The Aftermath of WTC attack: Where Do We Go From Here?

Until an extensive analysis is conducted, it's difficult to fully anticipate how much building design will change in the aftermath of the tragic Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. However, engineers are reporting that their clients have begun driving change in the building industry.

10/01/2001


Until an extensive analysis is conducted, it's difficult to fully anticipate how much building design will change in the aftermath of the tragic Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. However, engineers are reporting that their clients have begun driving change in the building industry.

"We already had a couple high-rise projects for corporate headquarters cancelled because companies don't want to centralize all their people," says Raj Gupta, P.E., president of Environmental Systems Design, Chicago.

Further, John Hennessy, III, chairman of Syska & Hennessy, New York City, predicts, "Many commercial projects may get slowed down or stopped because there is a great deal of uncertainty as to where the economy is going."

As for existing buildings and facilities already under development, engineers have been fielding lots of phone calls from concerned end-users requesting to revisit their security designs.

"Those who have considered implementing a closed-building solution, and rejected it, are now planning to implement it," says David Aggleton, CPP, president of the New York City-based security design firm, Aggleton & Assoc. "People are definitely taking security more seriously."

Gupta projects that architectural designs may start to change with features such as underground parking and open atriums becoming less popular.

However, Carl Baldassarra, P.E., president of the fire-protection and security firm, Schirmer Engineering Corp., Deerfield, Ill., is very cautious to speculate until the events of Sept. 11 are thoroughly analyzed.

"There needs to be a diligent, thought out, scientific analysis before we determine if and what should be done to change building design," he says. Ultimately, things like egress design, fire resistance, structural design, occupant notification and behavior should be given a hard review, but unfortunately, the process doesn't necessarily lend itself to technical conclusions, says Baldassarra.

"We could design buildings to be impact-resistant, but who would want to work in one of those buildings?" asks John Rattenbury, P.E., senior corporate engineer, R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, Boston.

Baldassarra adds, "In the end, we're going to have to find a balance between acceptable risk and building design."

David Cooper, P.E., a senior vice president with Flack & Kurtz, also points out that these issues will soon make their way to technical committees for review by building industry officials. Ultimately, this may affect the way building codes are written, although it will probably be a couple of years until the industry starts to see those kinds of changes.

In the meantime, Cooper, who played a major role in the mechanical design for 7 World Trade Center, one of the buildings lost in the disaster, states how important it is to move forward.

"Watching that building come down was horrific," Cooper reflects. "Now the challenge is going to be rebuilding New York properly and making it better than ever."





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