Special Coverage: 9-11-01

The following article appears in the journal JOM, 53 (12) (2001), pp. 4-7.

Engineering Groups Gather Evidence, Provide Support in Clean-up


Why Did the World Trade Center Collapse? Science, Engineering, and Speculation by Thomas Eagar and Christopher Musso

Better Materials Can Reduce the Threat from Terrorism by Toni G. Maréchaux

An Initial Microstructural Analysis of A36 Steel from WTC Building 7 by J.R. Barnett, R.R. Biederman, and R.D. Sisson, Jr.

News & Update

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., engineering groups rallied to conduct a variety of studies, ensuring the safety of search and rescue workers and gathering evidence before it was land-filled or recycled. When the analyses are complete, the professionals hope to understand, in detail, why the buildings failed, particularly the World Trade Center towers.

For instance, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) formed teams to work with local officials in New York and Washington to collect and evaluate data from the scenes. The work will be distilled into a report for ASCE membership and other interested parties. That report is expected to be completed in the spring of 2002.

To help ASCE collect data, the Structural Engineers Association of New York issued a call for volunteers to work at the two scrap yards in New Jersey receiving steel from the World Trade Center.

The teams of engineers were posted at each salvage yard, watching for potential evidence. In particular, the engineers looked for steel from the floors where the airplanes hit and where the fires broke out. Close examination of the debris could provide that information. When the twin towers were built, each piece of steel was stamped with its location in the buildings. No details have been released about the teams' findings.

The New York engineers association also is collecting information about the buildings, including photographs before, during, and after their destruction, observations of specific structural or fire damage, or any other technical information. In addition, the group is asking for similar information about buildings still standing adjacent to the World Trade Center site.

Volunteers from the organization continue to assist at "ground zero" by assessing the structural stability of the debris and shoring safe routes for equipment. The group helped to assess damage to some 400 area buildings, to determine the extent of peripheral damage caused by the tower collapse.

The American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) also was represented among the professionals evaluating the evidence of the World Trade Center collapse. The group, consisting of a core team of six people and another ten advisers, arrived at the disaster site in early October, said Scott Melnick, vice president of communications for AISC. The group’s investigation was expected to last for several months, with a final report anticipated within nine months to a year.

“They are evaluating not just the physical rubble, but doing computational analyses to create a model of the collapse,” Melnick said.

The AISC is a non-profit association representing the United States structural steel industry. The organization develops and maintains standards for design and construction of steel buildings in the United States.

The final report from the WTC investigation will be turned over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which coordinates U.S. disaster relief efforts.

Copyright held by The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, 2001

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