Volume 37, Issue 9, September 2002

Since September 11 …

Despite Suspected Demise of Skyscrapers, Organizations Make Plans for Tall Glass Buildings

Despite the events of 2001, those in the Big Apple are attempting the business of building as they plan for new projects and buildings throughout the city. The New York Times, for example, has unveiled the architectural model for its new headquarters—a transparent ceramic and glass 52-story skyscraper that will cover an entire block of Times Square. Likewise, a few states away, Donald Trump is planning to build a 78-story skyscraper on Chicago’s riverfront. He’d originally planned to build the world’s tallest building, but has scaled back his plan since September 11. Now, Trump is planning for the Trump Tower Chicago, a 1,073-foot glass-covered building—the city’s fourth tallest skyscraper.

Charles Reiss, senior vice president of development for the Trump Organization, said that the events of September 11 made the organization reconsider its attempt to build the world’s tallest building. Some have even suggested that the popularity of skyscrapers in general may wane since the terrorist attacks (see October USGlass, page 64, for related story).

“Tragically 9/11 telescoped a decision that probably would have been made anyway,” Reiss said. “There is just so much inefficiency in extremely tall buildings.”

Engineers Investigate Collapse of Twin Towers

In addition to all of the recovery work going on in New York City since the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, engineers are studying the towers to determine exactly when and how the 110-story twin structures collapsed.  The federal investigation is being conducted at an undisclosed location where a group of 23 engineers has met to watch the video of the collapse hundreds of times in an effort to resolve some of the unanswered questions from September 11, and to prepare for future disasters.

The engineers have several theories of how the buildings gave way, and hope to determine whether the core columns fell first, dragging each floor with them as they fell, or if the exterior columns pulled inward, giving in to floor joists weakened by raging fires.

The towers were built to withstand the impact of a Boeing 707 when they were completed 30 years ago—but not one filled with fuel. They were not designed to withstand one fully loaded with fuel. It was designed in a tubular shape with a load-bearing interior core and perimeter walls of glass and 62 steel columns per side with no other vertical support. While the design opened up more floor space, some engineers suspect it was more vulnerable than most buildings of its type.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is financing the investigation, which is expected to cost about $600,000.

In other news, two representatives of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Robert E. Solomon, P.E., a fire protection engineer and Robert F. Duval, a senior fire investigator, are each serving on special panels that examine the World Trade Center’s collapse.

Solomon is a member of the special task force on the Future of Tall Buildings, which was formed by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). Duval is serving on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT) for the World Trade Center.

According to information provided by NFPA, the CTBUH group is focusing on new strategies that may be considered in tall-building design, such as egress and performance-based design. The hope is to increase the performance of tall buildings.

The BPAT group is examining the building performance of the towers, as well as the surrounding buildings.

A Room With A View Is Still A Hot Commodity

Despite the attacks of last September and a battered stock market, a New York real estate firm still believes that “if you build it, they will come,” at least as it pertains to a block of luxury penthouses that inhabit AOL Time Warner Center’s One Central Park prestigious address. Still a year away from the expected occupancy date, two of the ten luxury penthouses, priced from $25 million to $32.5 million, have sold, fulfilling supposition that the homebuilding industry has boomed despite the economic slowdown of the majority of the market.

As Adele Cygelman, real estate and home design editor for Robb Report, explains in a Reuters article, “You’re seeing people completely shying away from the stock market, because who knows where that’s going? I think baby boomers are just sitting on a whole pile of cash, and real estate now represents the most attractive place to park it.”

BOMA International Helps Pass Terrorism Insurance Legislation

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) recently celebrated the passing of the long-awaited Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (S. 2600) by the U.S. Senate. BOMA, the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism (CIAT) and other trade associations adopted a grassroots advocacy plan last year to pressure the Senate to pass legislation that would provide at least a one-year federal backstop of up to $100 billion in funds after insurance companies incur losses of $10 billion. BOMA International president, Sherwood Johnston III explained, “This represents a significant victory for BOMA, our industry and our coalition partners.  Our members were experiencing major difficulties in obtaining coverage, lenders were refusing to finance projects and the wheels of commerce were being ground to a halt.” Provisions were also put in place to extend the measure, should a second year of assistance become needed.

In addition, BOMA has announced that it has launched its new, online eSeminar titled Building Security and Evacuation Planning. A collaboration effort with Global eSeminars, ADT Security Services Inc., Barton Protective Services Inc. and Wheelock Inc., the newly designed eSeminar addresses the continuing demand for security for the commercial real estate industry, building tenants and the general public.

In other news, a recent survey commissioned by the Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI), has shown few building owners and managers have made radical changes to their operations in the wake of September 11, thanks to comprehensive emergency preparedness plans that were largely already in place.

The survey, conducted by CEL & Associates Inc. in March, showed that most participants have strengthened existing security systems and procedures, such as adding security cameras, increasing security personnel and either installing or more rigidly enforcing card access systems. The single security upgrade most frequently utilized following September 11 was tighter vendor security, which included requirements for vendor identification, vendor check-in and requests for vendors to conduct employee background checks.

Survey respondents indicated far more concern with overall emergency preparedness than with terrorism. For instance, 56.9 percent of the respondents indicated security concerns over fire safety; in comparison, only 11.9 percent acknowledged terrorist attacks as a potential threat.

Security Measures Most Widely Employed Prior to September 11

Building Alarm Monitors            80.2 percent

Lobby Security Controls            74.3 percent

Surveillance Cameras            64.9 percent

Employee Background Checks 60.9 percent

Penn State Offers Building Safety Course; Yale Students Design Plans for New Twin Towers 

Since 1995, Penn State University in State College, Pa., has offered a course for engineers on ways to prevent catastrophes against buildings, but it is only since last September 11 that the class has taken on a whole new meaning. Interest in the week-long course taught by Ted Krauthammer, professor of civil engineering at Penn State and director of the Protective Technology Center, has jumped considerably since the terrorist attacks. Instead of the military engineers that used to make up the majority of Krauthammers’s students, security consultants and government officials from the United States and abroad are filling up the classroom.

According to an article from the Associated Press, “for many low-risk facilities, there are simple, inexpensive measures, such as installing protective glass, anchoring light fixtures and designing interior floor plans to keep people away from exposed external walls.”

But Krauthammer worries that attention and dedication to developing new security measures could subside as the lessons taught by September 11 begin to fade out of our everyday going-ons. “Unless there is a government mandate of some type to do it, they’re not going to unless there’s a clear and present danger,” said Krauthammer.

Students at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., have also done coursework focusing on new designs for the World Trade Center Towers, through an architecture project. Alexander Garvin, a Yale professor, assigned the project, as he also serves as the chief planner for the redevelopment of lower Manhattan and said he hopes to get some ideas from the students’ designs. Among the designs are thoughts of glass towers, an upside-down city and icicle shaped skyscrapers.

“Some may actually fit into the blueprint of what we’re working on,” Garvin said.

A Room With A View Is Still A Hot Commodity

Despite the attacks of last September and a battered stock market, a New York real estate firm still believes that “if you build it, they will come,” at least as it pertains to a block of luxury penthouses that inhabit AOL Time Warner Center’s One Central Park prestigious address. Still a year away from the expected occupancy date, two of the ten luxury penthouses, priced from $25 million to $32.5 million, have sold, fulfilling supposition that the homebuilding industry has boomed despite the economic slowdown of the majority of the market.

As Adele Cygelman, real estate and home design editor for Robb Report, explains in a Reuters article, “You’re seeing people completely shying away from the stock market, because who knows where that’s going? I think baby boomers are just sitting on a whole pile of cash, and real estate now represents the most attractive place to park it.”

Grand TriBeCa Hotel Being Remodeled

Despite the September 11 attacks, the historic TriBeCa area of lower Manhattan’s 2003-room Grand Hotel is being remodeled. The architectural firm on the job, Hartz Mountain Industries, selected general contractor R.C. Dolner Inc., which chose Terrell, Texas-based Skywall Translucent System’s advanced system. The advanced translucent system panels form a trapezoidal skylight that tops an eight-story atrium, one of the hotel’s more contemporary highlights.


USG

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