by Dee Mclachlan
This is an open letter to Australia’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Darren Chester MP, Member for Gippsland — urging the Minister to take urgent and immediate action towards the safety of steel frame high rise buildings in Australia.
The Dangers of Steel Frames Skyscrapers
The Hon Darren Chester MP
I would like to bring to your attention an urgent safety issue for millions of Australians regarding the design and construction of high-rise steel framed buildings in our cities.
Fifteen (15) years ago, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) did an inquiry, and reported on the failure and complete collapse of a 47 high rise in New York. Their investigation was to
“identify, as specifically as possible, areas in current building and fire codes, standards, and practices that warrant revision.”
The building was said to have collapsed due to fires on the several floors. They reported that:
“These lower-floor fires — which spread and grew because the water supply to the automatic sprinkler system for these floors had failed — were similar to building fires experienced in other tall buildings…”
How did the fires cause the collapse?
Their findings revealed, that:
“The heat from the uncontrolled fires caused steel floor beams and girders to thermally expand, leading to a chain of events that caused a key structural column to fail. The failure of this structural column then initiated a fire-induced progressive collapse of the entire building.”
According to the report, the fire caused expansion on one girder, causing it to displace from a critical column, Column 79. This resulted in
a “cascade of floor failures down to the 5th floor… The unsupported Column 79 then buckled and triggered an upward progression of floor system failures… Finally, the entire façade collapsed.” (NIST report here)
Diagram – Building 7 floor plan
The Dangers of Progressive Collapse
What is progressive collapse? It is a collapse defined as the spread of local damage from a single initiating event, resulting in the collapse of an entire steel structure.
Building 7 was a 47-story building, designed by Emery Roth & Sons. It was 610 feet (190 m) tall, with a trapezoidal footprint that was 330 ft (100 m) long and 140 ft (43 m) wide. Construction began in 1983 and the building was opened in May 1987.
In Australia today, there are thousands of steel-framed high-rise buildings in our major cities, with perhaps a million people working in them each day. Just in Melbourne there are many buildings over 600 feet (180 m) that were built around the same time as Building 7 in New York.
Are these buildings in danger of “progressive collapse” if there is a fire incident?
According to the NIST report, they are. And if so, you should urge Parliament to initiate an immediate inquiry into the safety of these skyscrapers.
Building 7 came down at 5:21 in the afternoon of September 11, 2001, almost seven hours after the Twin Towers had come down. See the video below. According to over 2,600 architects and engineers, Building 7 at the World Trade Center did not suffer “progressive collapse,”and provide an alternative explanation.
The lease holder, Larry Silverstein, even said in a documentary that they had to “pull” the building.
There has never been a public discussion over Building 7. Minister, in fact, this maybe the very first time you have heard of building 7 and its collapse on 9-11. When I interviewed the former prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, he too had never heard of the collapse of Building 7.
Thus, I would urge you to begin an inquiry into the safety of high rise buildings in Australia.
You too can write or contact the Minister.
(03) 5144 6744 or