as Mallow St. (above

right) and hotels such as in Glentworth St (below right). While the fire

trapped occupant of a uPVC double glazed sealed room would of course die

primarily from loss of oxygen, once sufficient temperatures are reached

uPVC building components such as fascias, windows etc. are subject to

meltdown emitting dioxins posing a risk to firefighters.