Issue: 12/01

Two years ago, when I was invited to write this column, I discussed the series title with the editor. We chose "?houghts from Abroad," not because that accurately defined the content, but because I wished it to refer in some way to my U.S. experiences. I felt that Browning's poem, "Home Thoughts from Abroad," describing the poet's wish to be "in England now," represented my own feelings for America from my time in the U.S. in the 1980s. It is possible to define "home" in many ways--somewhere that one has been happy, made lifelong friendships and found career fulfillment must count.

Against that background, readers will understand my feelings when watching live on BBC the attack on the World Trade Center towers and their subsequent collapse. I should like to take the opportunity of this column to express my sorrow and support, as well as that of all my colleagues, to the families of the victims of this attack and those members of the emergency services who gave their lives so courageously to save others.

This single act of terrorism has rewritten the definition of terrorist action; there are now no boundaries and no limits of self-restraint. In this one act, the casualty figure doubles the combined death toll in the 32 years of so called "Loyalist" and Republican terrorist action in Northern Ireland. The norms established of telephone warnings and recognition codes are gone, replaced with a degree of pre-meditated cruelty that defies understanding.

While this tragedy will become a defining American experience, it is also international, as evidenced by the roll call of 62 nationalities among the dead, including the largest number of U.K. citizens killed in a single terrorist attack. The stance of the British government has reflected this, as well as our commitment to the U.S. as our long-standing friend and ally in good times and bad. The restraint shown by the U.S. government and people in mounting a response to this aggression was exemplary and augered well for the measured offensive that eventually took place and will undoubtedly bring the perpetrators to justice. President Bush has emphasized that this will be a long campaign, mostly conducted out of public sight. Patience and the long view will be essential. This is exacerbated by the insatiable appetite of the media for information. The U.K. press has been full of speculation as to where and when the next military action will be taken, with unit descriptions and possible modes of attack fully described. This can be very dangerous and can lead to unnecessary loss of life, as shown by the Goose Green engagement during the Falklands war, when the BBC announced the advance of British troops on this settlement ahead of the action. Whether this contributed to the subsequent casualties is still debated. While a return to the "Careless talk costs lives" slogans familiar to that generation of U.S. citizens who came to the U.K. almost 60 years ago to secure our joint freedoms might not be necessary, some restraint is.

While the loss of life is the paramount issue, it is likely that future appraisals of the terrorist action will also include its economic implications. Recession looms, and the effect on national economies will be profound. While not denying the right in our democracies for the existence of anti-war factions, the choice of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the demonstrations at WTO meetings in Seattle and Genoa guaranteed a ready made opposition to an immediate response. It may well be that future analysts will see the events of September 11 as part of a much wider picture that we cannot perceive at present. The actions to be taken are likely to be a long drawn out process that will involve both economic and direct action. While not being flippant, it is likely that the script will be closer to le Carre than Clancy, and a model may well be the relentless Israeli pursuit of the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich Olympic terrorist action. Whatever the course of events, it is clear from the position of our Prime Minister that the U.K. will continue to be fully involved in, and supportive of, the U.S. response.

Picking Up the Threads of Normality

Both the U.S. and British governments have urged their citizens to pick up the threads of their lives, at both a personal and professional level. This column was scheduled to report and assess the 27th International Symposium on Building Drainage and Water Supply organized by the Conseil International du Batiment (CIB) in Portoroz, Slovenia, from September 17-20, 2001. The conference was attended by representatives of 12 nations, opening with a silence in memory of those lost in New York. This series of conferences, held since 1973, has been a major conduit for the dissemination of research in our field, and the presentations this year lived up to expectations. Major issues affecting building drainage and water supply were addressed in 32 papers.

One notable paper, "The Evaluation of Water Conservation for Green Buildings in Taiwan" (Cheng at, put forward a rating scheme to evaluate the impact of buildings whose design included water conservation measures. Similarly, a range of Brazilian papers covered water conservation, water supply sizing and leakage losses within apartment buildings. This latter paper, "The Influence of Water Losses in the Water Consumption Indicator Value of Apartment Buildings" (Oliveira at, emphasized the need for regular maintenance to ensure that poor quality flush valve leakage did not destroy any water conservation benefits from reducing w.c. flush volume. This is a truly international issue that will be recognized within both the U.S. and U.K. as a potential problem. Water conservation was also the theme of a thought-provoking paper, "Submetering as an Element of Water Demand Management in Water Conservation Programs" (Concalves at

The issue of w.c. acceptance tests was the subject of several papers, including "W.c. Test Methods Acceptance Criteria" (Galowin at and "Evaluating the Performance of Ultra-Low Flush Toilets in Field Operation" (Ilha at Many of the issues raised here appear intractable, such as the question of what is a representative load and what percent pass rate should be set. Issues of repeatability, particularly in the definition of compressed paper and tissue, and what constitutes a representative load, defy solution.

Enhancement of w.c. designs to allow partial siphonic action was proposed by Geberit, a leading European manufacturer. A non-ceramic discharge pipe that connects to a horizontal outlet w.c. discharge and thereby generates siphonic action due to its internal profile was introduced and offers real possibilities for the future, including "tuning" w.c. designs to offer optimum performance--"Water Saving at the Cutting Edge" (Schibig at

Computer simulation of drainage and vent system operation was represented by papers from my own group. These included "Limits and Choices: A Review of Building-to-Sewer Drain Sizing" (McDougall at, that covered recent code discussions in the U.K. aimed at determining the correct diameter of the dwelling-to-sewer connection, and "Positive Pressure Transient Propagation: The Final Frontier of Understanding in the Reduction of Vent System Complexity" (Jack at While the effects of induced siphonage are well understood, the implications of stack surcharge and the generation of positive transients remain less so. Advances in simulation techniques offer a way of predicting of local effects in complex multi-story building systems, which, in turn, will lead to the minimization of trap seal loss due to positive transient propagation.

Finally to return to the events of September 11, it is I think true that, despite all the rhetoric from our respective political leaders, Roosevelt said it best 60 years ago when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." I am sure that the resolution his oratory generated will be matched.