15 years later: on the physics of high-rise building collapses 15 years later: on the physics of high-rise building collapses

This feature is somewhat different from our usual
purely scientific articles, in that it contains some
speculation. However, given the timing and the
importance of the issue, we consider that this
feature is sufficiently technical and interesting
to merit publication for our readers. Obviously,
the content of this article is the responsibility
of the authors.

In August 2002, the U.S. National Institute of Stand-
ards and Technology (NIST) launched what would
become a six-year investigation of the three building
failures that occurred on September 11, 2001 (9/11):
the well-known collapses of the World Trade Center
(WTC) Twin Towers that morning and the lesser-known
collapse late that afternoon of the 47-story World Trade
Center Building 7, which was not struck by an airplane.
NIST conducted its investigation based on the stated
premise that the “WTC Towers and WTC 7 [were] the
only known cases of total structural collapse in high-rise
buildings where fires played a significant role.”
Indeed, neither before nor since 9/11 have fires caused
the total collapse of a steel-framed high-rise—nor has
any other natural event, with the exception of the 1985
Mexico City earthquake, which toppled a 21-story office
building. Otherwise, the only phenomenon capable of
collapsing such buildings completely has been by way
of a procedure known as controlled demolition, where
by explosives or other devices are used to bring down a
structure intentionally. Although NIST finally concluded
after several years of investigation that all three collapses
on 9/11 were due primarily to fires, fifteen years after
the event a growing number of architects, engineers, and
scientists are unconvinced by that explanation.

via 15 years later: on the physics of high-rise building collapses 15 years later: on the physics of high-rise building collapses – epn2016474p21.pdf


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