Remembering 9/11: A Look at Building Security One Year Later
A year ago, one of the most devastating events of modern-day America took the lives of more than 3,000 people. The tragic collapse of the World Trade Center—resulting from a terrorist suicide attack—rocked the nation and the entire building and construction industry to its core.
In addition to the emotional and psychological trauma, the country took an economic beating from which it is still trying to recover. In New York alone, destruction and damage from the collapse of the twin towers and the surrounding buildings is estimated to have cost the local economy more than $80 billion, with tourism dropping 15%.
Surfacing amid the direct and indirect effects of this catastrophe is the question of if and how M/E design for buildings has changed… a question Consulting-Specifying Engineer posed in our recent survey of the industry’s largest M/E firms.
The leading client concern that emerged was a need to improve security.
“Many of our clients have asked us to make security features a significant and integral part of the overall design of their new facilities,” says Randal E. Swiech, P.E., a senior vice president with the SmithGroup, Detroit.
Indeed, Ronald W. Mineo, P.E., president of Joseph R. Loring & Associates, New York, indicated that security work at his firm has increased multifold since Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, Raj P. Gupta, P.E., president of Environmental Systems Design, Chicago, responded, “our clients are more concerned with being able to understand the limitations of their facilities and how to harden them to provide the security they desire.”
While GHT Limited, an M/E firm in Arlington, Va., also experienced an initial surge of security work, the firm has found the trend to be dying down.
“There has been a return to a more normal trend with a moderate increase of importance on secure features, according to the economy,” says Frank Becker, P.E., a senior principal with the firm.
Individual case basis
Indeed, a number of firms indicated no major differences.
Economic considerations certainly affected whether building owners considered security upgrades in 2002, but Debra B. Trace, manager of corporate communications with the STV Group, Douglassville, Pa., noted that perception of vulnerability was another major factor. “Certain private industry clients are more concerned with improving the security at their facilities, but it depends on the industry and their perception of their own vulnerability,” she reports.
On the other hand, other firms found little variation in security concerns among different industries.
“Clients are now more concerned about security across the board, particularly in federal, state and municipal work, but also in academic and corporate environments,” claims Kelly Donahue, public relations manager, Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering, Albany, N.Y.
A more specific concern, echoed in a number of survey responses, is protecting against chemical and biological threats.
“Our clients are raising questions concerning how various chemical and biological agents could enter their HVAC systems and what protective measures are appropriate,” says Gupta.
For Ellerbe Becket, a Minneapolis-based firm that does quite a bit of arena and stadium work (see “Hat Trick,” p. 44), clients have demanded that a much greater emphasis be put on the location of outside air intakes.
Other notable building owner requests highlighted in the survey include: incorporating biometrics into security systems; greater security for water treatment and distribution systems; improved power reliability; and telecom redundancy.