Volume 36, Issue 10, October 2001
On September 11, 2001, the United States fell victim to a tragic terrorist attack that took down all 110 floors of New York City’s World Trade Center’s twin towers as well as a section of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. With the loss of the World Trade Center, the city of New York and the world were forever changed. The complex was comprised of seven buildings, and its twin towers alone contained 200,000 tons of steel. The Ironworkers union, Local 40 in New York, has been working diligently to unravel the tangled mass of steel which was once the World Trade Center
(see "People" for related story). Aside from its 208 elevators, 7,000 toilets and 40,000 doorknobs, the center also had 43,600 windows for a total of 14 acres of glass. And the rubble from the site is expected to fill 100,000 dump trucks.
Not surprisingly, the disasters have seriously affected the way in which people in the United States operate, both personally and professionally. The glass industry is no exception to this change, as many companies struggled to do business during the days following the attacks. The problems ranged from delays in shipping to finding ways of getting employees to their homes.
Where They Were
“I was supposed to have a meeting that day in the World Trade Center,” said one New York City glass shop owner whose business is located within close proximity to where the World Trade Center stood. “The engineer I was supposed to meet was there when it happened. He’s fine, but I’m having a really hard time dealing with this right now. It’s just hard to talk about when there were people jumping out of buildings,” the shop owner said.
There are many stories of people who were supposed to be in the building that day, but were spared due to a doctor’s appointment, or arrival at the subway a few minutes later than usual. People who have ever been in the Twin Towers at one time or another, such as Paul Gore, business segment leader, residential products for Pilkington, can’t help but think, “what if?” Pilkington held the launch for the company’s Activ™ glass at the World Trade Center in June. “It was a gut-wrenching feeling to think about having been up there and now it’s gone,” Gore said.
Jim Tudesco, a sales associate with Simon Pearce Glass, a store which offers hand-blown glass and pottery items, was commuting to the city from his home in Connecticut when the attacks occurred. “When they evacuated Grand Central Station I couldn’t get out of the city,” he said. “Our store doesn’t open till 11 a.m. so only one of our employees made it in that day.”
“I was in California trying to get back,” said David Kraus of Skyline Windows. “I didn’t make it back until [the following] Monday. There were eight Monterrey, Calif.-firefighters on my plane who were going to help.” Kraus said that when he did return to work several of the younger employees came to talk to him about what happened, trying to get a feeling of security. “I think the age of innocence we’ve always felt as Americans is now gone,” he said. “We had one person driving to work and she heard it happening. She pulled over and looked back at what was happening and she just couldn’t believe it. All she could do was turn around and drive home.”
The headquarters of PPG Industries in Pittsburgh is located approximately 80 miles from Sommerset, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed. The company evacuated its tower soon after the announcement of the crash.
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The 200,000 tons of steel that comprised the twin towers was enough to build 20 Eiffel Towers.
The days following the attacks have left New York devastated, and in some cases has taken its toll on the city’s glass industry.
According to Tudesco, the store in which he works closed the entire week after the attack and didn’t reopen until Monday, September 17. “It’s been slow,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of people out walking around.” Since Simon Pearce Glass is located north of Canal Street (everything below Canal Street was evacuated almost immediately after the attacks), Tudesco said his company did not sustain any damaging effects. However, they are located south of 14th Street and were affected when that area was evacuated. And while Tudesco has not seen the damage first-hand, he could definitely see the smoke.
For Skyline Windows, which is located at the opposite end of Manhattan’s financial district where the towers once stood, the effects have been minimal. “It affected the work we do in some areas in Manhattan; some areas we still cannot get to,” said Kraus. “Now it takes some employees longer to get to work, but there really has not been too many effects on our day-to-day business operations. We are dealing with time lags and there were some delays in receiving shipments because it was so difficult to get into Manhattan. But that’s starting to clear up.”
Kraus also said that because of the massive amounts of dust and grit from the damages, much of the downtown area’s windows will have to be cleaned. He added that another area deserving attention are the fasteners and hardware on windows. Because of the shaking and trembling during the attacks, some of the window hardware may have loosened, he said. The fasteners will need to be checked to ensure they are in operable condition.
Shipping and Security Issues
While many businesses tried to get back to some sense of normalcy in the days after the attacks, this was difficult in many cases, due to shipping and transportation delays.
“Because the expressways were closed in the N.Y.-D.C. areas, we couldn’t get glass to the fabricators there who needed it, which also meant there was an increase in demand,” said Mike Ondrus, customer service manager at Pilkington. “The fabricators were hit hard and they needed the glass so they could get glass back in windows that were blown out so people could get back to work. Also trucks going in and out of Canada were scrutinized at a higher level [than usual] so that caused delays.”
Kawneer Co. Inc. of Norcross, Ga., also reported problems with Canadian shipments. “Kawneer Canada is shipping on time, but due to the border patrol and the NAFTA inspections previously initiated, lines of tractor trailers are growing to seven or eight miles long,” said Bob Leyland, Kawneer’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Adding to the congestion, one of the three border-crossing locations has been shut down to freight passage. These delays have impacted shipments arriving at their destinations on a timely basis.”
It is no surprise that due to the severity of this attack, security has been tightened throughout the country. “Projects in process that have any connection to the attacks or which might be a security risk, such as airports, report that construction has dropped to a snail’s pace,” said Leyland. He added that airports are not allowing contractors to bring their trucks or toolboxes to the work site; trucks must be parked miles away while the workers are bused into terminals; and workers must ask for permission to leave the construction area to go to the bathroom because they must be escorted by security. “Sometimes they wait 30 minutes for security to arrive,” said Leyland. “Although the security is necessary, it is causing great delays in construction projects and subcontractors are incurring costs they did not account for during the bidding process.”
While some projects are moving slowly due to security and other issues, some glazing contractors are working hard to get projects completed ahead of schedule. “Glazing contractors are accelerating schedules on existing projects in process to get new rental square footage to market quickly in order to make up for the loss of more than 20 million square feet of office space,” said Leyland. “Owners and general contractors are paying premiums for completion of projects ahead of schedule.” He added that Port Authority and other businesses desperate for office space have canvassed and secured space in Westchester County, Long Island and New Jersey.
Lou Cerny, vice president of MTH Industries in Chicago, said their work on Midway Airport in Chicago had stopped until Monday, September 24. He said while they have been able to start some production work, most of their time was spent doing housekeeping tasks. “We had materials all over, and now [for safety reasons] we are having to move the materials, trailers, etc. away from the buildings,” he said. “Also because of the added security the time it takes us to get on and off site has increased. That equals about a 20 or 25 percent loss in daily production.”
On the glass manufacturing and distribution end, Russ Ebeid, president of Guardian Industries’ Glass Group, said the company didn’t have problems with shipping delays, but the company was busy in the weeks following the attacks taking calls from customers. “Customers are preparing themselves for buildings’ re-glaze … looking ahead to prepare themselves and secure business,” said Ebeid.
While individuals and companies throughout the nation have come together in this time of crisis to help the victims, the glass industry is doing its part as well. Thomas Chen, founder and president of Crystal Window & Door Systems Ltd. in Flushing, N.Y., announced that the company will donate 1 percent of monthly sales through the end of this year to relief organizations involved with the World Trade Center disaster. The company expects the donation amount to total $150,000 by the end of the year.
“This is a time for all Americans, regardless of their race, creed, color or national origin, to draw together in support of those who have suffered and lost,” said Chen. “New York must be rebuilt so it can continue to be the beacon of hope, opportunity and success that it is to the rest of the world.”
In addition to the donation the company will make, Crystal employees have pledged or donated more than $13,000; 60 employees donated a day’s salary to the relief effort.
PPG’s Larry O’Reilly said his company has made numerous efforts to assist during this time. For example, not only have PPG employees worldwide made donations, but the PPG Foundation in the United States is matching employee contributions on a basis of two to one, as is PPG Canada. PPG Italy and PPG Australia are matching employee contributions dollar-to-dollar.
According to O’Reilly, PPG’s architectural coatings division has volunteered to assist in the World Trade Center investigation, free of charge. “We feel that our expertise in protecting structural steel against fire could be an asset to the investigation,” he said.
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Delays in shipping and increased security checkpoints made receiving glass difficult for those who would replace it.
Other companies such as Skyline Windows and Pilkington may make logo changes as a result of what happened. “Our logo is the New York skyline including the World Trade Center,” said Kraus. “We’re thinking of having an artist come in and weave a ribbon [in the colors of the American flag] through the towers.”
According to Gore, Pilkington will make some logo changes as well. Some promotional items for the company’s Activ glass mentioned the World Trade Center or included images of the tower and these will be changed.
Washington, D.C., Feels the Effects
Many Americans, including those in the glass industry, lost loved ones as a result of the terrorist attacks. When American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, one of its occupants was former federal prosecutor Barbara Olson, who was married to the U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson. Many will remember her from frequent appearances as a political commentator on shows such as Larry King Live, but Olson also was the sister-in-law of USGlass columnist Bob Lawrence, president of Glass Wholesalers in Houston. Many others in the industry may have lost loved ones as a result of these attacks.
It’s no question that everyone was affected by the events of September 11, whether it’s through the loss of a loved one or just by trying to get back to business. In fact, many glass companies in the Washington, D.C., area, are finding that doing so is not an easy task.
Change in Daily Business Operations
Larry Sanders, owner of Door Closer Service in Washington, D.C., was at the State Department when he heard of the attacks. Since the air traffic system was virtually brought to a stand still, it’s no surprise that shipments to businesses were delayed. “Probably about 85 percent of our business is wholesale,” said Sanders, “so we had a lot of problems with air mail and air freight.” But Sanders said customers were very understanding. “Everyone’s life was interrupted in some way as a result of all this,” he said.
Additionally, Sanders said his on-site business slowed down significantly in the days after the attacks. But Sanders said one of the biggest problems he now faces is parking—a problem prevalent in D.C. before, but now multiplied due to increased security measures. “We just can’t hop, skip and jump around town,” he said.
Sanders said there is virtually no street parking available and it takes a lot longer to find proper parking spaces. “Now, if you stop somewhere where you’re not supposed to, someone comes to investigate,” he said.
As a result Sanders said the company is now forced to do work early in the morning between 5 and 6 a.m. and later in the afternoon when the city is not as populated.
“We’re not in and out like we used to be,” said Sanders. “So, we’ll now have to start billing people when we get to the location and start looking for parking spots.”
Nate Lewis, owner of Flash Glass, a contract glazing company in Washington, D.C., said his employees are facing similar problems with parking. “We used to send one guy out on a job but now we’re sending two guys—one to look for a parking spot and the other to go in and get started on the job.”
Lewis, who was on Interstate 395 near the Pentagon when the plane hit, said his company does a lot of government work, which makes the situation increasingly difficult. “Our men were at police headquarters in D.C. when this happened,” said Lewis. “The police got rid of our men and we have been given no indication as to when we can return.”
Lewis said another problem he faces is delays due to some employees not having proper contractor identification. Additionally, he says it is taking longer just to get to a job site. “It used to take us a few minutes to get on Andrews Air Force Base and now it is taking an hour and a half for all the searches and security procedures,” said Lewis. He said employees are facing the same problem when trying to get on Bolling Air Force Base for jobs.
As far as shipments, Lewis said one of his suppliers told him a particular shipment was delayed 4 to 5 weeks due to problems associated with the September 11 events.
However, when talking to Kawneer customers in the days following the attacks, Leyland says customers in the D.C. area have not reported shipping delays. “There are no reports of problems at this time,” he said. “Customers seem to be going on with their business as normally as possible. However, they have experienced some cancellations and postponements of meetings due to travel irregularities.”
At least one business owner in the Washington area agreed with Leyland. Alfred Mitchell is owner of Mitchells Window and Screen Repair in Washington, D.C., which is located two to three miles from the Pentagon. Mitchell said he was working at the shop when he heard the news that a plane had struck the Pentagon. He said the attack has had no effect on his business. “The Pentagon is almost like its own separate city,” Mitchell said. “You hear about it, but you try to go on.”
Future of Skyscrapers
A Dying Breed or a Symbol of Prosperity?
Although the wreckage of the World Trade Center is nowhere near being cleaned up, the construction and architectural communities are already talking about whether these towers should be rebuilt to their original grandeur, and if the events of September 11 will signal a downturn in the construction of skyscrapers.
Paul Doherty, architect and principal of The Digit Group in Germantown, Tenn., and member of the Construction Specifications Institute, believes there are two schools of thought on this issue. “One group, which includes Donald Trump, believes we should build the World Trade Center twice as big to stuff it in the terrorists faces,” he said. “The other group believes we should not build buildings that big because people won’t go up in them.”
In fact, Donald Trump told the CBS Evening News on September 23 that skyscrapers are in no way a dying breed. “The buildings will get bigger, taller and more magnificent,” he said. “I’d like to see something architecturally magnificent on that site … That way, we win,” he said.
But on the other hand, Trump admits that his plans for a new skyscraper in Chicago that was rumored to be 2,000 feet tall may be altered slightly.
On the flip side, architect Box Fox told the CBS Evening News he believes buildings 60 stories or less are more practical and hopes this will be the trend in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks.
Doherty said he falls somewhere in the middle. “Maybe instead of building tall we should build bigger,” said Doherty. “Just look at the Pentagon.” But Doherty added, “If you don’t have the horizontal space you have to go vertical.”
“Generally we may see fewer high rises but the total square footage will be the same,” said Russ Ebeid, president of Guardian Industries’ Glass Group of Auburn Hills, Mich. “For example, instead of rebuilding two twin towers, they may build four 50-foot towers.
“There’s a lot of skepticism because no one wants to be the target of an attack,” Ebeid added. “But the terrorists tend to attack our symbols, opposed to just any plant or factory.”
Skyscrapers are indeed symbols. They are more than just tall buildings—they seem to reflect a sign of the times. According to Doherty, tall structures can be traced back to the time of the Renaissance when cathedrals were the prominent symbols. Before September 11, the World Trade Center served as a symbol of capitalism. Whether the towers will be rebuilt as grand and tall as the original, continuing to serve as a symbol of prosperity, or if the site will serve as a memorial to those who lost their lives, may not be answered for months to come.
Protective Glazing Industry Stays Busy in Wake of Attacks;
Security Measures at the Forefront of Future Planning Efforts
While building security and protective glazing are in the forefront of everyone’s minds now, it has been the work of a small few for several years: the Protective Glazing Council (PGC).
Scott Haddock, president of the PGC, said his business, GlassLock in San Jose, Calif., and the rest of the protective glazing industry is busily at work installing protective glazing systems in many government buildings.
Protective Measures at the Pentagon
While many of the government buildings are now adding protective glazing to their means of protection, several newspapers and television stations have reported that the part of the Pentagon that was hit was equipped with blast-resistant windows that fared somewhat well in the attack, considering its magnitude.
The Pentagon was in the midst of a massive renovation effort that began in 1994, according to a report in the September 16 edition of the Los Angeles Times. The article states that the renovation was less than one-fifth complete. A bright spot amid all of this is that American Airlines Flight 77 struck a portion of the building that had already been renovated. The Times reported that this portion of the building had been constructed with a web of steel columns and bars that kept this section of the building from collapsing for 30 minutes.
Additionally, Lee Evey, program manager for the renovation, said, “The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—2 inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. It had fire doors that opened automatically and newly built exits that allowed people to get out.”
Although the aftermath of the tragedy has caused a resurgence of interest in protective measures, Haddock said he expects the magnitude of this tragic event will have short and long-term effects on the industry.
“We saw a surge from the [A.P.] Murrah Building bombing [in Oklahoma City in 1993] and after the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania [in 1998], but because of the magnitude of what just happened, we’re going to see a long-term impact on the industry with increased interest in protective glazing not just in the federal [sector], but in the private sector, too,” said Haddock.
Twin Towers Were Structurally Sound
However, Haddock added, no protective glazing could have even mitigated the damage to the World Trade Center towers. “It is my understanding that when they built the World Trade Center, they considered a plane attack, but they didn’t consider that large of a jetliner full of fuel. That’s what made the difference—the intense heat,” he said. “In that case, I think it’s more of a question of tightening security so something like this could not happen again.”
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The windows in the attacked section of the Pentagon had blast-resistant windows, so much of the glass remained intact.
This is exactly the sentiment of Paul Doherty, architect and principal of the Digit Group in Germantown, Tenn. Following the events of September 11, he and a few of his CSI colleagues decided to do some informal research with the goal of finding out what went wrong at the World Trade Center. But, according to Doherty, after touring Ground Zero, he and his colleagues realized they were asking the wrong question. “Instead of asking, ‘What went wrong?’ we changed the question to, ‘How did it [World Trade Center towers] stay up so long?’” Doherty said. “Our ultimate finding is that nothing could have been engineered to prevent this from happening,” Doherty said. “The building exceeded its original design goals.”
Doherty briefly discussed the state of the buildings around the World Trade Center such as One Liberty Place and Millennium Building. “Our view is that these buildings are not structurally sound,” said Doherty. “The cost of repairing these may be more than starting over and rebuilding them.”
While some fear these terrorist attacks will signal a downturn in the commercial construction industry, Doherty is adamant that it will be quite the opposite considering the billions of dollars that President Bush is pumping into the economy. “This will signal an unbelievable upturn,” Doherty said. “With this infusion of money, the construction industry will see an upturn after New Year’s,” he said. “I just hope the industry is prepared.” —TT/PB
Tara Taffera, Ellen Giard and Penny Beverage are editor, managing editor and assistant editor respectively of USGlass magazine.
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