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Forget WTC - keep building tall, Arup urges architects

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Arup's tall buildings experts have urged architects and developers to keep building tall and not be deterred by safety fears. Extensive research by the engineers following the collapse of the World Trade Center has concluded that skyscrapers, however high, can be made safe against terrorist attacks.

The conclusions, in the report 'Extreme events:

the Arup view, ' outline the steps that can be taken to improve safety in existing buildings and the design modifications needed for future ones.

While the research is feeding into discussions about changes in building regulations, Arup is calling on designers to begin rethinking straight away.

'We shouldn't be waiting for the codes to change, ' said the report's author Peter Bressington.

'We've got to address it now.'

Though the work needed to make buildings safe is not monumental, added fellow researcher Faith Wainwright, people 'need to take a hard look' at rethinking their approach to design.

But, she added: 'The decision to build tall or not should be based on factors such as infrastructure, not on safety. Safety we can deal with.'

Arup established its extreme events mitigation task force in the weeks following 11 September to explore the causes of the collapse of the WTC and how it could have been prevented (AJ 29.11.01).

After setting up the group, the engineers were approached by a range of developers and designers for advice. Among their clients is Minerva, the developer behind Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners' 159m-tall, £300 million St Botolph's House planned for the city of London, which is undergoing a significant reworking.

The report's primary recommendations focus on better fire protection and measures to prevent progressive collapse. In existing buildings, it suggests that much can be done to improve escape procedures and crisis management. The findings build on simulated escape scenarios and real tests conducted at Canary Wharf in the early days following 11 September.

Bressington and Wainwright have also been advising the government on the protection of its buildings against biochemical weapons. And the report includes suggestions for the modification of air conditioning and other systems.

The researchers are adamant that reducing the height of buildings in order to ward off terrorist attacks is a 'knee-jerk reaction'.And they are confident that the measures they suggest will prevent a repeat of the WTC collapse. 'We don't just think we are right, we're sure we're right, ' said Bressington.

The findings coincide with those of the Federa Emergency Management Agency report into the cause of the WTC collapse, published last week.

Wainwright is also contributing to the ISE's own report into tall buildings. Due out in July, i will help the government make decisions abou the type of research that needs to be undertaken.

'Extreme events: the Arup view' is still in draf form and will be published shortly.

lArup's report coincides with two others from the International Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. 'The Building Safety Assessmen Guidebook' and 'The Building Safety Enhancemen Guidebook'. For details contact dmm8@lehigh. edu

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