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PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2005 6:58 am    Post subject: NIST PROMISES FURTHER ACTION ON WORLD TRADE CENTER FINDINGS
From Fri Oct 28, 2005 3:00 am to Mon Oct 31, 2005 1:59 am (included)
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The NIST Hearing included testimony from Sally Regenhard of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, and Glenn Corbett, Professor of Fire Science at John Jay College, NYC




WASHINGTON, DC – Dr. Bill Jeffrey, the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), promised at a Science Committee hearing today to meet deadlines to ensure that NIST’s recommendations from its investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) could be incorporated into building codes.

Jeffrey also promised to make more materials uncovered in that investigation available to the public.

Jeffrey made the promises in response to questions from Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who pressed repeatedly for swift and concrete action on the recommendations.

Specifically, Jeffrey pledged that at least some of the NIST recommendations would be put in a form by March in which they could be debated by the International Code Council (ICC), the nation’s leading model building code group. March is the next deadline for proposals to be considered by the ICC. Several witnesses, including the ICC, testified that the NIST recommendations were written in a way that was too general to be considered by code writing organizations.

NIST’s final report on the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers was released today, and the Science Committee hearing examined NIST’s findings and recommendations, and next steps.

In opening the hearing, Boehlert said, “NIST took seriously the mandate this Committee and the nation gave it in the National Construction Safety Team Act, and assembled an impressive group of experts that produced a comprehensive and impressive report. But our focus now has to be on whether everyone is doing enough to translate the report into specific, concrete steps that will protect future tragedies.

“This is the Committee’s third hearing on the tragic collapse of the World Trade Center, but will not be our last. The issues raised in NIST’s report go far beyond a single, horrific terrorist incident, and indeed beyond terrorism as a phenomenon. The report raises fundamental questions about what we know about the behavior of buildings and their contents, what we know about the behavior of individuals in emergencies, and about whether buildings are well enough designed for any large emergency. The protection of life is the highest responsibility of public officials. And our hearing today is about that responsibility, just as much as any hearing on the military or homeland security would be.”

“The publication of the NIST report may signal the end of the investigation itself, but it launches a new phase in a process that I hope will result in safer buildings throughout our nation,” said Environment, Technology, and Standards Subcommittee Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI). “NIST’s recommendations indicated that there are opportunities to make buildings safer and now its role becomes a technical advisor to the code development process.”

ICC, an association of state and local code officials, building managers, and other parties, maintains the International Building Code, the most widely used model building code in the U.S. Henry Green, President of ICC, testified that the lack of specificity in the NIST recommendations would impede their incorporation into building codes. “[T]he recommendations are not written in a way that facilitates direct adoption and do need to be reframed in a manner that is specific to the desired result, consistent with the statutory construction of the ICC codes, and presented in a manner that provides citation to each section and subsection of the code that is directly or collaterally impacted by the proposal….”

Testifying on behalf of the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), whose standards are referenced extensively in the NIST report, Dr. James Harris, President of J.R. Harris & Company, agreed that further refining of the NIST recommendations was needed. “ASCE/SEI feels that some of the NIST recommendations need further clarification and discussion.” Harris added that while ASCE supports NIST recommendations to increase continuing education opportunities within the engineering profession, “[I]ssues, such as cross-training of fire and structural engineering professionals, need to be clarified in further discussions.”

In his testimony, Glen Corbett, Assistant Professor of Fire Sciences at John Jay College, asked, “Where do we go from here with regard to the World Trade Center? The ball is in NIST’s court, and it is up to them – with their contractors – to quickly whittle the desirable but too general recommendations down into well-defined code language that can be quickly moved through the model code review process. I strongly encourage them to be bold, to use their best engineering judgment, and come up with clear and concise code language. High-rise safety is in the balance.” Corbett is also a member of the NIST National Construction Safety Team Advisory Board, though his testimony today was not on behalf of the board.

Nancy McNabb, Director of Government Affairs for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), whose standards are also extensively reference in NIST’s report, said, “NFPA is pleased to see the effort of NIST resulting in positions on many controversial and sometimes unpopular subjects. However, the need to conduct more research in numerous areas is clear.”

The hearing began with testimony from Sally Regenhard, Chairperson of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, which represents families and survivors of the World Trade Center disaster and supports stronger codes and practices for buildings and first responders. Discussing NIST’s final report, Regenhard told the Committee, “While some very valuable results were achieved, the overall mode and finding of the investigation was not what I had hoped for. I had certain hopes regarding NIST and the investigation, but I and others were disillusioned regarding what NIST was willing and able to do. I had hoped for more specific and comprehensive recommendations that could easily be translated into code reform and change, but this is not the case. The recommendations are very general and lack specifics.” Regenhard’s son, Probationary Firefighter Christian Michael Otto Regenhard, lost his life in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.


House Science Committee Press Office -- 2320 Rayburn Building -- Washington, DC 20515

202-225-4275 (phone), 202-225-3170 (fax)

Contact: Joe Pouliot, 202-225-0581 joe.pouliot@mail.house.gov
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