...people and property in the fuure," said Arden L. Bement Jr., director of Gaithersburg, Md.-based NIST in March 6, 2002, congressional testimony regarding funding for the research. "This broader program would address critically and urgently needed improvements to national building and fire standards, codes and practices."

Schulte thinks that is hogwash, claiming NISTgot funding based on promises it cannot keep. "Prior to initiating the investigation, it should have been determined whether or not we expect buildings to withstand terrorist attacks," he says. "If the answer is no, then there is absolutely no point" to the study, he adds.

"Since Sept. 11, 2001, over 110,000 Americans have died on our nation’s highways," Schulte says. "Why are we spending tax dollars on an investigation of the collapse of the World Trade Center, rather than on trying to reduce highway fatalities?"

Structural engineers also voice concerns about the study. "NIST needs to be very careful about defining a rational design hazard for office buildings, which is the occupancy under study," says John D. Hooper, a principal of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Seattle, and chairman of ICC’s structural subcommittee.

OFFICE FIRE TEST Federal investigators studied office fire triggered by fuel from jet plane. (Photo courtesy of NIST)

Igniting an office filled with jet fuel and measuring results is of no relevance to codes because the scenario is not consistent with the fire hazard associated with that occupancy. "They are blurring the line so people will think the codes will address hazards [associated with] 9/11," says Hooper.

Lawrence G. Griffis, president of the structures division in the Austin, Texas, office of Walter P. Moore and Associates Inc., sums it up: "The buildings in the World Trade Center collapsed because of a malicious terrorist attack. Everything that followed was a result of that attack.

"Jon Magnusson said it very well" on Peter Jennings’ national ABC television news broadcast on 9/11, says Griffis. "The question is not why those buildings fell down but why they stood up [for so long]. If you want to stop those types of building collapses, let’s not indict the design process, let’s stop airplanes from flying into buildings."

Frames Should Be Designed to Defined Hazard

A FIRST Five and Seven WTC (above) collapsed before burnout. (Photo courtesy of New york city office of emergency management)

In a spring 2003 viewpoint, “Life Safety in High-Rise Buildings After 9/11,” published by the Society of Fire Protection Engineers in Fire Protection Engineering, Construction Technology Laboratories’ W. Gene Corley concludes that “for the life safety of those who may be trapped in the building and of those who must fight these fires, the design objective should be that no collapse occurs with a burnout. Also, the burnout considered should be related to the amount of fuel in the building if fuel exceeds the amount that would produce a ‘standard’ ASTM E119 fire.”

Walter P. Moore’s Lawrence G. Griffis agrees with Corley’s intent to design a frame to avoid burnout, but with qualifications. He says the design hazard selected should be based on the anticipated use of the building and not a terrorist event or other malicious act unless that event is stated as the design basis.

Griffis is more troubled by other points in Corley’s article, such as “the experience after the 9/11 attack...proved a building can collapse as a result of fire.”

This gives the impression buildings are being designed with insufficient fire protection, says Griffis. “In the case of the WTC towers, is it not obvious that the fuel furnished to produce these fires was far in excess of the design hazard?” he asks. “Any building will collapse from fire if the fuel source is large enough,” he says, and any fire protection system can be overcome if the fuel input exceeds that for which it was designed.

Griffis also takes issue with Corley’s statement, “Of more importance to the fire protection community, however, were the collapses of buildings WTC 5 and 7. These two buildings collapsed during burnout from fire even though there was no evidence found that the collapsed areas had been seriously damaged by impact of debris.”

Corley agrees that it is imperative to define the hazard, which should not be a missile attack. “But if you change office space to a law library,” he says, “you should check to see if the structure can carry the added gravity and added fire load.”

Corley also says that, barring an unusually high fire load, it is probable there would be no additional cost to design a building to avoid collapse before burnout.



Gadfly Hates Ambulance Chasers and False Statements

(Photo by Nadine M. Post for ENR)

Richard C. Schulte, gadfly to some and hero to others, becomes borderline apoplectic over the World Trade Center investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “It appears the only thing NIST has determined from a fire-safety standpoint so far is that women’s shoes make it difficult to evacuate a high-rise building quickly,” he says.

NIST is not his only target. Soon after 9/11, the Evanston, Ill.-based code consultant became a fire protection engineer with a cause. He spends a great deal of time debunking what he considers false statements, exposing agendas, slamming sacred cows and going against the grain.

Schulte is a 1976 graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, with a degree in fire protection engineering and a minor in structural engineering. He hung out his shingle in 1988 and has never been a member of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers because they do not represent his interests. “They are like a union or guild, looking for work and ways to make money,” he says.

Schulte figures his outspoken ways are damaging his career. “I don’t need a fancy car or a big house,” he says. (He drives a 1995 Toyota Tercel that has 224,000 miles on it and lives and works in a three-bedroom townhouse in Evanston, Ill.)

Schulte advises on “the best ways to comply with fire codes for the least amount of money” and is affiliated with the National Fire Protection Association and the International Code Council. His regular soapbox is an unpaid column in Plumbing Engineer.

The American Institute of Steel Construction is decidedly pro-Schulte. Concerned about post-9/11 backlash against steel frames, AISC distributes a 40-page reprint of Schulte’s Plumbing Engineer articles from August 2002-2003.

Schulte says he is able to write for the magazine because he is not offending...