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Structural steel and 9/11

April 22, 2017

My thesis was about Midland novelist Robert Bage who was also a paper-mill owner. His eldest son Charles was a wine-merchant, surveyor and later a pioneer in structural iron. He designed the oldest iron-structured building in England which still stands today and is a listed building.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditherington_Flax_Mill

His father was a supporter of equal-rights, education for the poor, an end to the dowry system, an end to duelling, an end to slavery. He also took maths lessons and was close to people of the Lunar Society: Matthew Boulton, Erasmus Darwin (very close) and the Midlands’ enlightenment in general. Charles Bage, a qualified surveyor, was aware of the dangers from fire which was quite commonplace at eighteenth century mills, especially paper mills, where a careless person could bring down the whole mill. Charles Bage has his place in the history of iron-framed buildings and communicated with Thomas Telford and William Strutt (who consulted Bage).

As a time-served toolmaker myself I know a little about the properties of metals although I am not a civil engineer. Nevertheless I think I know what would be architecturally sound and what would not, and whether a building is rigidly constructed or not. The twin towers and Building 7, which all collapsed on 11th September 2001, were rigidly constructed and very strong buildings. My contention has long been that they could not have fallen in a top-down collapse, one storey impacting on another in almost freefall, without the lower structures having been compromised.

I noticed during construction that the prefabricated floor sections (before concrete was poured onto them) were stacked on top of one another. Then they were raised by cranes that were standing on the floors of the inner core.

Each of the towers had supported the weight of these upper floors for 28 years without any problem. The undamaged structure below was just as rigid as it ever had been. The arrest was inevitable when the top of each tower failed. The only question to my mind is: when the arrest would have taken place.

Steel-framed buildings are structurally stronger than wood or reinforced concrete. Welded and bolted together they are very, very strong. You can of course bring down a steel-framed building with explosives. The easiest way is to topple it because it would be extremely unlikely to fall directly down due to its rigidity. It has never happened unless you believe it happened on 9/11. Here is the demolition of a steel-framed building.

Notice how the weaker materials have been removed at the base so they do not impede the demolition and it falls in the direction the demolition experts hope. If you stop the Pet Polymer building demolition at 1:20 just before the video ends it shows the aftermath of the demolition and may give you a clue as to why experts expected to see more steel debris in the 9/11 aftermath. The bridge disaster at Tacoma Narrows is another example of the properties of structural steel. It does not give way easily.

Ditherington-Flax-Mill1

Inside Ditherington Flax Mill (courtesy: GooseyGoo)

Something very strange happened at the World Trade Centre on that fateful day. It is why almost 3,000 architects and engineers are calling for a proper investigation. Charles Bage’s iron-framed building at Ditherington still stands after more than 200 years. Steel is stronger than iron.

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From → 9/11, Uncategorized

2 Comments
  1. That’s a lovely old building. Are those the iron support columns? That’s exactly what the Twin Towers lacked; closely-spaced vertical support.

    Of course in recent years everything has been pared down and down to reduce cost. There was a vintage car pulled up while I was at the chip shop last night, and I could barely believe how robust it was; its construction looked more like an HGV. The same goes for buildings, and a building like the Empire State has about three times the density the Twin Towers had. Your readers might like to know what the fire-fighters had to say:

    http://www.oilempire.us/wtc-design.html

    – If you reduce the structure’s mass you can build cheaper and builder higher. Unfortunately unprotected steel warps, melts, sags and collapses when heated to normal fire temperatures about 1100 to 1200 degrees F. The fire service believes there is a direct relation of fire resistance to mass of structure. The more mass the more fire resistance. The best fire resistive building in America is a concrete structure. The structures that limit and confine fires best, and suffer fewer collapses are reinforced concrete pre WWII buildings such as housing projects and older high rise buildings like the empire state building, The more concrete, the more fire resistance; and the more concrete the less probability of total collapse.

    – I believe the Empire State Building, and for that matter any other skeleton steel building in New York City, would have withstood the impact and fire of the terrorist’s jet plane better than the WTC towers.

    – The WTC started construction in the 1970s. And the WTC towers built by the Port Authority of New York did not have to comply with the minimum requirements of the new 1968 performance building code.

    – ARCHITECTURAL RECORD, INTERVIEW WITH FIRE LIEUTENANT GREGORY GARGISO –
    Our teachings on high-rise structures go like this:

    o They are broken down into three major construction groups; lightweight, medium weight and heavyweight and these designations coincide almost directly with groups according to years.
    o Almost all the heavyweights were built before 1945, the medium weights from ’45 to ’68 and the lightweights from ’68 to present.
    o It’s not too far a leap from this to deduce that your heavyweights are your Empire State, your Woolworth Building, your Equitable Insurance Building. 20 to 25 pounds per cubic foot. Limestone faced, heavy steel skeleton encased in concrete or block and tile.
    o Your lightweights are 8 to 10 lbs per cubic foot, and include of course the Trade Center, the World Financial Center, the JP Morgan building. The newest high-rises in town, basically.
    o The middleweights are a bit more elusive, maybe because this group to me are the least aesthetically pleasing. They are 10 to 20 pounds per cubic foot. The Pan Am Building (or Met Life as it is now), One Bankers Trust Plaza, The UN Building.

    – So guess which one the firefighters like to fight the fires in the most. Well, you guessed it, the heavyweights. Not because we’re hopeless romantics in love with the architecture of the early 20th Century. Why then? Because they perform under stress. You see, we are interested in results. It’s all fine and well that a particular partition is supposed last against a fire X amount of hours in a controlled laboratory test, or that a curtain wall is not supposed to allow fire to pass from one floor of a high-rise to the next. But in the organized chaos of firefighting, the knuckle dragging grunt work, the 100 or more variables thrown into the mix, the controlled yelling to orchestrate men into action against the Red Devil, the race against time, the sheer physical logistics, they don’t usually do what they were designed to do.

    Nevertheless, the Twin Towers left a hell of a mess:

  2. Clark, in future when you write a comment could you please put in inverted commas words which are quoted to distinguish them from your own. As to firefighters’ comments Gregory Gargiso is just one fireman who made comments. There are dozens more. Selective quoting is dishonest.

    “I know I was with an officer from Ladder 146, a Lieutenant Evangelista… I thought that when I looked in the direction of the Trade Center before it came down, before No. 2 came down, that I saw low-level flashes. In my conversation with Lieutenant Evangelista, never mentioning this to him, he questioned me and asked me if I saw low-level flashes in front of the building, and I agreed with him… I saw a flash flash flash and then it looked like the building came down. Q. Was that on the lower level of the building or up where the fire was? A. No, the lower level of the building. You know like when they demolish a building, how when they blow up a building, when it falls down? That’s what I thought I saw. And I didn’t broach the topic to him, but he asked me.”
    — Stephen Gregory , Assistant Commissioner (F.D.N.Y.) , p. 14

    “After a while, I was distracted by a large explosion from the south tower and it seemed like fire was shooting out a couple of hundred feet in each direction, then all of a sudden the top of the tower started coming down… Q. Bill, just one question. The fire that you saw, where was the fire? Like up at the upper levels where it started collapsing? A. It appeared somewhere below that. Maybe twenty floors below the impact area of the plane.”
    — Firefighter William Reynolds, p. 3-4

    “Then the building popped lower than the fire level… I was going oh, my God, there is secondary device because the way the building popped I thought it was an explosion.”
    — Firefighter Timothy Burke, p. 8

    “About a couple minutes after George came back to me is when the south tower from our perspective exploded from about midway up the building.” (p. 5)

    “At that point a debate began to rage because the perception was that the building looked like it had been taken out with charges.” (p.7)
    — Firefighter Christopher Fenyo

    “As my officer and I were looking at the south tower, it just gave. It actually gave at a lower floor, not the floor where the plane hit, because we originally had thought there was like an internal detonation explosives because it went in succession, boom, boom, boom, boom, and then the tower came down.”
    — Firefighter Edward Cachia, p. 5

    “Meanwhile we were standing there with about five companies and we were just waiting for our assignment and then there was an explosion in the south tower… A lot of guys left at that point. I kept watching. Floor after floor after floor. One floor under another after another and when it hit about the fifth floor, I figured it was a bomb, because it looked like a synchronized deliberate kind of thing.”
    — Firefighter Kenneth Rogers, p. 3

    “The tower was — it looked to me — I thought it was exploding actually. That’s what I thought for hours afterwards, that it had exploded, or the plane, or there had been some device on the plane that had exploded, because the debris from the tower had shot out far over our heads. It was raining down.” (p.8)

    “… I finally got through on my phone to my father and said ‘I’m ailve’… I said ‘Yeah, I was right there when it blew up.’ He said, ‘You were there when the planes hit?’ I said, ‘No, I was there when it exploded, the building exploded.’ He said, ‘You mean, when it fell down?’ I said, ‘No, when it exploded.'” (p.15)
    — Fire Marshall JohnCoyle

    Source: http://www.911truth.dk/first/en/kp_towers.htm

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