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Sunday, 9 December, 2001, 09:29 GMT
Safety focus at skyscraper summit
London Bridge Tower, PA
The proposed 80-storey London Bridge Tower
Super-tall buildings are unlikely to be built in the US or Europe in the near future, but such large structures will continue to be constructed in other parts of the world.

That was the view expressed on Monday by Ron Klemencic, chairman of the US Council on Tall Buildings and the Urban Habitat.

Mr Klemencic was speaking during a conference in London, UK, that is discussing the future of skyscrapers in cities around the world in the light of the 11 September attacks.

He told the BBC: "It's likely that we'll continue to build towers in 30-40-storey range - which is commonly the height of buildings in Europe - but the super-tall buildings are probably not going to be constructed for a while.

"In Asia, however, there is still a great interest in constructing tall buildings above 100 storeys. Much of that has to do with political statements; to prove that these countries' economies are robust and making progress towards the 21st Century."

Widespread concern

Delegates at the three-day global high-rise and development summit - called Building For The 21st Century - are looking at ways of preventing a repeat of the death and destruction caused by the plane attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon, which killed more than 3,000 people.

The collapse of the twin towers in New York has pushed issues such as structure, safety, security and communications to the top of the agenda. The revolutionary towers were built to withstand tremendous forces and had already survived a 1993 terrorist bombing.

Petronas, AP
Asia is still keen on super-tall buildings
But since they crumbled to a mass of rubble, hundreds of e-mails, telephone calls and letters from across the globe have been sent to the Council on Tall Buildings and the Urban Habitat, asking what measures should be introduced to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again.

The conference is talking about three key areas. One concerns the improvement of building structures, to make them more resistant to impact.

Another area being reviewed is safety and evacuation procedures. The third area relates to building control systems, such as the location of emergency power systems.

Impact zone

However, Mr Klemencic, president of the structural engineers Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire of Seattle, said it was important there was no knee-jerk reaction to 11 September.

"There was nothing that we found in our investigations of 11 September that says our building codes make our towers inherently unsafe. In fact, 11 September, when you cut through it all, is more about aeroplanes than it is about buildings.

Remains of Twin Towers after attacks, AP
The twin towers were reduced to rubble
"The statistics of the WTC disaster say that 75% of those who perished were at or above the impact floor. Those who were able to find the exit stairs and find their way out of the building - they got out. It was only those people killed immediately or those not able to find the exit stairs that didn't."

But Mr Klemencic said architects and engineers would have to change their thinking on certain issues.

"A specific example of that might be where we locate the security systems or emergency power systems. Whereas, in the past, we may have located them in a place for convenience, today we would probably locate them in a place that makes them less vulnerable to attack."

The summit was originally conceived as a forum to discuss ways of managing the urban expansion in a way that is environmentally friendly and economically viable.

It is now estimated that around half the world's population is living in an urban environment and the figure is expected to rise over the next few decades.

Ron Klemencic
"11 September is more about aeroplanes than it is about buildings"
See also:

08 Nov 01 | Europe
ETA 'plotted skyscraper massacre'
22 Oct 01 | Business
Tenants desert Empire State Building
02 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
China presses on with tallest tower
03 Oct 01 | England
'Green' skyscraper plan for city
21 Sep 01 | Business
What is the future for skyscrapers?
18 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
The destructive forces unleashed
13 Sep 01 | Americas
How the World Trade Center fell
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