of Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr.
Institute of Standards and Technology
Department of Commerce
Investigation of the World Trade Center Collapse:
Findings, Recommendations and Next Steps”
Boehlert, Ranking Member Hall, and Members of the
Committee, I want to thank you for this opportunity
to testify on the National Institute of Standards
and Technology’s proposed investigation into the collapse
of the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings.
will outline the proposed NIST response plan
today, and show how it complements and is responsive
to the efforts of the Building Performance Assessment
Team, or BPAT, led by the American Society of Civil
Engineers (ASCE) and sponsored by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, FEMA. The response plan addresses all major recommendations
contained in the BPAT report.
I commend Dr. Gene Corley and the BPAT members
for their excellent report and detailed recommendations.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) has also identified other critical issues that
need study, especially in areas that impact life safety
and engineering practice.
NIST proposed response plan consists of three key
program elements – including an investigation – to
be conducted in parallel (graphic to be projected
on video monitors).
a 24-month building and fire safety
investigation into the collapse of the
Twin Towers (WTC 1 and 2) and WTC 7. The goal of this program element is to investigate
the building construction, the materials used, and
the technical conditions that combined to cause these
disasters following the initial impact of the aircraft.
While WTC 4, 5,and 6 will not be investigated
specifically in this phase, what we learn in examining
WTC 1, 2 and 7 would benefit buildings of all designs.
Second, a multi-year research and development (R&D) program
to provide the technical basis to support improved
building and fire codes, standards, and practices.
This program element addresses work in critical
areas such as structural fire safety, prevention of
progressive collapse, and equipment standards for
It includes BPAT recommendations for WTC 3,
4, 5, and 6, Bankers Trust, and peripheral buildings
as well as recommendations for future studies to address
specific issues of broader scope not covered by the
program outputs and recommendations will support the
voluntary consensus process that is used to develop
building and fire codes and standards in the United
Third, an industry-led dissemination and technical assistance program
(DTAP) that will provide practical guidance
and tools to better prepare facility owners, contractors,
designers, and emergency personnel to respond to future
DTAP will also be an important complement to the R&D
effort to demonstrate and gain acceptance of proposed
changes to practice, standards, and codes. This program element addresses BPAT recommendations
for the training and education of stakeholders.
have shared the overall response plan approach extensively
with public and private sector organizations and have
welcomed their inputs since the middle of October
plan was modified in January 2002 when FEMA requested
NIST to initiate an investigation under NIST's unique
legislative authorities to conduct structural and
This request was in direct response to a growing
demand for a broad-based federal investigation into
the World Trade Center disaster from technical experts,
industry leaders, and families of building occupants
and first responders who lost their lives on September
11, 2001. We
continue to revise the plan as more technical information
becomes available and to be responsive to the suggestions
and needs of these many stakeholders.
Commerce Department and NIST have received letters
supporting our proposed response plan from key industry
leaders responsible for U.S. building and fire standards,
codes, and practices, including the American Society
of Civil Engineers, the National Fire Protection Association,
the American Institute of Architects, the Council
on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the Construction
Industry Institute, the Society of Fire Protection
Engineers, and the International Association of Fire
agree with the BPAT recommendations that additional
study of the Twin Towers and WTC 7 should be conducted.
The NIST investigation will focus on these
believe strongly that the results of such an investigation
could lead to major changes in both U.S. building
and fire codes and in engineering practice,
despite the unique design features or circumstances
under which the buildings collapsed.
We also believe strongly that the lessons to
be derived from such an investigation will be applicable
to a broad range of buildings types, not just the
specific buildings that are studied.
Let me now give you some examples to illustrate
why we believe this to be the case.
Twin Towers and WTC 7 are the only known cases of
total structural collapse where fires played a significant
disasters provide a unique source of information to
understand the complexities associated with the dynamics
of real building fires and the collapse vulnerability
of buildings to fires.
We expect to analyze that information to validate
generally applicable methodologies for use in fire
safety design and retrofit of structures, and to evaluate
the performance of fireproofing materials and connections
used in steel structures.
addition, these building disasters provide a unique
source of information to study:
safety and performance of open-web steel trussed joists
under fires. This type of trussed joist is used widely in
floor and roof systems for commercial and institutional
mechanisms – not considered previously – that could
initiate progressive collapse in buildings as a result
of fires and impact loads, including the critical
role of pivotal components such as transfer girders
and floor diaphragms.
mechanical and metallurgical behavior of many different
grades of structural steel under fires using steel
recovered from the WTC site that is being stored at
are equally important lessons for life safety – which
were outside the scope of the BPAT study:
technologies and practices for tall buildings, including
occupant behavior, evacuation, emergency response,
and the performance of built-in fire protection systems
such as sprinklers and fire alarms.
control of fire spread in buildings with large open
floor plans, and the effectiveness of compartmentation
as a means to isolate fires in such buildings.
are also important lessons to be learned for engineering
practice – areas that were not the focus of the BPAT
performance of the design, construction, and approval
processes used to assure safety whenever an innovative
structural system is used or there is a need for variances
from building and fire codes.
provision of adequate structural reserve capacity
to accommodate abnormal loads such as blast, impact,
and accidental fires – especially those that can be
anticipated prior to construction – balanced properly
against the need to achieve design efficiency.
proposed NIST investigation will include world-class
technical expertise from both within and outside NIST.
External experts will be drawn from both academia
and practice and several of those may well have contributed
to the BPAT study.
propose to charter a Federal Advisory Committee to
guide all aspects of the NIST investigation, including
the review of major investigation reports. Members of this group will be recognized for
their distinguished professional service, possess
broad technical expertise and experience, and have
a reputation for independence, objectivity, and impartiality.
have appointed a Secretariat within NIST to coordinate
NIST-level activities in support of the WTC investigation
and to maintain ongoing liaison with members of Congress,
the public, and the media.
will assign a special liaison to interact with the
families of building occupants and first responders.
We recognize the vital role that those individuals
and groups have to play in providing input on the
scope of the proposed NIST investigation. We also understand that it is appropriate and
important to keep these families and organizations
informed about the progress of the proposed investigation.
We will maintain ongoing liaison
with the professional communities over the course
of the investigation through periodic briefings, presentations,
and opportunity for comment on key investigation reports.
summary of the proposed NIST investigation plan is
attached for the record and is being made available
to the general public on the NIST website beginning
will use an open and inclusive process in planning
and conducting the investigation, and in publishing
its findings and recommendations.
We consulted extensively with technical experts
and groups in developing the plan and briefed the
BPAT experts at their January 2002 meeting, and again
last Wednesday. Yesterday,
we briefed representatives of the parent organizations
comprising the BPAT coalition. We will hold a public meeting in New York City
in the near future to share the details of the proposed
NIST plan, which will be made available to the general
public two weeks prior, and seek the public’s informed
comment on its scope before we adopt the plan as final.
our statutory requirements, before we begin a building
investigation, we consult with local authorities.
In this case, we consulted with local authorities
in New York, including the Port Authority of New York
and New Jersey, the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management,
the New York City Department of Design and Construction,
and the Fire Department of New York.
These organizations have expressed written
support for NIST and agreed to cooperate in its investigation.
Administration has expressed strong commitment for
the NIST response plan and has requested $16 million
as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s
FY 2002 supplemental budget request – now in Congress
– to support the NIST investigation.
The President’s FY 2003 budget request to Congress
also requests an increase of $2 million in base funding
to support other elements of the NIST response plan. The Building and Fire Research Laboratory within
NIST has already redirected approximately $2 million
of its existing base funds to support the response
resource requirements for the broader research and
development and dissemination and technical assistance
program will be considered in the Fiscal Year 2004
budget process and beyond.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you and
members of this Committee as NIST embarks on a very
important technical investigation. FEMA and NIST are committed to ensuring a smooth
Robert Shea and I recently signed a Memorandum of
Understanding to strengthen our collaborative bonds
by designating NIST to serve as a research and technical
resource for FEMA.
With your permission, I would like to submit
a copy of that MOU for the record. We have agreed to develop and sign, by the end of May 2002, an operational
protocol for a quick deployment mechanism that could
be activated when a NIST response to extreme events
concludes my prepared remarks.
I will be pleased to answer your questions.