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Feds want new skyscraper rules
DAILY NEWS - Friday, June 24, 2005
BY PAUL H.B. SHIN
Federal investigators probing the World Trade Center collapse urged a sweeping overhaul of skyscraper building codes yesterday to make high-rises stronger and easier to evacuate.
But don't expect to see the changes in the Freedom Tower or other new buildings going up at Ground Zero, experts said.
After a three-year study, the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued 30 recommendations, including better fireproofing so a blaze can burn itself out without warping critical structural beams.
The guidelines also call for designing stairwells and elevators so a high-rise can be evacuated relatively quickly.
"We believe that the recommendations are realistic and achievable," said lead investigator Shyam Sunder, who noted that the agency is not suggesting that skyscrapers be built to withstand the impact of fuel-laden jetliners.
But critics said the recommendations are not specific enough and doubted whether they would be adopted into local building codes in time to influence the design of the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower.
"The [building] code groups move at a snail's pace," said Glenn Corbett, a professor of fire sciences at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan and a member of the advisory committee to the probe.
"The fact that NIST didn't hand them very specific code requirements is going to slow the process down," he said.
But Sunder said the recommendations were deliberately kept broad so as not to stymie innovation in construction.
Industry officials have estimated that adopting the recommendations would add 2% to 5% to the cost of a building.
Critics were also skeptical that the Port Authority, which owns the 16-acre Trade Center site, would adopt the recommendations because the agency is exempt from local building codes.
"This [report] is not going to make one iota of difference in the Freedom Tower or the new 7 World Trade Center," said Sally Regenhard of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, who lost her firefighter son Christian on 9/11.
Developer Larry Silverstein, who holds the lease on the Trade Center site, said he and his designers believe "that we have correctly anticipated the findings and recommendations contained in the NIST report, as well as recent developments in the New York City Building Code, in the design of 7 World Trade Center and Freedom Tower."
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