In the Wake of 9/11 can Building-Hardening Standards be Codified?

On Feb. 26, the 10-year anniversary of the first terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, industry experts—designers, constructors and code officials—met in New York to discuss how the events of Sept. 11 are changing building design, construction and operation. The forum, coincidentally, took place the same day that officials overseeing the rebuilding of the WTC site announced D...

06/01/2003


On Feb. 26, the 10-year anniversary of the first terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, industry experts—designers, constructors and code officials—met in New York to discuss how the events of Sept. 11 are changing building design, construction and operation. The forum, coincidentally, took place the same day that officials overseeing the rebuilding of the WTC site announced Daniel Libeskind's winning design.

At the heart of the forum was how iconic buildings can be hardened to prevent or minimize the destruction wrought on 9/11.

The natural reaction is to push for stronger buildings defined by code. New York City, the victim of that terrible attack, has already moved toward such action. It's WTC Building Task Force produced a report recommending 21 steps toward that goal.

But panelist Ronny Livian, P.E., deputy commissioner for technical affairs with the New York Dept. of Buildings—the agency who oversaw the report—noted the city's goal was to produce a document that can help in the here and now. "That's really the intention of the report—not to have a foolproof building that will not be damaged at all, but to have a building that will last longer and that can take a little bit more, and [where] the exits will stand a little more heat and blast, and it will be safer."

Another forum member, David Maola, the executive director of the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, suggested that while code changes are beneficial, the problem of a plane crash needs to be addressed in other ways besides updating codes and making buildings stronger.

Universally, the group agreed that the responsibility of "building hardening" lies with designers and building owners, as waiting for a code mandate stops designers from being proactive now.

Panelist Jon Traw, a recently retired code consultant with the International Code Council, couldn't agree more, noting that codes exist to ensure that minimum life-safety standards are adhered to as determined by public policy. But it is the latter, he says, where these decisions should be made. He believes the situation is being handled correctly by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal agency leading the investigation.

Specific issues also addressed at the forum included:

  • The variety of high-rise types and whether all should be designed to the same risk standards.

  • How building can be designed to prevent a progressive collapse.

  • The economic impact of elevating safety requirements for high-rise towers.

  • Building operations, including how products and equipment should be delivered to a building and how and where vehicles should be parked under buildings.

  • What can be done in the event of a biological attack.

For the complete forum, log onto www.csemag.com





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