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Context of 'October 23, 2002: Report Concludes that Destruction of One WTC Tower Would Have Left Other Unusable'

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Steel beams from the WTC were already being removed and recycled on September 20, 2001.Steel beams from the WTC were already being removed and recycled on September 20, 2001. [Source: Associated Press]In the month following 9/11, a significant amount of the steel debris from the WTC collapses is removed from the rubble pile, cut into smaller sections, and either melted at a recycling plant or shipped out of the US. [US Congress, 3/6/2002] Each of the Twin Towers contained 78,000 tons of recyclable steel. Much of this is shipped to India, China, and other Asian countries, where it will be melted down and reprocessed into new steel products. Asian companies are able to purchase the steel for just $120 per ton, compared, for example, to a usual average price of $150 per ton in China. Industry officials estimate that selling off the steel and other metals from the WTC for recycling could net a few tens of million dollars. [New York Times, 10/9/2001; Reuters, 1/21/2002; Reuters, 1/22/2002; Eastday, 1/24/2002; CorpWatch, 2/6/2002] 9/11 victims’ families and some engineers are angered at the decision to quickly discard the steel, believing it should be examined to help determine how the towers collapsed. A respected fire fighting trade magazine comments, “We are literally treating the steel removed from the site like garbage, not like crucial fire scene evidence.” [Fire Engineering, 1/2002] Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) will later call the loss of this evidence “borderline criminal.” By March 2002, 150 pieces of steel from the WTC debris will have been identified by engineers for use in future investigations (see March 6, 2002). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. D-13] A study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which commences in August 2002 [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002] , will have 236 pieces of recovered steel available to it. Of these, 229 pieces are from WTC 1 and 2, representing “roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of the 200,000 tons of structural steel used in the construction of the two towers.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 85 pdf file] New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg defends the decision to quickly get rid of the WTC steel, saying, “If you want to take a look at the construction methods and the design, that’s in this day and age what computers do. Just looking at a piece of metal generally doesn’t tell you anything.” Officials in the mayor’s office decline to reply to requests by the New York Times regarding who decided to have the steel recycled. [New York Times, 12/25/2001; Eastday, 1/24/2002]

Entity Tags: Joseph Crowley, World Trade Center, Michael R. Bloomberg

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

FEMA’s World Trade Center Building Performance Study.FEMA’s World Trade Center Building Performance Study. [Source: FEMA]FEMA releases its report of the WTC collapses. It concludes, “[W]ith the information and time available, the sequence of events leading to the collapse of each tower could not be definitively determined.” On Building 7: “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—an agency of the US Commerce Department’s Technology Administration—announces details of its forthcoming investigation into the collapses of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and Building 7 on 9/11. The NIST investigation aims “to investigate the building construction, the materials used, and the technical conditions that contributed to the outcome of the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster.” It also aims to examine the activities of building occupants and emergency responders on 9/11, studying such issues as emergency communications within the WTC, the movement of people during the evacuations, and issues around persons with disabilities. Leading technical experts from industry, academia, and other laboratories, alongside NIST’s own expert staff, will participate in the investigation. Expert professionals from the private sector will also be involved. Glenn Corbett, a fire science professor at John Jay College, says, “This is going to be the most extensive building disaster investigation ever performed.” [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/3/2005] The investigation is formally authorized in October 2002, when the National Construction Safety Team Act is signed into law. The act, which gives NIST authorization to investigate major building failures in the US, is written largely as a result of the World Trade Center collapses. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 10/2/2002; New York Times, 5/8/2003] NIST’s investigation is originally proposed to last two years, with a budget of $16 million. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2002] However, it eventually will last three years, with its final report into the collapses of the Twin Towers being released in October 2005 (see October 26, 2005). A previous analysis of the WTC collapses conducted by FEMA and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) was completed earlier in 2002 (see May 1, 2002), but this had a budget of just $1.1 million. By the time NIST starts its investigation, much of the crucial steel debris from the WTC collapses has already been destroyed (see September 12-October 2001). They later refer to there being a “scarcity of physical evidence that is typically available in place for reconstruction of a disaster.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxvi]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Glenn Corbett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An engineering report is released concluding that the destruction of one of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers would have rendered the other unusable. Swiss Re and other insurance companies involved in the WTC coverage commissioned the study, which was written by California-based Exponent Failure Analysis Associates. It is released the same day as a report on the collapses by WTC leaseholder Silverstein Properties Inc. (see October 23, 2002). Contradicting the Silverstein report, it concludes: “[T]he collapse of one tower in the World Trade Center complex would have severely compromised the future viability of the entire complex.” This supports the insurance companies’ contention that the WTC attacks constituted one loss event, not two, as claimed by Silverstein Properties, thereby entitling Silverstein to a policy limit of $3.5 billion instead of $7 billion. The report, along with the underlying data, computer models, and engineering analyses, have been passed on to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is conducting an investigation into the collapses (see August 21, 2002). [Business Insurance, 10/23/2002; Insurance Journal, 10/23/2002; Engineering News-Record, 11/4/2002] In late 2004, a jury will rule that the WTC attacks were two events, and Silverstein Properties will be tentatively awarded $2.2 billion in insurance for the destruction of the Twin Towers. [BBC, 12/7/2004; Insurance Journal, 12/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Silverstein Properties, Exponent Failure Analysis Associates, Swiss Reinsurance, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Insulated trusses in the World Trade Center.
Insulated trusses in the World Trade Center. [Source: Gilsanz Murray Steficek]At a press briefing in New York City, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) releases a 122-page progress report on its investigation into the WTC collapses. NIST began its study in August 2002 (see August 21, 2002). Investigators say they believe that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who built the Twin Towers, failed to carry out vital tests to establish how the buildings would cope with a major fire. They have been unable to find evidence that tests were conducted on the fireproofing material used in the buildings. Their report also states that in 1969, builders directed contractors to coat the WTC floor supports with half an inch of spray-on fireproofing. In 1999, the Port Authority issued guidelines to triple the thickness of the fireproofing, and by 9/11, about 30 floors in the upper areas of the two towers had been upgraded. Almost all the floors in the impact zone of the North Tower had their fireproofing upgraded, while in the South Tower just the 78th floor—the lowest in its impact zone—had been upgraded. As the New York Times states, though, “investigators took great care… to say they were nowhere close to definitively determining how and why the towers collapsed after they were struck by hijacked airliners.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 5/2003, pp. 81 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 5/7/2003; Guardian, 5/8/2003; New York Times, 5/8/2003]

Entity Tags: National Institute of Standards and Technology, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issues a progress report on its investigation into the World Trade Center collapses. Since 2002, NIST has been investigating the collapses of the Twin Towers and WTC Building 7 (see August 21, 2002). The progress report includes its “working hypothesis” for the collapse of WTC 7. This was a 47-story building, located about 350 feet from the north side of WTC 1, which collapsed completely at around 5:20 in the afternoon of 9/11. The report claims that “fire appears to have played a key role” in the collapse, though it points out, “No fire was observed or reported in the afternoon on floors 1-5, 10, or above Floor 13.” It also says, “there may have been some physical damage on the south side of the building.” NIST summarizes its working hypothesis of the WTC 7 collapse as follows:
bullet “An initial local failure at the lower floors (below Floor 13) of the building due to fire and/or debris induced structural damage of a critical column (the initiating event), which supported a large span floor bay with an area of about 2,000 square feet.”
bullet “Vertical progression of the initial local failure up to the east penthouse, as large floor bays were unable to redistribute the loads, bringing down the interior structure below the east penthouse.”
bullet “Horizontal progression of the failure across the lower floors… triggered by damage due to the vertical failure, resulting in the disproportionate collapse of the entire structure.”
NIST claims this hypothesis “is consistent with all evidence currently held by NIST, including photographs and videos, eyewitness accounts and emergency communication records,” but says it “will be revised and updated as results of ongoing, more comprehensive analyses become available.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L1, L3, L17, L34, L38, L51-L52 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/18/2004] NIST will release its final reports on the collapses of the Twin Towers in October 2005 (see October 26, 2005). As of mid-2007, it has yet to release a final report on the collapse of WTC 7. In early 2006, Dr. S. Shyam Sunder, who is the lead investigator for NIST’s WTC investigation, will admit, “truthfully, I don’t really know” what caused WTC 7 to collapse. He will add, “We’ve had trouble getting a handle on building no. 7” (see March 20, 2006). [New York Magazine, 3/20/2006] An earlier report on the WTC collapses, released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in May 2002, had been inconclusive on what caused WTC 7 to collapse, and stated that “Further research, investigation, and analyses” were necessary (see May 1, 2002). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-31]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Both towers of the World Trade Center tilted to one side before beginning to fall on 9/11 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated the collapses (see August 21, 2002), states that the South Tower, which was hit on its south side, tilted about 7-8 degrees to the east and 3-4 degrees to the south, and the North Tower, which was hit on its north side, tilted about 8 degrees to the south, before starting to fall. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 300, 308 pdf file] However, these findings are criticized by Canadian scientist Frank Greening. After examining photo and video evidence, Greening says that the South Tower tilted by no more than two degrees and the North Tower by no more than three degrees before collapse initiation. Greening also says that the tilt angles NIST gives cannot correspond to the downward movement of the towers’ walls NIST claims before they started to fall, and points out that the tilt angles NIST uses are inconsistent throughout its reports. Though Greening agrees with NIST that the towers were destroyed by the plane impacts and fire damage, he concludes that its computer model is “highly inaccurate and therefore of no value in explaining the demise of the Twin Towers.” [Greening, 11/2005 pdf file] Greening is a leading figure in the post-9/11 dispute over why the WTC collapsed and publishes a series of papers dealing with various aspects of the Twin Towers’ collapse. For example, a CBC documentary uses Greening for analysis of the WTC’s fall. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/25/2005]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Frank Greening, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The 43 NIST reports ran to over 10,000 pages.The 43 NIST reports ran to over 10,000 pages. [Source: NIST]The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issues the final report of its three-year, $16 million study into the WTC collapses on 9/11. NIST has produced over 10,000 pages of findings, and its report includes 30 recommendations for improving building safety, such as having wider stairwells and structurally hardened elevators for use in emergencies. The recommendations are mostly the same as those outlined in an earlier draft of the report (see June 23, 2005). [Engineering News-Record, 10/27/2005; New York Times, 10/27/2005] NIST has made some amendments and clarifications, though, based upon nearly 500 comments received during a six-week public review period. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 10/26/2005] NIST’s theory about what caused the Twin Towers to collapse remains the same as that described in its previously released findings (see October 19, 2004). However, the NIST’s account only examines events up to the initiation of each collapse; the investigation “does not actually include the structural behavior of the tower after the conditions for collapse initiation were reached and collapse became inevitable.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 82] NIST makes no mention of molten metal found at the collapse site in the weeks and months after 9/11, which has been described in numerous reports (see September 12, 2001-February 2002). The “NIST found no corroborating evidence for alternative hypotheses suggesting that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition using explosives planted prior to September 11, 2001.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 146] Members of Congress are critical of NIST’s recommendations, saying they are not detailed enough, or adequately documented, to be rapidly incorporated into standard building code publications. [New York Times, 10/27/2005] According to Glenn Corbett, a technical adviser to NIST and fire science professor at John Jay College, NIST is not aggressive enough to carry out major forensic investigations. He says, “Instead of a gumshoe inquiry that left no stone unturned, I believe the investigations were treated more like research projects in which they waited for information to flow to them.” [Associated Press, 10/26/2005; US Congress, 10/26/2005 pdf file] NIST will release its final report on the collapse of Building 7 of the WTC separately, at a later date. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. xiii]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Glenn Corbett, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NIST lead investigator Shyam Sunder answering questions about NIST’s three-year study of the collapse of WTC 7.NIST lead investigator Shyam Sunder answering questions about NIST’s three-year study of the collapse of WTC 7. [Source: Don Berkemeyer / National Institute of Standards and Technology]The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announces the findings of its study of the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7, and says the 47-story tower fell late in the afternoon of 9/11 primarily due to fires. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008] NIST releases its findings as part of a 915-page report, which is the result of three years’ work by over 50 federal investigators and a dozen contractors (see August 21, 2008). [New York Times, 8/21/2008]
Collapse Is 'No Longer a Mystery' - In a news conference at NIST’s headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland, lead investigator Shyam Sunder admits: “[W]e knew from the beginning of our study that understanding what happened to Building 7 on 9/11 would be difficult. It did not fit any textbook description that you could readily point to and say, yes, that’s why the building failed.” But, he says, “[T]he reason for the collapse of World Trade Center 7 is no longer a mystery.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008; New York Times, 8/21/2008]
'New Phenomenon' Caused Collapse - Sunder says the “critical factor” that initiated the collapse was “thermal expansion of long-span floor systems located in the east side of the building,” and adds that NIST’s study “has identified thermal expansion as a new phenomenon that can cause structural collapse. For the first time we have shown that fire can induce a progressive collapse.”
Collapse Sequence - Sunder describes the sequence of events NIST believes led to the collapse of WTC 7. He says debris from the collapse of the north WTC tower “started fires on at least 10 floors of the building. The fires burned out of control on six of these 10 floors for about seven hours. The city water main had been cut by the collapse of the two WTC towers, so the sprinklers in Building 7 did not function for much of the bottom half of the building.” He continues: “Fires on floors 7 through 9 and 11 through 13 were particularly severe.… Eventually, a girder on floor 13 lost its connection to a critical interior column.” Floor 13 collapsed, beginning a cascade of floor failures down to the fifth floor. “With the support of these floors gone, column 79 buckled, which initiated the fire-induced progressive collapse of the building.… This in turn caused the failure of nearby columns 80 and 81 and floor failures up to the roof line.… As the roof line begins to fall adjacent columns buckle as well. In quick succession, the remaining interior columns failed from east to west across WTC 7, until the entire core began moving downward. Finally, the remaining outer shell or fa├žade of the building fell.”
NIST Created 'Virtual WTC 7' Model - Sunder says that NIST reached its conclusions about the collapse “by reconstructing the entire building, beam by beam, column by column, connection by connection into a computer model, a virtual WTC 7 building. We then filled that virtual building with as much detail as possible about exactly what types of furnishings were on each floor. Then we set fire to those virtual offices on the floors where video and other visual evidence told us the fires burned.” The investigators “used a well-validated computer program developed at NIST, for studying the growth and spread of fires, to calculate temperatures throughout the building.… And we used well-established data on the properties of structural steel, the sprayed fire resistive material or fireproofing, and other building materials to determine how those temperatures affected the structure.”
Explosives Not Used - Sunder says that the investigators “did not find any evidence that explosives were used to bring the building down” (see August 21, 2008), nor was the collapse “due to fires from the substantial amount of diesel fuel stored in the building” (see August 21, 2008). NIST commenced its investigation of the WTC collapses in 2002 (see August 21, 2002) and issued its findings on the collapses of the Twin Towers in October 2005 (see October 26, 2005). Since then it has been focused on WTC 7. [Government Computer News, 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008]
Final Report to Be Released - After suggestions are made by members of the public in response to its current report, NIST will release a finished version of the same report in November 2008, thereby completing its WTC investigation (see November 20, 2008). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/20/2008]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Shyam Sunder

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NIST’s ‘Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7.’NIST’s ‘Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7.’ [Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology.]The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) releases the final report of its three-year investigation of the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7, the 47-story skyscraper which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). This is the completed version of the report, and comes three months after a draft version was released for public comment (see August 21, 2008). NIST states that the new report “is strengthened by clarifications and supplemental text suggested by organizations and individuals worldwide in response to the draft WTC 7 report.” NIST conducted an additional computer analysis in response to comments from the building community, and made several minor amendments to the report. But, it says, “the revisions did not alter the investigation team’s major findings and recommendations, which include identification of fire as the primary cause for the building’s failure.” With the release of this report, NIST has completed its six-year investigation of the World Trade Center collapses, which it commenced in August 2002 (see August 21, 2002). The final report of its investigation of the Twin Towers’ collapses was published in October 2005 (see October 26, 2005). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/20/2008; Occupational Health and Safety, 11/25/2008]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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