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Tall buildings report unveiled on 9/11 anniversary

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A leading American architectural think tank has unveiled the first comprehensive report into how architects have changed the design of tall buildings five years on from September 11.

The study by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat - released on the fifth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks - highlights the lessons learned by designers and engineers in the aftermath of the terrorist atrocities.

According to council chairman David Scott, the attacks 'challenged perceptions and prompted questions about the viability of tall buildings'.

Scott, a structural engineer with Arup in New York, said: 'Tall building design moved out of the technical domain and into the public domain.

'Though it is neither practical nor feasible to design buildings to withstand every foreseeable extreme event, safety concerns have led building owners, developers and occupants to demand more robust building designs, and that demand has been answered.'

The report highlights the critical issues that have been reviewed since such high-profile tall building disasters, such as the World Trade Center collapse and the Windsor Tower fire in Madrid in February 2005.

The issues looked at include:

building evacuation, where greater emphasis is on providing facilities and management to allow 'safe phased total evacuation';

elevators, and how they can be more robust to significantly reduce evacuation times;

structural stability and the ways buildings can better withstand severe fire and prevent collapse;

materials, detailing robust fire protection;

emergency access, to provide dedicated fire fighting access through internal stairwells;

communication, providing improved devices and facilities for firefighters; and

building management, to develop strategies that contemplate a broad range of potential catastrophic events.

The council hopes the analysis of these issues will help designers to quantify and understand real building performance, providing more robust design for fire or other extreme events.

by Richard Vaughan

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