World Trade Center Study Spurs Improvement of Codes

April 18, 2006
Intl. Code Council members will vote on proposed changes this fall

When the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released the final report in October 2005 from its technical investigation of the fires and collapses of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers on 9/11, included were 30 recommendations for improving building and occupant safety derived from the findings. On March 24, 2006, the first 19 proposed changes to model building codes (used as templates for codes legislated, implemented, and enforced by state and local jurisdictions) based upon and consistent with the NIST WTC recommendations were submitted to the Intl. Code Council (ICC).

“Taken together, they are a robust, reasonable, and appropriate set of advancements and, if adopted, would represent a significant improvement in public safety over current practice,” says WTC Lead Investigator Shyam Sunder.

The 19 proposed changes - submitted by building code experts associated with two ICC committees, the National Institute of Building Sciences and the U.S. General Services Administration - address areas such as increased resistance to building collapse from fire and other incidents; use of spray-applied fire resistive materials (commonly known as “fireproofing”); performance and redundancy of fire protection systems (i.e. automatic sprinklers); elevators for use by first responders and evacuating occupants; the number and location of stairwells; exit path markings; and fuel oil storage/piping.

“NIST welcomes and fully respects the ongoing debate among the professional and building official communities as they consider these proposals for adoption,” Sunder says.

All ICC members will have the opportunity to vote on the proposals at hearings scheduled for this fall. All changes passed, and those which did not pass (but for which public comments are received) will then be up for approval - and inclusion in the ICC codes - when ICC government member representatives meet in the spring of 2007.

For more information, including a Web-based system for tracking the progress toward implementing all of the NIST WTC recommendations, visit ( This article was reprinted from the April 13, 2006, edition of TechBeat, an e-newsletter issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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