The investigations: The World Trade Center towers

by Laurie A. Shuster, Editor in Chief; ASCE, ASCE World Headquarters, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Reston, VA,


Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 2022, Vol. 92, Issue 5, Pg. 30-31


Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: On Aug. 21, 2002, the National Institute of Standards and Technology announced it would conduct a building and fire safety investigation of the World Trade Center disaster. This investigation was conducted under the authority of the National Construction Safety Team Act, which was signed into law on Oct. 1, 2002, and for the first time, gave NIST the ability and authority to conduct such structural investigations. (NIST is currently using this authority to investigate the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida, on June 24.)The team was led by S. Shyam Sunder, Ph.D., and its goal was to “investigate the building construction, the materials used, and the technical conditions that contributed to the outcome of the WTC disaster after terrorists flew large jet-fuel laden commercial airliners into the WTC towers,” according to NIST’s Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, which it published in September 2005. According to the report, “NIST complemented its in-house expertise with an array of specialists in key technical areas. In all, over 200 staff contributed to the investigation. NIST and its contractors compiled and reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documents; conducted interviews with over a thousand people who had been on the scene or who had been involved with the design, construction, and maintenance of the WTC; analyzed 236 pieces of steel that were obtained from the wreckage; (and) performed laboratory tests, measured material properties, and performed computer simulations of the sequence of events that happened from the instant of aircraft impact to the initiation of collapse for each tower.”

Subject Headings: Construction materials | Terrorism | Fire resistance | Material failures | Material properties | Man-made disasters | Structural safety | Team building | Florida | United States

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