Volume 18, Number 37 | Jan. 27 - Feb. 2, 2006

New W.T.C. buildings will be safer, expert says

By Chad Smith

An engineer who studied the collapse of the Twin Towers on endorsed the safety measures planned for the Freedom Tower and 7 World Trade Center, at a panel discussion last Wednesday.

Shyam Sunder, an engineer from the federal National Institute of Standards and Technology, said the fortified elevators, wider staircases and a more comprehensive fireproofing system planned for the Freedom Tower at the W.T.C. site and the nearly-open 7 W.T.C. across the street, follow many of the safety recommendations made in the NIST report about the buildings’ destruction on 9/11.

Although he could offer much advice on safety precautions, Sunder said the Freedom Tower would be inextricably linked with symbolic meaning; therefore, it may never be possible to fully eradicate the danger posed to it.

Another panelist Carl Galioto, an architect from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill L.L.P., which designed 7 W.T.C. and the Freedom Tower, agreed that the safety measures will not offer 100 percent protection.

“Building’s are not designed to withstand airplane attacks,” he said. “So, if the expectation is, that after 9/11, the next set of buildings are going to be designed to withstand airplane attacks, it’s wrong.”

Galioto and others hired by the buildings’ developer, Larry Silverstein, consulted with NIST officials before designing the two skyscrapers.

“This is a symbolic building,” said Galioto. “Our job was to design a building that’s both safe and that functions as a northern gateway.” Seven W.T.C. has among other things, elevators that can run if power is lost, redundant combined sprinkler systems, and an “emergency access core.” Commercial tenants are expected to begin moving into the 52-story building this spring.

NIST interviewed 1,056 surviving W.T.C occupants and 116 emergency responders in order to formulate proper safety recommendations. It also conducted mathematical experiments, did laboratory work and analyzed thousands of pictures from that tragic day.

Rick Bell, executive director of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the evening’s moderator, remained optimistic. “I think it’s still important we find out what lessons were learned from 9/11,” he said.


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