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Task force outlines safety precautions for tall buildings

CHICAGO — According to a task force of leading building industry experts, egress strategies, multiply-redundant building systems, integrated building control systems, performance-based design, education and research will enhance the emergency performance of buildings.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), which met Oct. 15, also concluded that it is not practical to design any building to withstand the maliciously directed impact of a large fuel-laden aircraft. It also said the buildings in the World Trade Center attack withstood a tremendous blow, allowing more than 20,000 people to evacuate.

"It is important to understand that the attack on the World Trade Center was not about tall buildings, it was about terrorism," said the task force, which is made up of 24 industry officials from structural engineering to electrical engineering, vertical transportation, fire protection and safety, building owners and developers, building control systems, building security, blast and curtain walls.

Overall, tall buildings have excellent safety records. The task force is exploring several general safety themes:

Egress strategies. It is unlikely that there is one exit and evacuation procedure that applies to every building and every situation. However, developing updated standards that contain varied approaches of egress processes, systems, shelters, stairwells and elevators is vital to increasing awareness, understanding and probability to exit a building.

Multiple redundant building systems. Systems should be designed with multiple sources and independent distribution routes to better withstand disruptions caused by extreme events.

Integrated systems. There are numerous systems inside and outside a building that, if integrated, could provide on-site and remote information about the building and its occupants to the appropriate authorities. These systems measure, monitor and control a building and the environment of the occupants. Specific systems include structure and infrastructure, electrical, security, building management and utility management.

Performance-based design. Building codes are required for the built environment. The task force is exploring the potential for adding the function of performance-based design of buildings so those involved with designing, building and operating buildings can match the overall building design with the building’s purpose.

Education.Safety procedures are regularly explained on airplanes and in schools. As the built environment includes many more applications, guidelines to better educate building management on safety procedures, decision-making and communicating during an emergency should be established.

Research. The task force will be making recommendations for research on the built environment and will serve as a global advisory panel for all aspects relative to overall building safety.

The task force next will meet in sub-committee meetings, followed by another meeting prior to the "Building for the 21st Century" conference to be held in London in December. The conference is sponsored by CTBUH and includes a global forum on all aspects of the built environment under the themes of technology, livability and productivity.

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