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A Call for Opinions: The Future of the Super Tall Building

By Jim Tour in Op-Ed
Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:00:56 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

The purpose of this article is to elicit opinions from the K5 community on a question now under extremely active debate in architectural, engineering and governmental circles: should American cities discontinue all new construction of, and abandon all plans for, super tall buildings? The most insightful comments will be repackaged (assuming your permission) and sent to public and private entities now wrestling with this question.


First, a few definitions. The term "skyscraper" might seem synonymous with "super tall building". In this discussion, "skyscraper" is any building over forty stories and "super tall building" is any over seventy stories. One could be in favor of continuing skyscraper construction but not super tall construction, in favor of both, or neither. If you're opposed to new super tall construction, please try to indicate in your comments whether you only became opposed since 9/11.

Discussion might benefit from clarification of a few issues. The two most widespread reasons for opposition to new super tall construction stem from, 1) safety concerns and, 2) quality-of-life concerns. Safety concerns relate almost exclusively to the threat of future terrorist attacks like those of 9/11. Quality-of-life concerns usually involve urban planning ideas and/or the feeling that super tall construction is a form of unhealthy hubris . Those opposed to new construction due to safety concerns are likely to have formed their views in the last eight months. Those opposed due to quality-of-life concerns are likely to have felt that way before 9/11.

Where you stand on the safety issue may have to do with the kinds of statements that have been made since 9/11 by architects, structural engineers, public safety officials and similar professionals. I will discuss a number of these statements, hoping to jog your thoughts on the matter. While some of my own statements may be debatable, they will be successful if they serve to draw the issues sharply.

Perhaps more than any other statement, we have heard variations of "on 9/11 the WTC did as well as could reasonably be expected under the circumstances". The architect (Minoru Yamasaki) and structural engineers (headed by Leslie E. Robertson) are lauded for creating structures that withstood the initial impacts of the jetliners and remained standing long enough for a majority of occupants to escape. Upon hearing this statement or one of its variants , many people are apt to decode it as "a 110 story office building that can remain permanently upright after being hit by a fully fueled Boeing 767 traveling 400 miles per hour is a technical impossibility". But this is not what the professionals mean. When they say the WTC performed as well as could be expected, they are speaking strictly of the architectural class the WTC belonged to: relatively lightly built super tall buildings with  load bearing walls. In the FAQ section of Mr. Robertson's corporate website, the question "Can engineers design buildings that are terrorist-resistant?" is posed. He answers, "Yes, but they would likely resemble fortresses and people probably would not use them and might not be able to afford them. Engineers can, and do, use many methods to enhance the security of buildings and other structures... In designing buildings to withstand threats a balance must be reached between safety and freedom and the effect of each upon our nation's infrastructure. Events such as those of September 11 may well challenge America's commonly held feelings about that balance."

From this it is fair to infer that the WTC was not, perhaps for unavoidable but non-technical reasons, maximized for safety against a 9/11 type attack. The important point is that, from a strictly methods/materials view, super talls capable of remaining permanently upright in such an attack are indeed feasible.

What of Robertson's assertion that such a building would necessarily resemble a fortress and so would not be suitable for civilian use? When hypothetically putting aside all cost and aesthetic considerations, one can envision a 110 story tower made of thick full-frame steel, no windows, with a small core area housing offices, that would suffer little more than external char marks in a 9/11 type attack. This is plainly not a possibility from any standpoint other than the technical one. Its cost to build may not be substantially greater than the WTC-class, but the complete absence of tenant income renders it infeasible.

But is it true that a super tall building uncollapsible by means available to terrorists must resemble a fortress? Here the question pits four possible classes of super tall against each other. The first class is the "glass box", whose tallest member is the Sears Tower of Chicago. The second is the WTC-class, built, as are the glass boxes, for elegance and maximal floorspace, but with extra structural redundancy mostly embodied in exterior load bearing supports. The third could be called the Petronas-class, after the Petronas Towers of Malaysia which are built similarly to the pre-1960 generation of New York skyscrapers like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, with full steel skeletons of interior supporting columns and high concrete-to-steel ratios. The fourth class has no current member, but might be called the Reinforced Double-wide Petronas-Class, featuring even heavier full steel frame construction, 65/35 concrete-to-steel ratio, increased from the 60/40 ratio of the plain Petronas-class, and a roughly doubled horizontal cross-section to eliminate the chance a catastrophic side impact could compromise the integrity of enough supporting columns to initiate collapse.

The glass box class can be ruled out immediately. Apologies to anyone who might be alarmed, but the Sears Tower would almost surely have collapsed upon impact had it stood where the WTC did on 9/11 (steps are being taken to retrofit the Sears Tower and other glass boxes, so there is reason for optimism there). Just as plainly, the WTC-class can be ruled out. A super tall with gypsum-shielded core as the main support complemented by load bearing walls and a 40/60 concrete-to-steel ratio, even if hardened with extra floor trusses, better fire retardant, single-floor sprinkler systems and other improvements, would not gain the trust of tenants in light of 9/11. The Petronas-class, though it comes much closer to our requirements, would also encounter a fatal confidence problem. When a group of experts from MIT was recently asked how the Petronas Towers would have fared under 9/11 conditions, it was reluctantly conceded they would have done better than the WTC, perhaps standing several hours longer, enabling airborne firefighting efforts and much quicker and safer foot evacuation from even the highest floors (stairwells encased in reinforced concrete, which Petronas has and the  WTC lacked, might preserve top to bottom contiguity). It is even debatable that the Petronas Towers would have remained standing indefinitely. But we don't want to hear the word 'debatable' in this context. This leaves the fourth class.

The Reinforced, Double-wide Petronas-class would almost certainly remain upright in a 9/11 event, but would its massive masonry-to-steel ratio and enormous footprint render it a "fortress", in Robertson's use of the term? If you believe such an ultra reinforced structure could find an accepted, remunerative place in a real-life downtown, it would seem your logical stance would be to favor new super talls, unless you oppose them for reasons unrelated to 9/11. If you believe such a structure would in fact be too bunker-like to succeed in the urban environment, you would need to look no further for reasons to oppose new super talls.

Turning to the second primary reason for opposition to new super talls- the quality-of-life concerns mentioned earlier- we see that the issue of safety has insinuated itself here, too. Many urban planners and others concerned with these questions have long opposed all such construction regardless of building type, but until now they have been distinctly in the minority. Now that the only building type with an acceptable safety level is either a fortress or something much closer to a fortress than anything in existence today, the quality-of-life issue becomes decisive for many who formerly felt otherwise. An ultra reinforced double-wide building would have minimal window coverage, giving it a glowering aspect magnified by its unprecedented horizontal bulk. Unless the architect found inspired compensations, those on the inside would feel they were in an enormous capsule cut off from the city and those on the outside would hardly experience the brooding gargantuan as an inviting presence. On the other hand, is it really so critical that a building or building complex integrate in such smiling ways with whatever's around it? Is there some fundamental law that dictates a super tall cannot practice a splendid isolation?

Two of the most forceful voices against super talls on quality-of-life grounds are writers James Howard Kunstler and Nikos A. Salingaros. They write, "We are convinced that the age of skyscrapers is at an end. It must now be considered an experimental building typology that has failed... We predict that no new megatowers will be built, and existing ones are destined to be dismantled. This will lead to a radical transformation of city centers -- which, however, would be an immensely positive step towards improving the quality of urban life. The only megatowers left standing a century hence may be in those third-world countries who so avidly imported the bric-a-brac of the industrialized world without realizing the damage they were inflicting on their cities." They favor low-rise cities on a "human scale" and would like to see outright laws banning super talls, and all skyscrapers for that matter. One might look to the example of Los Angeles, a relatively low-rise, horizontal city and ask how 'vibrant the quality of urban life' is there. In any event, your stance here will be largely subjective, perhaps less so if you've been forced to it by the stolid building types now made necessary by the terrorist threat. Across the spectrum from the quality-of-lifers are those who believe the super tall to be almost self-justifying in inspirational value. Their imaginations soar along the vertical plane, earthbound issues falling away as they go. Allied to these are people whose main motivation is to construct a cloud piercing "I'M BACK!" for Al Qaeda's edification.

The K5 demographic is smack in the middle of these issues, which is why I'm hopeful of getting some pointed responses. Youngish, well educated, more urban than a random sampling-- the kinds of places you will work in, live in and sojourn in far into the future, actually for your entire futures, are being decided now. For those of you who might be looking at serious time working abroad, the situation is particularly acute, and there's little doubt decisions made in the U.S. will have a far-reaching effect. Japan proposes a 180 floor behemoth, a full super tall again higher than the WTC, in Tokyo for 2009 (although the project is on indefinite hold at present). Beijing proposes a 140 floor mixed-use tower. Taiwan has a 101 floor job already under construction and a 103 floor tower approved for 2008. Brazil plans the 108 floor 'Tower of Peace' for Sao Paulo in 2004. In the U.S., where enthusiasm for super talls was just beginning to slowly rise again during the '90s boom, plans have been damped since the economic downturn starting in April, 2000. Chicago proposes an 85 floor office/residential tower for 2006 and Miami is nearly finished with a 66 floor near-super-tall hotel. And, of course, the movement to rebuild a super tall in Lower Manhattan cannot be discounted. Of all the designs so far, the Tokyo megatower is the most radical departure. It is a pure cone sitting within a sort of airy cage. If the interstices of the cage 'mesh' were reduced somewhat it might even serve as a first line defense against attack-by-jetliner.

The main questions I think need answering are: Should all new super tall construction be discontinued and all proposals abandoned? If not, what terrorist-resistant designs might circumvent the fortress factor? Are there any compelling reasons, such as the need to work and live vertically to prevent suburban sprawl, that might convince us to forge ahead with super talls despite the risks? Should quality-of-life concerns have kept us from ever going above the Woolworth Building? Would a return to full steel frame construction with high concrete/steel ratios be too much of an aesthetic compromise? Does the 'human spirit' demand super talls? Does the 'human spirit' demand 'human scale' buildings?

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A Call for Opinions: The Future of the Super Tall Building | 234 comments (227 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
editorial/topical (3.25 / 8) (#1)
by The Amazing Idiot on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:02:07 AM EST

I like this article for a few good reasons, but the best is that it sparks argument. Sites like this thrive on open ended arguments where there is no "real" answer.

Opinion: I think we HAVE to rebuild a WTC-like tower in the similar spot, but bigger. The trrorists are being bombed, killed, whatever, but they left a scar on us. The only way to "erase" that scar is to reconstruct a bigger building. As long as we dont, they can laugh and jeer at out "scars".

Meh (3.75 / 4) (#2)
by MVP99Z on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:08:48 AM EST

Americans always want bigger, faster, better, cheaper.  I can't say I blame us, though.  Let's rebuild, but not for spite.  We desperately need those offices back so that business can be conducted like it normally was before the horrible morning of September 11, 2001.

[ Parent ]
A pound of cure? (5.00 / 5) (#57)
by fathomghost on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:05:58 PM EST

If we're going to lick our wounds in the manner you describe, we're going to have to swallow our pride first.

Face it.  We were in desperate need of a little reality check, over here in our safe, blissful, ignorant little corner of the world.  I would never condone the murder of those people.  I lost my faith in the U.S.A when we sacrificed that poor deranged man Timothy McVeigh to appease the vengeful and bloodthirsty mob.  How we react in the face of this tragedy will determine the character of our people, and will undoubtedly color the world's perception of us in the new millenium. Unfortunately, righteous indignation is still considered a virtue over here, and your flippant attitude toward our retribution ("The trrorists are being bombed, killed, whatever") just proves how decadent and inhumane our people have become.

If you think building the Wounded Pride Megatowers is going to "erase" the "scar" left behind in all of the families of the victims of that act, then maybe you need to take another look around.  Buildings aren't going to replace them.  Pride won't bring them back.  Machismo won't slay the well earned hatred we've earned for ourselves in the last 60 years.

This isn't about not being laughed at.  It isn't about showing how worthy we are to the world.  It's about having worth in the first place.  I for one am not "proud to be an american".  Every day I watch my civil liberties ground into the dirt by greed-ridden corporate aristocrats, politicians corrupted by power and overzealous police brute-squads.  Virtually nobody is capable of making an educated and intelligent vote, and the political system is corrupted so far beyond redemption that the people who actually do vote are really just choosing their next corporate puppet.

And the people here like it that way.  We love it. And if we don't love it, we certainly deserve it. Thomas Jefferson would roll over in his grave.

Groan.

~fathomghost

------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]

where is that pound? (none / 0) (#96)
by The Amazing Idiot on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:08:43 PM EST

---" This isn't about not being laughed at.  It isn't about showing how worthy we are to the world.  It's about having worth in the first place.  I for one am not "proud to be an american".  Every day I watch my civil liberties ground into the dirt by greed-ridden corporate aristocrats, politicians corrupted by power and overzealous police brute-squads.  Virtually nobody is capable of making an educated and intelligent vote, and the political system is corrupted so far beyond redemption that the people who actually do vote are really just choosing their next corporate puppet.

And the people here like it that way.  We love it. And if we don't love it, we certainly deserve it. Thomas Jefferson would roll over in his grave."---

Beautifully said. Still, comes the standard rhetoric in repsonse. "Give me one place which is BETTER". Every station that deals with international issues always have that 'horrid look' of another country. Flat out, where else is better? TV is'nt reliable (for anything). On the net everybody hates something (doesnt matter what it is). Where is there a fair review of every 1'st world country in comparison to the US and others? I am yet to find one.

[ Parent ]

Erm... (5.00 / 1) (#140)
by bjlhct on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 07:44:08 PM EST

Switzerland?
Sweden?

Maybe Japan?

The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage
[ Parent ]

And others. (none / 0) (#171)
by tekue on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 07:30:50 AM EST

Canada, Netherlands... This depends on your own definition of 'good'. I for one would rather move to any of those (in this and parent comment)countries than to the US.

IMO the problem with today's world is that it's turning into a socialist "paradise", and US will get there, it's just a bit late. Or maybe US will turn into a police-state, run by republicrats, will see.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

Location, location... (none / 0) (#224)
by Dyolf Knip on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 08:34:02 PM EST

Switzerland? Possibly. At the very least, we don't seem to be hearing about _bad_ events going on there.

Sweden? Unlikely. It's a EU member and that body is in far too many respects following the US's lead in paving a new road to hell. Similarly for the Netherlands, especially with their shiny new pro-moral government coalition.

And Japan? I thought we were trying to get away from monolithic corporate interests having power over the governance?

---
If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

Your question is more than fair... (none / 0) (#234)
by fathomghost on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 04:53:25 PM EST

But my point is this:

We can gripe about the state of our culture, and we should. Social change is brought about in this manner. There *is* a place that is better than the United States. It just doesn't exist yet. It is the responsibility of every man and woman on the planet to create that place.

~fathomghost

------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]

so well put... (none / 0) (#99)
by Subtillus on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:22:04 PM EST

What is left for us to do but sit and watch it all go to pieces?

[ Parent ]
please don't underestimate me (4.00 / 1) (#107)
by The Amazing Idiot on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:49:20 PM EST

---"Face it.  We were in desperate need of a little reality check, over here in our safe, blissful, ignorant little corner of the world."

It's been longer than 60 years. I'd say about since world war 1.

---"I would never condone the murder of those people.  I lost my faith in the U.S.A when we sacrificed that poor deranged man Timothy McVeigh to appease the vengeful and bloodthirsty mob."

Damn straight. Where did his "fair trial" go? They just sent him to the axe to shut up the people who were about to call for a riot. Seems almost the same situation that found in the bible (Pilate). Of course, this made him look like a martyr.

---"How we react in the face of this tragedy will determine the character of our people, and will undoubtedly color the world's perception of us in the new millenium. Unfortunately, righteous indignation is still considered a virtue over here, and your flippant attitude toward our retribution ("The trrorists are being bombed, killed, whatever") just proves how decadent and inhumane our people have become."

Exactly. The US is strongly based in Judeao/Christan belifs and uses them as a core for our laws. However, instead of paying attention to the Christian side when dealing with law, they err on the side of the Jewish customs. Read Exodus to see what I mean (in reference to punishments). We're still bloodthristy as always.

However, to see the true sickness of this inhumanity, go ask somebody why Osama bin Laden attacked us. They'll usually spout something like "They're terrorists!" or the like, then say we oughtta Nuke'em. I've never got a straight answer to why they did this, with exception to many people on K5. We invaded his soil (Saudi Arabia) and essentially forced OUR laws and beliefs on to their own. They asked us to leave , and we didnt. In retalitation, they down a building. Seems if we would have NOT invaded their own homeland, all of this wouldn't have happened.

Still, dont bother talking to "normal people" to the reasons behind the (eerie voice) 9/11. Most just spout "kill the fuckers". And they'll label you a "terrorist".

And as one last open ended question... Why havent we officially declared a War? I've yet to understand why.


[ Parent ]

what color is the sky in your world? (4.00 / 1) (#188)
by tbauc on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 12:49:35 PM EST

"However, to see the true sickness of this inhumanity, go ask somebody why Osama bin Laden attacked us. They'll usually spout something like "They're terrorists!" or the like, then say we oughtta Nuke'em. I've never got a straight answer to why they did this, with exception to many people on K5. We invaded his soil (Saudi Arabia) and essentially forced OUR laws and beliefs on to their own. They asked us to leave , and we didnt. In retalitation, they down a building. Seems if we would have NOT invaded their own homeland, all of this wouldn't have happened."
When was it we invaded Saudi Arabia? I must have missed that on the news. I think you misspelled "we were invited by the Saudis".

And why is it okay for millions of Arab Muslims to reside here in the USA, but it is not OK for a few thousand American GIs to sit inside the fences of a coalition air base in the middle of the Saudi desert?

When was it we forced our beliefs and laws on the Saudis? Last time I was stationed at Prince Sultan, we were not allowed to even leave the base. When I was at Khobar Towers (before the bombing), when we left base to go out on the town we dressed according to Saudi custom and acted appropriately.

Also, OBL is no longer a Saudi citizen. I believe I saw something on the news a while back about him being stripped of his citizenship there. Huh.

Apparently there are these huge delusions amongst the hippy crowd of BDU-clad American GIs storming the streets of Saudi Arabia and raping/pillaging everything in sight. It just ain't so. I know it, OBL knows it, and now so do you.

[ Parent ]
Human scale buildings Vs. Urban sprawl (4.88 / 9) (#3)
by Chris K on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:09:57 AM EST

What the author fails to note, is that Los Angeles is the poster child for urban sprawl, and I argue that it is partly because of a lack of skyscrapers.  Chicago has one of the highest percentages of skyscrapers, and while sprawl is indeed a problem, it is nowhere as epidemic as L.A.  Commute times are lower in Chicago than L.A. or New York (which is a megalopolis.)  Why?  Because towers such as these tend to have many condos.  People living in these buildings have short commutes (witness all the walkers in Manhattan sometime) and therefore don't have to drive in from the suburbs.  

Skylines:L.A. Chicago  New York

(note: I am using Chicago as an example, because that is what I am familiar with)
duxup: I think people who give should be hunted down and hugged. (IRC)

re: Human scale (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by Jim Tour on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:20:04 AM EST

Chris- I think you misread that part a little bit, which is very understandable in such a rambling article. I had just quoted the writers who are in favor of outlawing skyscrapers, believing that shorter buildings would improve the quality of life in city centers. I then say "One might look to the example of Los Angeles, a relatively low-rise, horizontal city and ask how 'vibrant the quality of urban life' is there." Personally, my answer would be 'not very vibrant', for exactly the reasons you give.

[ Parent ]
Misread (none / 0) (#7)
by Chris K on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:28:26 AM EST

Ok, fair enough, I did indeed misread.  But, the point needed to be made a little more, I think, why the quality of life would be lower.  Have a good one...

duxup: I think people who give should be hunted down and hugged. (IRC)
[ Parent ]
Do us a favor... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by JanusAurelius on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:00:56 AM EST

...and repost this on the edit queue or whatnot. From the sound of it, it needs work, but this is certainly an interesting topic and I would like to see it rewritten a bit-- i mean you yourself called it rambling.

[ Parent ]
L.A. -- not vibrant (none / 0) (#160)
by joeD on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:50:39 PM EST

I did not get the impression from the article that the author considered Los Angeles a "vibrant" place. my irony meter was at about 7 (out of 10) when I read the sentence about L.A.

as a native of L.A. myself, I have to agree. Los Angeles, despite some truly excellent neighborhoods, lacks a certain quality which I find difficult to define, but which I sense in abundance when I'm in, say, Chicago or NYC. it definitely has something to do with the human density in those places.

while I'm sympathetic to efforts to "rehumanize" cities (and I find that few skyscrapers contribute to that) there's something about dense cities that a place like L.A. will never have.

[ Parent ]

A few points (4.54 / 11) (#4)
by carbon on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:15:56 AM EST

I think that, in selecting a new type of general building design for tall buildings, more types of disasters must be anticipated besides airplane impacts. Certainly, such an attack has been demonstratably proven viable, in an anecdotal way, but that doesn't mean much statistically.

Besides, now the we're prepared for just such an attack; an organized attacker would be more likely to try something that isn't anticipated. Before 9/11, being rammed with a 747 probably wasn't a big architectual consideration in desigining large buildings.

Other possible attacks to consider include:
  • Bombed from the inside: How would the building handle a large explosion at the base? Or, perhaps worse, on some middle floor, with intent to dislodge the upper part of the building?
  • Bombed from the outside, or at a specific locale: Do any of these sort of designs have vulnerable "keystones" that a knowledgable attacker would aim for?
  • Ventilation: What if you fill the ventilation system with a deadly virus, or, more realistically, with nerve gas or radioactive dust or even just carbon monoxide?
And this doesn't even address natural disasters, which will kill you just as dead. Earthquakes, fires, landslides, tornadoes, extreme winds (just look at the ill-fated bridge in the k5 logo), and others probably all present risk to large constructions, especially in certain regions.

I'm not too knowledgable in the area of construction, but could someone wiser in that field describe the danger posed with these disasters and buildings like those described in the article?


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
you beat me to it (4.50 / 4) (#10)
by martingale on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:34:13 AM EST

I was thinking the exact same thing while reading the article. Scrapping plans for skyscrapers and tall buildings because of 747s is silly. I think it is fair to say that terrorists, be it the middle eastern variety or the US locally homegrown ones have a creative type of mindset, in that the whole point is to exploit for maximum effect the weaknesses in the existing environment. The 747s did just that: cheap missiles for an organisation that didn't/couldn't waste billions on intercontinental ballistic missiles.

There will always be weaknesses in any complex system, such as a single building or a sprawling city, period. Single minded people will find a way to exploit those weaknesses. Accept it and move on.

To get back on topic, I have no problem with tall buildings, except that a large concentration of them in a small area tends to block out the sun, which I think gives a slightly gloomy atmosphere. Much better when the tallest buidings are well separated, I think.

[ Parent ]

Tornados and tall buildings (none / 0) (#47)
by 3waygeek on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:46:19 AM EST

Get the Straight Dope here.

[ Parent ]
Yes it was! (5.00 / 2) (#50)
by freddie on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:15:43 AM EST

Before 9/11, being rammed with a 747 probably wasn't a big architectual consideration in desigining large buildings.

The WTC was built to withstand a Boeing 707 crashing into it. This was the biggest airplane at the time the towers were built, and was about the same size as the planes that crashed into the towers.

They took into account the impact, and the towers obviously withstood that. What they didn't take into account was the fire which melted the steel frame.

There was a precedent for large airplanes crashing into super tall buildings. At around the time of WWII a Boeing B-29 crashed into the Empire state building, due to fog.

The Empire State building survived that, as you can see by the fact that it is still standing there. It withstood the crash because it didn't have a cheap external steel frame a la WTC. They don't make things like they used to.


Imagination is more important than knowledge. -- Albert Einstein
[ Parent ]

steel frame (none / 0) (#106)
by Jim Tour on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:44:47 PM EST

You say, "They took into account the impact, and the towers obviously withstood that. What they didn't take into account was the fire which melted the steel frame." I hope you don't feel I'm nitpicking on you, but one of the major points of the article is that the WTC *lacked* a steel frame, which may well have been the difference between standing and collapse. Instead of a traditional four square steel frame with internal supporting beams/columns like the Petronas Towers and the ESB, the WTC had a slender core of steel/concrete columns complemented by slender exterior columns. There's a growing consensus that the building cores became compromised, either through a combination of direct impact and fire or fire alone, which increasingly shifted the weight of the buildings to the perimeter columns. Since in each tower a significant number of perimeter columns had been taken out, the load could not be distributed uniformly, although the remaining external supports did their job well. As the support from the core continued to fade as the steel lost tensile strength, a point was reached when the weight became too much for the perimeter columns. This wouldn't have happened in a full steel frame building in which columns are spaced more or less evenly from wall to core. Also, the WTCs central core was shielded only by double gypsum wall boards (they probably accounted for most of that snow-like dust after the collapse). Had reinforced concrete stood where the gypsum was, the central steel would have taken much longer to fail or may not have failed at all. Likewise, if wreckage actually penetrated to the core and caused some or most of the core failure, concrete in place of gypsum may have prevented that penetration.

[ Parent ]
clarification (none / 0) (#185)
by tbauc on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:50:01 AM EST

"The WTC was built to withstand a Boeing 707 crashing into it. This was the biggest airplane at the time the towers were built, and was about the same size as the planes that crashed into the towers."
actually, a loaded 767 weighs something like 75% more than a loaded 707, not to mention the 767s that struck the WTC were moving at a much higher speed than 707s were capable of at that altitude...in fact I believe the 767s were well beyond their design limits when they struck the towers.

[ Parent ]
that would be too funny!!! (2.50 / 2) (#101)
by Subtillus on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:36:42 PM EST

If they jut filled the building with CO, everyone would die of "the Silent Killer". It would be on the news 24/7 and eventually America would proceed to outlaw Carbon and Oxygen; this would cause them to vanish of poor planning. Canada would be the next to go of course, all of the CO2 from the ex-U.S. would bore a hole in the ozone, which would then increase skin cancer incidence to population-fatal levels.

The geeky would then inherit the earth because we would have moved to a pre specified location in the pacific long since then.

[ Parent ]

What we need... (3.88 / 9) (#6)
by Danse on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:23:33 AM EST

We need super-tall buildings, but we need a clever escape method in case of catastrophe. I think we should have people-tubes located throughout the building. If something bad happens, you just jump in the tube and get whisked down to a sub-basement where you follow tunnels for a few blocks and emerge at the surface. As a bonus, fire drills would be hella cool :)






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
re: what we need... (4.66 / 3) (#9)
by Jim Tour on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:27:34 AM EST

I must say I'm a little confused by what seems to be a total absence of imagination in rescue and escape procedures for super talls. I mean, look at the people who jumped from the WTC. If you read the latest firefighter affidavits published by the NY Times the other day, you realize the number who jumped was depressingly high. Firemen looking to cross from West St. into the WTC complex literally had to zigzag across, stopping to look up every ten or so feet. One fireman was killed by a falling body. Meanwhile, police helicopters were hovering right at height these people were jumoing from (though of course at considerable lateral distance. Is it too James Bond-ish to think that well-trained airborne rescue personnel could have thrown lines to these people and eased them off the side of the building? The chopper pilots say they couldn't land on the roof because of the fire and smoke, but surely a helicopter could hover near where people are standing fully conscious in windows... I dunno, sometimes it seems this sort of thing should be obvious to those who run large cities. Other times it seems logical it took something like 9/11 to get them thinking... Anyway, thanks for weighing in with a clear statement in favor of super talls. People making the choice, either way, is what I'm looking for.

[ Parent ]
o/t people jumping (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by martingale on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:41:27 AM EST

Is it too James Bond-ish to think that well-trained airborne rescue personnel could have thrown lines to these people and eased them off the side of the building? The chopper pilots say they couldn't land
Well, this is macabre, but I think those people jumping didn't jump because they wanted to leave the building per se, rather they jumped to get away from the hellish temperatures they were subjected to. As a result, even if the choppers could have approached close enough, the victims would still have jumped to get away from the heat.

[ Parent ]
re: people jumping (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by Jim Tour on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:58:14 AM EST

well, many of them can be seen standing there for quite some time, at least on one of the faces of the north tower. I think you're right that most of them went out only when the heat became unbearable, but in many cases it seems it took a while for that to happen-- in they meantime they were standing there in what seems to me a rescuable situation (again, at least in the one case I saw realtime footage of)

[ Parent ]
ok (none / 0) (#18)
by martingale on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:09:54 AM EST

I'll take your word for it. I must confess I didn't look a the footage too closely.

[ Parent ]
Pilotry (none / 0) (#74)
by virg on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:24:00 PM EST

Actually, what you're suggesting would be a good idea, but it's entirely unworkable. The problem is that to lower a line to the people on the side of the building, you need to drop it straight down (a no-brainer). To do that, you need to be directly above the edge of the building, no matter if you're at the roof or a hundred feet above it. Directly above the edge, there's going to be an enormous wave of heat against which you're going to need to hold the copter. That's close to impossible under the best circumstances. Add a big smoke column (which must be avoided since the ash will foul the engine) and the high winds that always blow near high-rise buildings and you'd have to take an extreme risk, repeated for each rescue. Sorry for being morbid, but that's too high a risk

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Or to use a little common sense (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by Cant Say on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:10:14 AM EST

They have quick release safety parachutes. I think there's only one guy making them right now, and he's swamped with orders. But there's no reason not to have emergency parachutes, so people can jump to safety.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]
Parachutes (4.00 / 2) (#29)
by Bad Harmony on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 06:04:08 AM EST

I read somewhere that parachutes must be repacked on a regular basis. You can't just put them in a closet, pull them out years later, and expect them to work.

54º40' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Fire extinguishers (none / 0) (#52)
by Cant Say on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:49:43 AM EST

Currently, the same thing is true of emergency fire extinguishers. I'm not sure how often they must be checked, but I'm pretty sure it's at least once a year. Just do the same thing for the parachutes.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]
Maintenance Intervals (none / 0) (#59)
by Bad Harmony on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:24:29 PM EST

According to a web page that I found, the FAA requires the inspection and repacking of a parachute every 120 days. The parachute is not cheap either, about $1000-$3000 for the parachutes listed on that web site.

54º40' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Cost (none / 0) (#119)
by Cant Say on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:38:37 PM EST

When a building has a budget of over 10 billion dollars, I don't think a few million on parachutes (especially to save people's lives) is going to be a problem.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]
Training (none / 0) (#126)
by Bad Harmony on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:21:28 PM EST

You also have the cost of training the tenants on how to put the parachute on and how to use it.

Repeat after me, "I wanna be an Airborne Ranger!"

54º40' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Fire extinguishers & parachutes (none / 0) (#108)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:49:38 PM EST

They can check both at the same time. Unfortunately, they won't and neither one will work when needed.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
ooooh.... (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by Danse on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:35:27 AM EST

Remember the Final Fantasy movie? When the squad jumped out of the dropship and fired those gel-pack things at the ground? The gel quickly expanded and they landed in it and it broke their fall. That would be cool. But low-altitude parachutes would probably be slightly more practical at this point in time. But they should get to work on the gel-stuff. I wanna be able to jump out of buildings and land in a big bubble of green goop.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Sounds like.. (none / 0) (#33)
by AnalogBoy on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:17:56 AM EST

Getting flushed, a la MIB II.. :)

Just hope you don't meet a chubchub on the way down.

(grrr...)

--
Save the environment, plant a Bush back in Texas.
Religous Tolerance (And click a banner while you're there)
[ Parent ]

I can't stand skyscrapers (4.25 / 8) (#11)
by shrike7 on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:36:11 AM EST

and I mean that with reference both to the technical definition given by the author and the more colloquial definition encompassing all tall buildings. I don't like them for a variety of reasons, which all fall into the 'quality of life' category of objections. I think that while there is nothing dehumanizing about a single skyscraper, a collection of them creates a downtown core where sunlight rarely reaches the street and people genuinely are dwarfed by the buildings. I think that they do isolate the people who work in them from the city they live in, and I found myself getting claustrophobic about my office when I worked in one. I don't pretend to know how to deal with the inevitable sprawl that arises from a lack of tall buildings in a downtown core. But having lived in one tall building and having worked in another, I have to say I didn't enjoy either experience.
CXVI
Ultimately It's Preference (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by Cant Say on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:58:33 AM EST

But there are some options. The Millenium Tower is designed to be a self-contained environment, with respect to the inhabitants. That is, one could live, work, shop, and play within the confines of the structure. However, it's not necessary to do so. Furthermore, the architecture is designed to be more human. You need light, that much is certain. The tower is designed to move as much natural light through the building as is possible.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]
nice places to visit, but... (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by fathomghost on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:41:22 AM EST

I really enjoyed your post, and I think that you made several very good points, but I have a few comments on the topic of your use of the word "dehumanizing".

First of all, I am not from a large city, although I have moved to one in order to attend their university.  One of the first things I noticed when I came here is that people here are far less humble than they are where I come from.  They attribute more importance and grandeur to themselves than they really deserve to.  When I am in the city, I can't see the stars anymore because of the light pollution.  After five years of this, when I visit the town of my birth, I look up and see the infinity that is space and I am reminded of my place in the grand chaos that is life.  When you say "dehumanizing" I think you mean "demoralizing", and I don't neccessarily think that that is a bad thing.

For instance, when I'm in the mountains and forests where I grew up, the cliffs rise up all around me, and the trees tower over me and block out the sun and I are reminded how close I am to the earth, how small and delicate human life really is.

The difference between a mountain range or a towering jack pine forest and a teeming urban center is that humankind has impressed its world with the beauty of *its own* visions.  We can now regard nature on equal terms, and no longer must cower before it.  We can choose to work and live the glass forests of our urban centers, or in more quaint settings, but neither of these environments is more or less "human".  Do not discount the visions of your peers just because they are not yours.  The world is a very diverse place, and I am certain that there are lovely places to live and work where you would be quite happy.

As the old adage goes, "The world isn't overpopulated, it's just that everybody seems to want to live in the same few places".  Combating suburban sprawl is really more about tackling problems with transportation gridlock and pollution problems caused by overdependence on automobiles than it is about a lack of space.  I mean, even in Europe there is still countryside.

From your comments it sounds as though you'd be better suited living and working in a small town where you could get some light and fresh air.

Cheers,

~fathomghost

------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]

Reactionary Philosophy (4.38 / 13) (#12)
by pediddle on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:39:20 AM EST

There is much more to be considered when building large structures than a 747.  The terrorists had their fun with hijacking, but now, with super-tight airport security, that method is hopefully no longer possible.  I might speculate that a terrorist would rather come up with some new way of destroying large buildings than the same old rhetoric.

There are other destructive or lethal options at a terrorists disposal.  The bigger question is whether we should stop building super-tall buildings (or alternatively, should we force ourselves to build fortresses that are so expensive and unattractive that they are unusable) because of the terrorist threat? By this logic,

  • Should we stop building stadiums?
  • Should we stop building apartment buildings?
  • Should we stop populating cities altogether?
  • Should we cover our eyes, drop to our knees, and grovel before our new terrorist leaders?
Cities, stadiums, apartments, airports, train depots, highways, seaports, and a dozen other population-attractors all present a big red bull's-eye to anyone with a large enough weapon.  Just because only one item on this list has been attacked in the recent past, that one item suddenly has focussed the attention of a disproportionate amount of anti-terrorist effort.  Why get so huffed up about sky scrapers, when tall buildings are just the edge of the target that is western urban life?

My worry is that the first time a stadium is attacked, suddenly people like the author of this article will call for reconsideration of whether or not we need stadiums.  I could go on with more examples, and every time someone comes up with a new destructive idea, one more of our modern conveniences will be lost.

The real problem with this logic is that it is entirely reactionary, and overreactive at that.  Terrorism is designed to cause such reactions as these, wherein our own "What about the children?" (Simpsons) naysayers will bring the real downfall of our way of life.

I implore you to not cease construction simply because it would reduce a possible target, when there are easier targets available.  It is understandable that the 9/11 attacks will force designers to incorporate new security features (especially in, say, the ventillation systems), but the threat of a 747 should not be the only thing on their minds, and certainly should not be something to stop an entire project.

Whether or not skyscrapers have done any real good in the first place is still debatable, of course, despite reduction of urban sprawl.

Yes! (1.00 / 1) (#111)
by miah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:03:07 PM EST

I concur with this meme of thought. The minute we react to terrorism in this manner is the minute we have lost the fight. A well stated point.

Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It is the biker grade crystal meth of the masses.
SLAVEWAGE
[ Parent ]
I wonder (1.00 / 4) (#135)
by freddie on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 06:28:25 PM EST

The minute we react to terrorism in this manner is the minute we have lost the fight

What if after Perl Harbor, FDR would have said,

"The minute we react to the Japanese is the minute we have lost the fight."




Imagination is more important than knowledge. -- Albert Einstein
[ Parent ]

war vs. terrorism (5.00 / 1) (#156)
by ZorbaTHut on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:01:55 PM EST

There's a fundamental difference here, and that's that *one* war we had nice big things to strike back at, like, say, cities, or aircraft carriers, or the things that are bombing our ships at that very moment.

With the "War on Terrorism" *gag* we can't really target anyone back in the same way. It's *not* a war - it's antiterrorism. They're pretty different concepts.

[ Parent ]

No (1.00 / 1) (#233)
by miah on Tue Jul 23, 2002 at 11:55:06 AM EST

I don't think FDR would have cowed down and not built buildings. Living in fear is no way to live.

Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It is the biker grade crystal meth of the masses.
SLAVEWAGE
[ Parent ]
Who Will Stop Us? (3.57 / 7) (#14)
by Cant Say on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:50:21 AM EST


I'm no great linguist, able to conjure up fantastic images of overwhelming beauty in the minds of eager readers. Yet, who can deny the all-too-human drive towards the heavens? First, we brought the stars down to us by giving them names, ascribing images to the constellations. Then we attempted to reach the stars.

First, we built buildings to the heavens. The Biblical1 account of the Tower of Babel tells of foolish humans attempting to build their way to the heavens. Today, our push towards the heavens is much more pragmatic: we simply need the room. We cannot continue to spread out without destroying farmland and environmental habitats. We must go up, or dive down. Technology allows the former; we're working towards the later.

But in our drive towards the heavens, will we again meet the fate of those Biblical people? Will we somehow be punished for the push to the sky? Supernatural acts aside, it does not seem likely. Allow me to qualify that statement.

We already know that no system is ever impregnable. In any human endeavor, there is a factor of risk. Building structures to withstand any attack seems foolish. Rather, one should be prepared to escape quickly, in order to minimize the loss of human life. Further redundant systems may also be put in place, in order to minimize the effects of possible attacks.

Will we build? It seems inevitable, for good or ill. The true question is: since such buildings are going to be built, how can we preserve human life in the process?

[1] The truth or falsity of the account has no bearing on the illustrative purposes of my use.


Fuck the Terrorists (2.90 / 10) (#17)
by prometheus on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:04:47 AM EST

Build the tallest, prettiest, most impressive buildings imaginable, insure the shit out of them, make better escape routes and fire-suppression systems, and send a hardy "FOAD PLS THKS" to the terrorists.

--
<omnifarad> We've got a guy killing people in DC without regard for his astro van's horrible fuel economy
Big policy-style questions are distracting (3.50 / 4) (#21)
by gbroiles on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:57:13 AM EST

.. because they suggest that we're somehow in a position to dictate or influence the design & construction of tall buildings.

Ok, maybe there's somebody reading K5 who's in a position to design (or refuse to design), or finance (or refuse to finance) the construction of one of these monsters .. but I doubt it. And, even if so, are they likely to be swayed by arguments made here, or by more concrete concerns (like keeping their job, or getting paid)?

More realistic-scale questions might be -

  1. Do you, personally, like to live or work in a tall building?
  2. Did your opinion change after 9/11?
  3. Would you turn down a job if it wasn't compatible with your preferences about tall buildings?
  4. Would you ever rent or buy space in a tall building?
  5. Do you like or dislike the cultural and economic effects created by the sort of dense urban layout made possible/unavoidable by tall buildings? If those effects weren't present, would you live where you do now, or go somewhere else?


Buildings Don't Matter (4.00 / 4) (#23)
by anylulu on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:28:49 AM EST

Security does, and security is a consideration broader than just buildings. Security is a consideration for the entirety of every community, urban, suburban or rural. Security from terrorism should be included in the dynamic matrix of community planning, right there with evacuation procedures in case of natural disasters, public transportation, garbage collection, etc. Security is a factor among many, which each community must consider and balance as part of the choice making process. Spatial, structural and interactive design should form an integral part of such considerations.

Ok, I am naive, but I have hope.
-- peace, love and anylulu http://www.anylulu.com

Agreed. Except... (4.57 / 7) (#28)
by Jel on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:56:44 AM EST

The best way to prevent conflict is by not giving people reasons to hate you.  Prevention is better than cure. Resolution is better than reinforcement.  

Doubtless many security issues are unavoidable, no matter how fairly we treat others.  Until insanity is a medical issue of the past, this is problem will remain, and the "dynamic matrix of community planning" suggested by anylulu seems like the best and most fair approach to solving that.

I honestly believe, however, that we (we in the Western world -- I'm not from the US) could greatly reduce our list of enemies with a little more fairplay.  Not fairplay in the usual political sense, however -- I'm talking about real, honest to god equality.

It's almost as if we hate to look at lifestyles in some less developed countries, for fear that we might be infected by their squalor.  At other times, we look at such places and hold our heads up proudly as if we are so great to have risen above all that conflict.

I wonder what would happen if we turned to our neighbours and said,

"You know... over here, we have it real easy right now.  We have money to burn on playstations, while you guys seem to struggle to find a good icebox for your limited medicines.

Well, we're really not proud of that.  How about if we work with you, and share our resources, until we all have the same quality of life?  We don't want to impose our actual WAY of life, but if you'll accept our help, then we're prepared to assist you in every way, until you can follow your own path with the speed and comfort with which we follow ours."

Now that's incredibly unlikely in our present political climate, with our current political leaders, but to me, this capacity for -- I'll borrow David Brin's terminology here -- for "uplifting" others in a undemanding way is the first and foremost quality of a parent, and educator, and most of all, of a leader.  I would be proud to stand behind a leader like that.  As things stand however, I'm incredibly saddened and ashamed of those who claim to represent us.

...lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery, and we shall lead a life uncommon
- Jewel, Life Uncommon
[ Parent ]

Just one, please. (2.37 / 8) (#27)
by Jel on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:14:33 AM EST

I'll settle for a single tall building.  One space elevator, please.  Public access, too.  The rest?  Rustic log cabins, but with mod cons, thanks.  :)
...lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery, and we shall lead a life uncommon
- Jewel, Life Uncommon
To build or not to build (4.12 / 8) (#31)
by spaceghoti on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:01:43 AM EST

My opinion can be expressed quite simply: build not for height or for safety, but for excellence. If you can build the very best building that happens to tower thousands of feet in the air, go for it. If your building plans require something a little more moderated, then do that. Don't let threats of terrorism or the stigma of hubris make your decision for you.

One of the defining qualities of being human is to push the boundaries of knowledge and dimension, to find better ways of doing things. If someone has a better way to build a better tower than anyone else and can find the capital to get it done, I say more power to them. It's amazing how such engineering feats find their way into more everyday practical applications to improve our lives.

There are some who say that just because you can do a thing, it doesn't follow that you should. There is wisdom to this, but it's also wisdom to consider that this statement doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't either.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

Economics, terrorists (4.60 / 5) (#34)
by dennis on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:23:25 AM EST

I was reading recently that large office buildings are starting to have trouble economically, because companies are finding it cheaper to coordinate over the Internet. No need to put your giant staff all in one place, anymore. But if they're still viable, I'm all for large buildings - they're better than spreading all over the landscape.

If we're worried about 747s, we don't have to change how we build cities to deal with it. The easy solution is to let pilots carry pistols like they used to (before 1970). It's not a difficult defensive scenario - the terrorists have to get through a narrow door, which the pilot can cover at close range, while the autopilot takes care of the plane. Even without an autopilot, planes are stable in flight; it's not like a car where you need constant adjustments to stay on the road.

Not saying we shouldn't make the new buildings stronger just in case, but it'd be nice to protect all the expensive old buildings too.

Redesign the planes (1.50 / 2) (#38)
by harryhoode on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:59:35 AM EST

It seems that redesigning the planes is in order. The door to the cockpit should be on the OUTSIDE of the airplane. There should be no door to the cockpit on the inside. If a terrorist gets on the airplane and wants access to the cockpit, show him the door and tell him to go around.

Hard to do on existing airplanes, but future models could require this type of construction.

This way, if a terrorist does make it on the plane, he would have no access to the pilots or the cockpit. The pilots could focus on getting the plane back on the ground.


[ Parent ]

Just one quick question... (4.75 / 4) (#40)
by mcherm on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:26:11 AM EST

Which is more common, heart attacks or terrorists?

Deciding our policies solely by overreacting to whatever the most recent event was is a very poor way to manage things. Not that we SHOULDN'T act to prevent a repetition of the 9-11 hijackings, but neither should we react unthinkingly.

-- Michael Chermside
[ Parent ]

heart attacks. (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by joshsisk on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:05:20 AM EST

If you are referring to the pilot having a heart attack, that's what copilots are for.

If you are referring to a passenger having a heart attack, that's really not the pilot's job to deal with, nor is he qualified to do so.
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]

Heart attacks (4.00 / 1) (#187)
by mcherm on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 12:33:12 PM EST

I WAS referring to the pilot having a heart attack. And yes, we DO carry "a spare" on flights, and with good reason. But what about the classic "pilot & copilot both ate the bad shrimp" scenario?

Or what if just the co-pilot has the heart attack... and dies, because the flight attendant with the defribrulator can't make it into the cabin?

I am not a pilot, and I don't know much about it, but it seems to me that there are some (perhaps rare) cases where it is important to be able to enter/leave the pilots' cabin. We need to balance those needs against the danger of a terrorist trying to hijack the plane and fly it themselves. And DESPITE the fact that it occurred once recently, this is a VERY rare scenario which should NOT be the sole determining factor in our policies.

-- Michael Chermside
[ Parent ]

question: (none / 0) (#219)
by joshsisk on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 12:08:18 PM EST

How often have any of the scenarios you suggest happened? I've never heard of a plane crashing because the pilot and copilot ate bad shrimp, or because either had a heart attack.

On the other hand, there have been dozens (at least) of hijackings, not one as you suggest. Hijacking has been going on for the last 30 or 40 years all over the world- most do not end as spectacularly as the Sept. 11th hijackings, but they do occur from time to time.

Preventing hijackers access to the cockpit prevents the possibility of a hijacking, or at least reduces the chance significantly. And when it happens, at least the hijackers wouldn't be able to dictate the plane's course.
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]

Oops... bad FISH, not shrimp. (none / 0) (#229)
by mcherm on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 10:39:47 AM EST

First of all, the reference to bad shrimp was a fumbled attempt at a reference to the movie "Airplane", but it was bad FISH not bad shrimp in that case. My bad.

As for hijackings, YES, there have been LOTS of hijackings. And I think we should make significant efforts to prevent them. But I only know of one case (admittedly, a horrific one involving 3 planes and thousands of deaths), where hijackers TOOK OVER FLYING THE PLANE with the purpose of CRASHING IT INTO A BUILDING OR OTHER TARGET.

Clearly, September 11 has changed one thing in hijacking response -- no crew must ever again hand over control of the flight controls to the hijackers, even at risk to the lives of the passengers and crew.

But I really don't see the basis of your claim that "Preventing access to the cockpit prevents the possibility of a hijacking, or at least reduces the chance significantly.". I can think of NO case of hijacking where the hijackers threatened the lives of the flight crew without first threatening the passengers and flight attendants -- much easier and more accessible targets.

You go on to say "at least the hijackers won't be able to dictate the plane's course [if they have no access to the cabin]", but here again I disagree. Suppose a gun-toting hijacker demands that the pilot land the plane in Cuba, or she will start executing her fellow passengers one every 15 minutes. This might convince the pilot to fly toward Cuba.

And I would argue that it OUGHT to do so. There is a much greater chance (judging from history) that this hijacker is a mentally-unbalanced criminal hoping to flee persecution by the law than a terrorist. And landing in Cuba isn't really going to pose any greater risk to life than landing someplace else. Sure, I think giving in to hijacker's demands just encourages hijacking, but if MY mother were on that plane, I'd want them to fly it to Cuba (where the gun-toting woman hijacker would be slapped in irons and returned to the US for prosecution the first moment she was separated from her potential victims). What I would NOT want (even if my mother was a passenger on the flight) would be for the pilot to hand over the stick to the hijacker.

So what I'm trying to say here (I think) is that we need to keep things in perspective. Preventing planes from flying into buildings is important, but it is NOT the most important thing in aviation... it's certainly less important than general flight safety, and probably less important than preventing (or properly handling) regular, ordinary-style hijackings. So, for instance, a cabin door which BOLTS from the inside (and isn't so flimsy that it can be broken down) is probably a better solution than preventing all access to the cabin.

After all, heart attacks by pilots DO happen, and when they do, that cabin defribrulator could come in awfully handy.

-- Michael Chermside
[ Parent ]

I'm not talking about just buildings... (none / 0) (#230)
by joshsisk on Fri Jul 19, 2002 at 03:02:13 PM EST

...I'm talking about hijackings, in general. They are relatively common, as you say. One was attempted today. I think a seperate pilot's entrance would be very useful, and not that expensive to include on new plane designs. It would offer a close to 100% guarantee that the plane could not be overtaken (unless one of the pilots is a terrorist), especially if backed with the appropriate procedures. For example, say that the S.O.P. in the case of a hijack is for the isolated pilot crew to cut off all communication with the cabin, alert the authorities and then proceed to the nearest airport that has the appropriate SWAT/FBI presence. No matter what the hijackers do, they can't affects where the plane goes or does. Sure, it's possible a few passengers might die in the first abortive hijack after this policy was implemented, but it's unlikely that terrorists could actually execute a planes worth of passengers without the remainder fighting back. The key is filling a security hole. If potential hijackers know that they can't accomplish anything by hijacking a plane, they aren't very likely to (except for completely erratic schizo types, who usually don't get much accomplished anyway) in the future. This is the same reason why hardly anyone knocks over 7-11's anymore - at least in D.C., there was an article about this in the Post recently - they know they won't get anything because all the money over $20-30 is in the automated safe. If potential hijackers KNOW they can't get anything out of hijacking a plane, except killing a few civilians, then they will probably settle for killing civilians on the ground where it is much easier to do so. Or perhaps they will look for another security hole someplace else. Either way, this one is filled.
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[ Parent ]
wow, a huge block of text. (none / 0) (#231)
by joshsisk on Fri Jul 19, 2002 at 03:03:54 PM EST

I apologize for the lack of paragraph breaks - usually my comments are set to "auto format", but for some reason it switched to "html formatted".
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logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]
Service Access (none / 0) (#66)
by Bad Harmony on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:56:02 PM EST

If you wall off the cockpit, how does the flight crew get access to the rest of the aircraft if they need to inspect/fix avionics and other systems located outside the cockpit?

54º40' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Separate pilots bathroom, as well. (none / 0) (#204)
by BlaisePascal on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 06:57:12 PM EST

Pilots (and/or co-pilots) leave the cockpit during flight for several reasons -- to go to the bathroom, to provide backup to the flight attendants when needed, to get food or (non-alcoholic) drink, etc. I'd hate to tell a pilot that he has to hold it during an eight-hour trans-oceanic flight, every day.

[ Parent ]
Paradigm has changed. Don't sweat it. (5.00 / 1) (#211)
by MightyTribble on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 10:11:23 PM EST

Let's not go nuts on the aircraft redesign. 9/11 changed the hijack paradigm. Even if terrorists tried to take over a plane in-flight again, they'll have to deal with all the passengers (who, most likely, will not just sit there and hope for a good outcome), the crew won't let them gain access to the cockpit without a struggle... and even if, against all odds the hijackers actually get behind the stick, the plane will be shot down.

The next terrorist attack will almost certainly not come from hijacked commercial flights.

[ Parent ]

pilots carrying pistols will not work (none / 0) (#77)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:32:27 PM EST

Merely putting pistols in the hands of pilots will not work. A well-trained terrorist will wait until the pilot, with sidearm, comes strolling through the cabin as they sometimes do, perhaps to just chitchat with a passenger. Then, the well-trained terrorist takes the pilot's gun and thereby controls the aircraft. The only way to prevent this is to give pilots extensive weapons training, like sky marshals get. Guns are cheap. Training is not. Are you willing to pay more taxes for this?

Stun guns have the same problems. That's why I'm leery of the proposals to equip pilots with those, too.

Back to firearms. Shooting a gun on a plane is hazardous to the health of everyone on board. If the projectile hits the wrong piece of equipment, things could go bad for the plane. Firing a gun at a hijacker would be the last resort. The only reason to have that kind of firepower is if your opponent has that firepower. Thus, it's a pre-boarding problem. Good airport screening should prevent hijackers armed with firearms from boarding aircraft.

[ Parent ]

Training can be free (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by dennis on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:39:02 PM EST

FrontSight, widely regarded as one of the top training schools in the country, has offered to train commercial pilots for free.

Even if we insist on spending tax money, a few days of training is much cheaper than paying the annual salaries of a bunch of sky marshalls. Given the simple defensive situation we have here, a few days is all it would take.

Part of the training, of course, would be "never ever stroll back into the cabin with your pistol!" You have a copilot, let him keep the pistol.

Every article I've seen by an aircraft engineer has said that stray shots are not likely to cause a problem. Airliners have redundant systems everywhere. (And decompression is not a problem at all.) To be doubly safe, we could use frangible bullets just like the sky marshals have - they still put a man down, but disintegrate on impact.

The only reason to have that kind of firepower is if your opponent has that firepower.

Only if you insist on fighting fair. I don't think our pilots should have to fight it out with boxcutters or whatnot - I'd rather tilt all the advantages in our favor. Besides which, the FAA is still finding it can easily slip weapons through screening.

[ Parent ]

no such thing as a free lunch (none / 0) (#142)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:11:28 PM EST

There's no such thing as a free lunch. They might train some pilots initially, but eventually they'd want to be paid. There are thousands of commercial pilots. You can't train them all for free.

Awfully good points on that other stuff. I think the overriding point is that having a gun on a plane outside of the context of a sky marshal introduces a level of risk that is too high to justify the very unlikely payoff that a gun will make a difference anyway.

[ Parent ]

Purpose (4.00 / 4) (#35)
by EvilNoodle on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:24:56 AM EST

Build by purpose. Any building to be used for business should not be a skyscraper. Cities need to decentralise their financial districts. For example in London, England we have 'the square mile' crammed with the stock market and all the main financial buildings for the UK. Most of Europe's moneys passes through London. Any terrorist with a bomb, plane or whatever could take down a lot of these institutions in one hit and I imagine Wall St is much the same.

Decentralise financial districts. I think governments should also do a lot to help people work from home to spread out the risk and reduce the amount of office space needed anyway.

As for skyscrapers - as someone pointed out after Sept 11 - all tall building will collapse eventually.

The IRA tried twice (4.50 / 2) (#42)
by PenguinWrangler on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:29:18 AM EST

There were two attempts by the IRA to take out financial institutions in London. One severely damaged the Nat. West. Tower, which was at the time the central offices of the National Westminster Bank. The tower was out of use for several years while major repair work was done. The Nat. West. sold the tower (which from above is in the distinctive shape of their logo) which is now called Tower 42. (Because it has 42 floors. This is not a Douglas Adams reference.)
They also bombed the Canary Wharf area causing major damage to the area, including the Canada Tower - which has since been joined by two other towers of similar size.

American funded terrorism causing millons of pounds worth of damage...

Since the bombings, many companies set up emergency plans in case their HQ was destroyed by bomb.
All the above buildings were evacuated on September 11th as a precaution.
"Information wants to be paid"
[ Parent ]
Prevention and safety (4.00 / 5) (#36)
by Nikau on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:57:14 AM EST

IMHO, we shouldn't let the fear of 747s stop us from building tall. If we stop building tall buildings and someone decides to try it again, they'll just fly a plane into a smaller building.

I think the super-tall buildings should continue to be built, but there are many ways we can prevent extreme damage to them. There needs to be emphasis not only on the aesthetics, but on safety and prevention of damage - both in the building and elsewhere, like airports. Just securing one area is not enough.

Recently I found this site (warning: extensive Flash) describing one man's vision of a rebuilt World Trade Centre. This falls into the "fortress" category, but it also looks great. Plus there are some ideas on measures to prevent the building's destruction.

We shouldn't stop constructing the super tall buildings, just make the designs smarter...

---
I have a zero-tolerance policy for zero-tolerance policies, and this policy itself is the exception to itself which allows me to have it without being contradictory. - Happy Monkey

Yes, but with air defense (1.88 / 9) (#37)
by mrwrong on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:57:33 AM EST

The answer to that question is very simple: continue to build large structures if they make sense, but equip them with air defense systems. It is a well known fact that all high value military targets like aircraft carriers and military airfields need an active defense. Since our opponent makes no distinction between civilian and military targets, it is obvious that we also need to put active defenses on high value civilian targets.

A single patriot anti-aircraft unit on the top of the WTC would have prevented the collapse of the towers. Even a single guy with a stinger missile would have been enough. It is a shame that an al qaida terrorist training camp consisting of a few small buildings has better air defense as the most valuable target in the USA.

So if you build a very high or otherwise very valuable structure, just make a no-fly zone with a radius of maybe 5 km around it, and make it totally clear that everybody who breaches this no-fly zone will be shot down.

The notion that we should stop building skyscrapers because of the attacks is disgusting and ridiculous. The terrorists would just find another high value target like a bridge or a large public gathering. A plane crashing into the new york marathon would probably have more casualties than the WTC attacks, and that completely without skyscrapers.

So should we stop building bridges and having public gatherings as well? That would mean that the terrorists have won.

regards,

    mrwrong

Interesting point, but... (4.66 / 3) (#41)
by the original jht on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:28:45 AM EST

Two things to consider here: first off, building owners don't get to own Stingers for air defense.  So you're talking about having military personnel on top of skyscrapers.  This may be logistically difficult and/or expensive to the point of not being feasible.  What buildings do you put them on?  Who gets one and who doesn't?

The other problem with this is what happens when you shoot the plane.  The plane doesn't just dissolve in midair when struck by a missle.  It either explodes into lots of shrapnel (if struck right), killing potentially thousands of people on the ground, or it crashes whole and crippled into whatever's between the missle strike and it's intended original target (again, potentially destroying massive amounts of property and people on the ground), or the missle fails to down the plane (for instance, if one engine of a 747 was taken out) and the plane continues en-route to the target.

The reason there's Stingers being pointed at the sky in Washington, for instance, is because a political/military determination has been made that defending the White House and Capitol are worth the potential fallout of a devastated neighborhood nearby.  I don't think that it's really an option to defend commercial skyscrapers in big cities.

- -Josh Turiel
"Someday we'll all look back at this and laugh..."

[ Parent ]

Shot down? (4.00 / 2) (#43)
by Agent1 on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:30:04 AM EST

You're going to shoot down a passenger plane in the middle of downtown? That seems kinda iffy at best.


-Agent1
"Thats the whole point of the internet, to slander people anonymously." - Anonymous
[ Parent ]
No fly zone? (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by joshsisk on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:09:26 AM EST

So if you build a very high or otherwise very valuable structure, just make a no-fly zone with a radius of maybe 5 km around it, and make it totally clear that everybody who breaches this no-fly zone will be shot down.

I'm fairly certain there is at least one airport within 5km of downtown Manhattan, more likely two (JFK and Laguardia). I'm sure this is mirrored in most major cities.
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]

Unavoidable but faulty reasoning (4.50 / 2) (#51)
by JanneM on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:32:12 AM EST

It's only natural to focus on the threat of crashing aeroplanes onto high rises, as both the article, as well as the parent post does. Since that was the most recent incident, that's where our focus is. The thing is, if/when something new happens, it's unlikely to be the same kind of attack, and quite probably not against the same kind of target. Focusing on this risk alone as the determinator of how and where to build is shortsighted at best.

Sure, put up ground-to-air systems on the roofs of high rises. Disregarding the problems enunciated by other posters (who will man it? Who will pay? Will a shot down, burning airliner crashing into a random part of the inner city really save lives?), it utterly ignores that the next threat is unlikey to be that one. What if it's gas pumped into the ventilation system? Or a large, planned fire set simultaneously on many floors? Or if the target is a stadium or airport?

Now, if setting up such a system were cost-free, it wouldn't hurt. The problem is that it sin't cost-free. What are the chances of a misidentifying something as a threat? Or a weapon systems malfunction, having a missile go off in a random direction in the center of the city? The risk may be low, but then, so is another attack like the one in New York. Also, there is monetary cost, as well as the psychological impact (both positive as well as negative) coming from the knowledge that there are such systems employed a few floors above the tenants' heads. There would need to be a serious cost-benefit analysis to motivate it.

/Janne
---
Trust the Computer. The Computer is your friend.
[ Parent ]

why this won't work (none / 0) (#73)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:22:44 PM EST

Two reasons why that won't work:
  1. Deploying large military weapons in civilian areas invites terrorists to steal them. You can't guard every missile well if there are dozens of missiles spread throughout a gigantic city.
  2. Warfare is messy. Sometimes you shoot and hit, and other times you shoot and miss. Even when designing a tall building equipped with surface to air missiles, you would still have to design the building to withstand a direct hit.


[ Parent ]
I think terrorism should be seen as noise (5.00 / 9) (#39)
by Nelson on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:20:08 AM EST

It's not a normal event, we shouldn't accept it as one and we should employ other tactics to see that it doesn't become one. I believe this because there isn't a clear stopping point if you start to give in to this argument, logically we should do away with sporting complexes, large mega malls, and anything that places a large number of people in one location because they will always be that much better of a target for terrorists. In fact it's an argument against the very existence of cities it's simply a matter of time, if you assume and accept that terrorism is a regular event, before they are technologically savvy enough to wipe out entire cities. Where and when do you stop? When everybody is evenly spaced in the space your state has? At some cost point? Eventually, there isn't anywhere to run and we have to deal with terrorism in a different way.

Tall buildings are there becuase it is cheaper and sometimes the only viable way to house people and or offices. I am one of the ones that is amazed at the WTC, they stood for close to an hour after taking attack, they didn't fall over sideways and destroy other buildings, and a remarkable number of people escaped safely. If we assume that we can control terrorism with other methods and that it's not a regular thing then I see nothing wrong with tall buildings. A lot of cities, major ones, wouldn't even be able to continue without them. (Tokyo, New York, San Francisco, Boston, others) FWIW, a lot of people think the quality of life in New York is much better than, say, San Jose where you can drive 5 miles a long the same stretch of road add see identical strip malls several times.

We can build them to survive earth quakes and fires. A 767 crashing in is one of the most extreme events and we can even make some reasonable improvments to the buildings in that department also and we can make major improvments by changing airport security, flight lanes, and other things.

Re: I think terrorism should be seen as noise (none / 0) (#69)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:10:26 PM EST

The WTC towers would never have fallen over as that was impossible. They weren't stiff enough. If one of the towers would have reached a tipping point, some parts of the building would have been disengaged from the rest of the structure, and parts of the building would start falling in many different directions. I believe that a minor version of this happened to one of the towers (was it the South Tower?), as that did not fall 90 degrees straight down.

Additionally, I feel strongly that the buildings should have held up for a bare minimum of 3 hours, and prefereably 12. That would have allowed the evacuation of those on the North Tower caught above the flames, assuming that the heat and smoke could have been better suppressed, and it would have allowed the evacuation by stairs of all the disabled people.

[ Parent ]

Momentum (none / 0) (#129)
by Bios_Hakr on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:34:08 PM EST

By the time the floors above the collapse had moved down 8 feet, the momentum was such that, even in perfect condition, the floors below could not stop the fall.  I do agree that engineers could have created angled break-aways that would have, gradually, reduced the momentum by diverting the force sideways.  Perhaps a break every 25~30 floors could have saved the bottom half of both towers.  Of course, this would mean designing a building to fall down.  it's a no win situation.

As for those above the crash, they were properfucked from the getgo.  All the evacuation facilities were concentrated in the core of the building.  the kerosene from the plane filled the core and cut off virtually all exit for those above the crash.

The firefighters would have taken days to put out all the fires and restore access.  They have the ability to fight something like 2 acres of fires/day total.  Each floor of one tower had something like 3 acres of area.

The eventual outcome was that virtually everyone below the impact survived and virtualy everyone above the impact died.


[ Parent ]

not that bad (5.00 / 1) (#167)
by xah on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:36:18 AM EST

Had there been proper fire suppression equipment placed on top of the towers, the paper fires would have been far less intense. That would have enabled the firefighters to put them out easily enough.

BTW, a number of people did escape the South Tower from above the impact zone. There was one stairway left. Unfortunately, communications broke down to such an extent that many people were not informed about that stairway. Better communications systems (like an intercom) would have made a difference.

[ Parent ]

Quality of Urban Life (4.95 / 21) (#44)
by jolly st nick on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:38:41 AM EST

I travel quite a bit on business, and it is illustrative to compare a city like Manhattan, which is agressively vertically developed, with cities like Tampa or LA, that are horizontally built out.

In any case, when a city becomes very large, automobiles become an impracticality. However, in horizontally developed cities, they remain indispensible; people are simply forced into automobiles. Automobile capacity being a limiting factor in such cities, you experience constriction every time you wish to move. Such cities are sprawling and hostile to pedestrians and public transportation. You only have three dimensions to contain a certain quantity of economic activity; artificially limiting height means that you must substitute breadth and width, and then must contrive a means to transport people over this breadth and width.

The idea that being loomed over by skyscrapers is somehow a dehumanizing experience is pastoralist claptrap. What's important to the pedestrian experience is the what's going on at ground level. The ratio of sidewalk to roadway. The services, amenities and businesses which are accessible from the sidewalk (or in the case of New York, on the sidewalk) are what determine the city's vibrancy. The relative frequency with which you can walk to a desirable destination versus having to take some sort of mechanical conveyance is critical. Hippocrates said walking is the best medicine for good reason. We are built physically and psychologically to walk. We feel a sense of variety and autonomy when we walk that we don't get when when we are passively conveyed. Driving in urban traffic affords none of this experience -- you are trapped in a machine (in this case I refer to the freeway not your car) designed to transport masses of humanity with very little attention paid to the quality of experience of the cattle being herded. Gridlocked on the sprawling urban street network or creeping along the congested freeway, you experience none of the physical and psychological sense of freedom you do walking say, a half mile through Manhattan streets.

Now, I draw a distinction between building super-tall buildings, in particular trying for the tallest building in the world, and simply having lots of tall buildings. The tallest building in the city, itself, does very little for the city. The tallest building in the world, unless surrounded by a vibrant and viable community of tall buildings around it, is likely to be a liability, not an asset. What matters most is the overall footprint of the city being compact, enabling pedestrian level services and businesses to thrive in high density and affording pedestrians richness and variety of experience with minimal effort.



Height adjacent to sidewalk more important (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by frankwork on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:54:58 PM EST

The looming feeling of high-rise buildings can be minimized if the facade right next to the sidewalk is limited to, say, two stories.

Vancouver's West End neighborhood is a good example of a recently-built ultra-high-density residential/commercial area. Through a lot of careful planning, nearly all of the high-rise units have a view, and most of the "looming" aspect is hidden from people at street level by the human-scale facades that face the street.



[ Parent ]
appropriateness of tall buildings (5.00 / 1) (#68)
by louboy on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:03:30 PM EST

I agree 100% with what you are saying above.

Whether super-tall buildings are appropriate depends on the context in which they are built.  In general, density is a good thing, so long as it is introduced gradually.  Lively cities should gradually densify over time.

I don't think there's any such thing as "human scale".  Each city has its own scale.

Super-tall buildings make sense in Manhattan, or in other dense cities (e.g., Tokyo, China's larger cities, etc).  When the city is filled with high-rises already, the only way to fit more people or commerce into the city is by going vertical.  Suburban sprawl is wasteful, environmentally destructive and makes transportation inconvenient.  The higher buildings in the city are, the less open space needs to be destroyed for acres and acres of sprawling office parks and the attendant highways and parking lots.

However, I can't see how super-tall buildings make sense in lower-density cities (i.e., all American cities besides New York).  Cities should densify gradually.  American cities are so un-urban, that in most cases just building three story buildings on top of parking lots would increase the downtown densities.  

A 100 story building would be totally out of place in San Francisco, where there are only a handful of high-rises over 20-30 stories. (any architecture fiends have exact numbers?)  It would make even less sense in Oakland.  In downtown SF, there are plenty of one and two story buildings downtown that can be (and are being) replaced by 5-10 story low-rise office blocks, which fit in more appropriately with the scale of the city.  

[ Parent ]

Pastoralist claptrap (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by Gord ca on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:21:55 PM EST

I find it ironic that you accuse the anti-skyscraper argument as "pastoralist claptrap", then go into a pro-walking anti-driving rant that I have to discribe as "pastoralist claptrap".

It should be noted that I probably enjoy walking and hate driving more than you. (I've thought about moving to Tokyo just so I won't need a car.) It's just your argument was very feely.

I would instead point out that the 'pro-automobile' low-rise city design almost always tends toward huge traffic jams with a growing city. (Warning: Unsubstatiated fact!) (If I wanted to I could probably come up with a cool mathematical artery size argument.) This leads to having a relatively underused mass transit system, which forces people into cars. Which makes living in said city more expensive in terms of automobile upkeep costs and travel time costs. Also, raises polution substantially.

If I'm attacking your idea, it's probably because I like it
[ Parent ]

"Pastoralist Claptrap" (3.00 / 1) (#144)
by jolly st nick on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:28:53 PM EST

I find it ironic that you accuse the anti-skyscraper argument as "pastoralist claptrap", then go into a pro-walking anti-driving rant that I have to discribe as "pastoralist claptrap".

Was I ranting? I don't think so, but I'll confess to inordinate fondness for a colorful turn of phrase.

If my attitude came across as pro walking and anti-driving, then I was unclear. I am pro walkable cities. I'm also for drivable cities where possible. In a perfect world, we'd have cities that were good for walking and driving, but we don't live in a perfect world. Automobile friendly cities are small. Large cities can be pedestrian friendly, or friendly to no form of traffic at all (in my experience).

I would instead point out that the 'pro-automobile' low-rise city design almost always tends toward huge traffic jams with a growing city. (Warning: Unsubstatiated fact!) (If I wanted to I could probably come up with a cool mathematical artery size argument.) This leads to having a relatively underused mass transit system, which forces people into cars. Which makes living in said city more expensive in terms of automobile upkeep costs and travel time costs. Also, raises polution substantially.

I'm just curious how this is different from what I said.

[ Parent ]

Why are skyscrapers the only target? (4.80 / 10) (#46)
by Coriolis on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:42:07 AM EST

It probably would have been just as effective if the planes crashed into a fully packed stadium which have seating capacities of 20,000+. There will always be targets for terrorists and even for the enemy in the case of a full scale war. Just because skyscrapers have been some of these targets in the past doesn't mean that we should not build anymore of them. They stand as some of the most powerful symbols of man's inginuity and skill.

Exactly (none / 0) (#58)
by dipierro on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:07:03 PM EST

The danger doesn't come from the height of the building, it comes from the large number of people packed into a small area. No matter how much security you have it's never going to protect 100% against a suicide mission.

[ Parent ]
Skyscrapers are easier to hit (none / 0) (#93)
by Moebius on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:55:29 PM EST

While I agree a packed stadium would make a tempting target for terrorism, the height of a skyscraper makes it much easier to hit with a plane. You just have to fly right into the side. Stadiums are much lower, and are also usually densely surrounded by other buildings of comparable height, so you couldn't really just plow right into the side. Instead, you'd have to basically do a nose dive right onto it. I'd wager it's a much harder manuever to do (especially with a big bulky jetliner) and much easier to miss the stadium and take out a nearby building instead.

[ Parent ]
exactly (none / 0) (#109)
by Jim Tour on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:52:57 PM EST

The hit on the Pentagon shows that attack-by-jetliner on low-lying buildings by inexperienced pilots is possible, but if the Pentagon had been located in a big city downtown it would have been impossible. I'm sure there are many reasons the WTC was selected as a target, but one of them was that it soared above everything in its neighborhood. Imagine trying to hit a 50 story building in a thicket of buildings around the same height at 400+ mph-- this is one of the reasons the future of the super-tall is being so hotly debated.

[ Parent ]
logical extension . . . (none / 0) (#154)
by ZorbaTHut on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:18:34 PM EST

. . . imagine trying to hit a 200-story building in a thicket of buildings around the same height at 400+ mph.

(We don't need *fewer* supertalls, we need *more*!)

Okay, I don't entirely believe in that - I mean, we just plain don't have the economy for it, for one thing - but the point still stands. What you're saying isn't "supertalls are easy to hit with planes", what you're saying is "buildings that are significantly taller than the things around them are easy to hit with planes". Big difference. In a very densely skyscrapered/supertalled city you'd have serious trouble trying to hit a particular building in the center, and if the building-height did a sort of bell-curve dealie as you left the center, you'd find it hard to hit *any* building more than a dozen floors below the very top. At most.

[ Parent ]

Do you really need to hit a specific building? (none / 0) (#170)
by Verminator on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 03:13:01 AM EST

Sure, in the case of the WTC it was important to actually hit those buildings as the effect would have been much less if they had just hit a couple buildings at random. But if your city is a mass of similar sized buildings, just hitting any of them would be enough to make a good terror attack.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to misery, misery links to Satanosphere.
[ Parent ]

Foundations? (4.33 / 3) (#53)
by redelm on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:50:20 AM EST

You talk of reinforced superstructure without considering the weight and the impact on the foundations. AFAIK, the main limitation on skyscrapers and super-talls is the available soil bearing strength and area. A double-wide Petronas would require a double-wide foundation and I believe it's already sitting on a _huge_ [uneconomic] mat. But it's a trophy building. Even WTC has a large mat, probably the largest that could be economic. In effect, requiring heavy, reinforced buildings is to eliminate them because the foundations become too big, disruptive and expensive.

I don't worry about a WTC repeat. No airline pilot is going to get up out of his seat. He'll bounch the hijacker off the ceiling or barrel-roll a few times if the downside is turning his aircraft into an incendiary missile.



Do whatever you want (2.25 / 4) (#54)
by dipierro on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:52:05 AM EST

As long as my tax money doesn't go toward it, I really don't care what type of buildings people build.
In capitalism, man exploits man. In socialism, it's the other way around.
Another Risk Factor (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by jglazer on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:53:29 AM EST

Buildings are often designed to withstand a large number of natural disasters including earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, snow, extreme temperature and lightning depending on location. They are also designed to withstand a number of human-based disasters including accidental fire, arson, and aircraft.

Yes, that last statement is true. As soon as buildings got tall enough to be in the way of an airplane, they started getting designed to withstand them. I understand that the designers of the WTC even explored the possibility of a smaller jet hitting one of the towers.

Assessing the risk factors of natural and human-based disasters and incorporating strategies in the design to attempt to mitigate them is part of the design process. The probability of any particular disaster must be considered. Buildings in Tokyo and LA are built to withstand some earthquakes, probably based on the some of the most extreme that have occurred or are likely to occur, but making them able to withstand any conceivable earthquake would not make sense. Likewise, coastal cities should build buildings to withstand severe hurricanes but probably not the worst that have ever occurred because they are so rare.

Considering that an increased likelihood exists for a copycat disaster of the WTC, I think that it would be irresponsible to not consider in the design the risk factor of a large jet filled with fuel hitting a building. I don't think this applies only to super tall buildings but to any building. Obviously the risk with a smaller building is smaller unless the building has symbolic or strategic reasons to be a target.

Design of buildings can attempt to minimize the loss of life within the boundaries of other design criteria for building. Given that the fire of jet fuel was the likely reason for the WTC collapse perhaps fire suppression systems that are used in fuel processing facilities need to be incorporated into tall buildings. Another improvement could be faster evacuation methods. The cost of these would have to be balanced against their possibility of use.

In another areas that we live with risk factors, highway transportation, many more people die each year (40,000 in 1999) and because of this we design the highway system and cars to try to minimize this loss of life. Trying to make this 40,000 number zero would be nearly impossible and so costly no one could ever buy a car again. But as a society we would like to reduce this number and that is why cars continually have more safety features. Reducing the number of people killed in a future WTC-like accident must be a design criteria for buildings.

I don't think we should go out and build more super tall buildings just to heal scars or prove that we are strong. Those reasons seem superficial. Instead I think that we should approach building design with a new risk factor to consider. Like it or not, the world has changed. The large-jet-airplane-with-fuel risk factor does not need to dominate the design process but it should influence building design.

Re: Another Risk Factor (none / 0) (#64)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:53:02 PM EST

I understand that the designers of the WTC even explored the possibility of a smaller jet hitting one of the towers.
They designed the WTC to withstand the impact of a 707, the largest passenger jet then in existence. The planes that hit the WTC were much massier and were flying much faster than the designers thought they would be. Yet the impacts did not fell the towers.

Neither did the jet fuel fire fell the towers. Instead, the jet fuel burned out, but in turn lit a gigantic paper and other combustibles fire. That fire burned hot enough and long enough to bend the structural steel. Once it bent far enough, the towers came down.

BTW, the WTC was built to withstand hurricane force winds in the area of 300 mph.

I agree that fire suppression facilities are important. The WTC's didn't work because the plumbing was cut off. Water couldn't pump high enough because of the impact damage. Fire suppression facilities need to be on top of the building.

I disagree with your method of analyzing risk. It's fine for one guy to take a walk on a sidewalk without consulting anyone, even though he's taking a risk. Building a large building is, however, a decision that affects an entire community, neighborhood, or city.

[ Parent ]

The likelihood of another 9/11 scenario seems low. (4.25 / 4) (#56)
by Adam Tarr on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:57:11 AM EST

Perhaps I'm just optimistic, but I don't envision another 767 getting hijacked and flown into a building again in my lifetime.  Even if security is weaker than we would like, There's just no way a terrorist could convince passengers to sit tight and let them take the cockpit over.  The social contract between hijacker, passenger, and pilot has been irrevocably broken.

Now this does not mean that we are free from concerns when building super-talls.  But a terrorist attack would probably take a different form than the 9/11 scenario.  The idea that keeps me awake at night is that someone within the next decade will drive into lower Manhattan with a nuclear bomb in their trunk.  (Maybe I'm not so optimistic after all.)  But most of the reasonable scenarios I can come up with seem to apply to any dense cityscape as oppose to just the super-tall buildings at the heart of those cityscapes.

The argument for building a city vertically as oppose to sprawling outward has been made eloquently by others, so I won't re-state it.  So I fully support building skyscrapers of the garden-variety; i.e. lots of 60ish story buildings at the heart of major cities.  Building structures significantly taller than this is ultimately about making a statement.  This statement does constitute a target for terrorist attacks.  But I doubt those attacks will take the same form they did on 9/11.

In other nations (like Brazil for example) the risk of terrorist attack seems small, so I don't see why their tendency to build should be at all affected by 9/11.  In the USA, 9/11 might make some cities less likely to want to create targets that pierce the sky.  In New York specifically, the target remains so inviting that building a new 110 story structure would probably not constitute much new risk.  In my humble opinion, the statement there would be worth it.

-Adam

Re: likelihood (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:39:13 PM EST

There's just no way a terrorist could convince passengers to sit tight and let them take the cockpit over.
I agree. Nevertheless We should design new skyscrapers to withstand terrorist attacks involving airplanes. There are still plenty of ways to get a plane and fly it into a building.

[ Parent ]
right ... (none / 0) (#72)
by gbroiles on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:21:56 PM EST

thinking that something like 9/11 can't happen again is exactly the sort of lazy thinking that let it happen in the first place. Consider -
  • What if an empty plane is hijacked/stolen from an airport?
  • What if the hijackers kill all of the passengers first?
  • What if the flight crew is evil?
  • What if the plane isn't a passenger plane, but a big cargo plane, like those used by Fedex and UPS?
I'm not saying that another plane attack is likely, but it's sure not impossible.

[ Parent ]
Fire damage (none / 0) (#78)
by dfutter on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:36:51 PM EST

As I understand it, most of the WTC damage was cause by the fire from the jet fuel. Maybe airlines should start using 'less flamable' jet fuel. I believe this kind of fuel was invented to reduce fire damage in airliner crashes.

[ Parent ]
I agree with you ... (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by joegee on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:02:00 PM EST

I think 9/11 was a spectacularly "successful" one-shot deal. I have no doubt that other security vulnerabilities exist that can be exploited by those who seek to wreak havoc, but I suspect that the door that lead to the use of airplanes as weapons of mass destruction has been made much more difficult to open. I think skyscrapers have served and will continue to serve a valid purpose in environments like Manhattan or Tokyo where land space is at a premium, but since 9/11 I believe that thinking has rapidly moved away from the idea that every city requires buildings with more than fifty floors.

We'll see future megatowers, probably even in the U.S., but we'll see them planned more carefully and built with consideration for air defensibility.

On an aside, does anyone know if the mile-high skyscraper planned for Shanghai is still being given a green light?

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
mile high (none / 0) (#174)
by Jim Tour on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 08:52:07 AM EST

According to skyscrapers.com the tallest building under consideration in Shanghai is only 72 floors. Guess it got shelved.

[ Parent ]
Did you miss the news? (none / 0) (#105)
by MickLinux on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:44:33 PM EST

There were two other copycat strikes, one in Italy, one in Miami.

Once you get a new means of warfare, just like our use of the nuclear bomb, you can't pretend it doesn't exist.  Nor can you say "it will be unlikely to happen again."  It's likely.

I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
[ Parent ]

Not really the same (none / 0) (#123)
by Adam Tarr on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:47:46 PM EST

The incidents in Italy and Miami were carried out with small private planes, and they did minimal damage to the buildings involved.  They also did not appear to be terrorism-motivated, although that's not really relevant.

I'm not arguing that nobody will ever fly a plane into a building again.  What I am arguing is that it would be extrordinarily difficult for a group of terrorists, posing as passengers, to take over a large commercial jet in the air and fly it into a skyscraper.  That model just won't work anymore, due to the reinforced cockpits and the changed attitudes of passengers.  Terrorists might be able to become airline pilots, or hide inside a large cargo plane, or one of many other similar techniques to take control of a large plane before anyone can react, but all of these will be much harder to pull off.  So much harder, in fact, that I think terrorists will probably focus on attacking targets in entirely different ways.  There are many, and they are generally much more likely to pay off (see Timothy McVeigh).

[ Parent ]

Italian one wasn't criminal (none / 0) (#143)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:17:46 PM EST

The pilot that hit the building in Italy was apparently incapacitated by a health problem, such as a heart attack or stroke. The incident wasn't a crime or terrorism, but an accident.

The pilot that hit the building in Florida had a different situation. You might say it was terrorism, because he wanted to inflict terror on the population. You might say it was not terrorism because he was not connected to any terrorist organization. Whatever it was, it was definitely criminal.

Like you said, however, there's no way to stuff this genie back in the bottle.

[ Parent ]

An example of a fortress-style skyscraper... (4.60 / 5) (#61)
by Artifice on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:42:48 PM EST

...already exists in lower Manhattan, not too far from the WTC site. It's called the AT&T Long Lines building, and it was actually designed to withstand an aerial nuclear bomb blast. Here's a column that talks about it, and about the pros and cons of skyscraper construction, decentralization vs. centralization, etc.:

http://subintsoc.net/suboctagon_20011121.php

For the record, I'm a New Yorker who thinks some kind of super tall structure -- perhaps more monumental than functional (e.g. the Eiffel Tower, Space Needle, or St. Louis Arch) -- should be built at the WTC site. Verticality is a fundamental part of the NYC skyline, and the character of the whole city. Tall buildings are inspiring both as landmarks seen from afar, and as vantage points for visitors, who gain a sense of the scope and collective identity of the urban landscape by looking out from on high.

I believe tall buildings are not inherently evil: they can co-exist with responsible street-level, human-scale development (admittedly, the WTC did a poor job of this). I used to work in the Empire State Building, which is both striking as a vertical structure, and very well integrated into the streetscape at ground level.


How are your shares of Worldcom doing? Find out with the Enron Memorial Real-Time Stock Monitor!
Tall and safe? (3.25 / 4) (#62)
by Matt Oneiros on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:46:08 PM EST

you want a huge but stable building? how about a pyramid?

Lobstery is not real
signed the cow
when stating that life is merely an illusion
and that what you love is all that's real
Pyramids considered ideal (none / 0) (#150)
by MSBob on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:04:53 PM EST

A pyramid might be just what modern corporate Amercica needs. The CEO at the top, followed by upper management followed by mid management and so on. Oh, and translucent floors of course... You get the drill.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
International Rescue (1.50 / 2) (#63)
by vambo rool on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 12:46:46 PM EST

I saw a Thunderbirds episode once where they had a mile-high building. The real danger in that case was a woman driver who set the place on fire.

FAB



My answers to the questions at hand (5.00 / 4) (#70)
by hatshepsut on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:12:07 PM EST

Should all new super tall construction be discontinued and all proposals abandoned?

No, if cities, corporations, whomever wishes to, and can (taking into account safety, land availability, insurance, costs, etc.), by all means, go right ahead and build skyscrapers or super-tall buildings.

If not, what terrorist-resistant designs might circumvent the fortress factor?

Unless you feel compelled for other reasons to live in a fortress (or have a total misunderstanding of statistics) I don't think that the possibility of terrorism should force designers into the "fortress" mentality.

Are there any compelling reasons, such as the need to work and live vertically to prevent suburban sprawl, that might compel us to forge ahead with super talls despite the risks?

Yes, commuting is more likely to kill you than terrorists, either by accident or by air pollution.

Should quality-of-life concerns have kept us from ever going above the Woolworth Building?

Can't see why. While I don't personally care for living in an enormous box (too many of these buildings are artistically/architechturally hideous and without personality), as long as there aren't so many of them as to block the sun all day, I don't see why they can't be designed to have great lighting, be spacious, gracious in appearance and good places to live or work (I am not an architect).

I can't answer questions regarding specific construction methods, I am not an architect.

Human spirit questions I leave to the (many) who are more philosophical than I. I don't think there is a single "human spirit" that demands anything.

I live in the downtown core of Toronto, a city with many vibrant and interesting downtown areas (interspersed, admitedly, with some incredibly distasteful places). I have to commute out of the city, to a more suburban city, for work. Public transit where I work is essentially unusable, everything is very far away, and walking just isn't an option (or a much less appealing one anyway). On weekends, however, the car sits in the garage while I shop, go to movies, head out for a bite to eat, go to the museums or what-have-you, from the comfort and convenience of my downtown home, on the subway line and within walking distance of just about everything I need on a regular basis.

One little suggestion... (2.50 / 2) (#71)
by reflective recursion on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:18:43 PM EST

Don't name any building World Trade Center!  Or "World" anything for that matter.  There is a bit of arrogance which I do believe played a large part in the buildings becoming targets.  They were the tallest, named "_World_ Trade Center" and then placed in what many US residents consider the financial center of the world (yet more arrogance).  These attackers blow up "small" embassy buildings, which also could be considered a form of arrogance.  I don't think the tallness or amount of people contained within had anything to do with it.  Tallness of the building only made it a target because of the arrogance which comes from the tallness.  If the WTC never existed, I doubt Empire State or Sears Tower would have been selected.  They don't carry the type of arrogance that WTC did.

Back to the question.. I do believe people should continue to build super-tall buildings, but only if needed.  I also believe they should be built in designated areas _only_ (like most of Manhattan, for example).  Areas which are completely off-limits to air transport of any kind (minus military, of course).  Helicopter included.  Then these areas should be watched with a wide radius.  Just imagine a jetliner crashing into Times Square on New Years Eve.  You don't need a building at all to potentially kill hundreds to thousands.

Uhh. Many large cities have a 'World Trade Center' (none / 0) (#75)
by greyrat on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:31:07 PM EST

Boston, Chicago, LA. I believe many European port cities do too -- and let's not forget Pac rim port cities. It's a generic term used to denote an building that contains trade offices for import and export businesses.

Yeah, NYC had a real prominent World Trade Center, but it wasn't the name that was the target.
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]

Of course. (none / 0) (#83)
by reflective recursion on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:05:17 PM EST

But the name adds a touch of arrogance. There are hundreds of WTCs. The prominence plays a large part, but the name adds to it. Empire State Building, for example, is very prominent. I seriously doubt it would be attacked because there is no sense of arrogance attached to it. Plus the international trade goal of WTCA is in line with what these particular terrorists seem to be against.

[ Parent ]
*Empire State* is not arrogant? (none / 0) (#88)
by greyrat on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:30:37 PM EST

Don'tcha' think that even the other, non-empire states want to take that evil pile of stone down?

You're a funny soul...
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]

Nope. (none / 0) (#145)
by reflective recursion on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:31:26 PM EST

Why would it be? The name "Empire State" has been a name of the entire state of New York for a long long time. The building was constructed in the '30s.. long before globalization was a serious issue, which seems to be the main beef these people have (though who can really tell..). It's more of a landmark, such as the Eiffel Tower. Think of it as "New York Building".. which is really how it is named. WTC on the other hand is a building backed by an agenda. Anyhow.. the point is moot. Disasters happen and things can't always be prevented. Tall buildings or not, people will die.

[ Parent ]
I like you! You funny fella! (none / 0) (#173)
by greyrat on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 08:43:03 AM EST

You and dippero have easily met and exceeded my amusement quota for the week!
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]
Nothing better to do than waste my time? (none / 0) (#180)
by reflective recursion on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:14:13 AM EST

I thought so. Thanks for playing, come again!

[ Parent ]
#;^) [nt] (none / 0) (#189)
by greyrat on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 01:12:07 PM EST


~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]
What about 'Muffy's Trade Center'? (none / 0) (#200)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 04:56:57 PM EST

It has the virtue of understatement. Terrorists will think it's a really big hair salon. Muffy's Trade Center should be a 200 storey tribute to New York's resiliance, and it should be pink to appear less threatening.

For safety's sake, big silhouettes of combat jets could be pasted on the windows, to scare the commercial airliners away and keep them from crashing.


This is an excellent example of a fairly dull but decently spelled signature.

[ Parent ]
reminds me of the Titanic (none / 0) (#222)
by tbc on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 04:08:04 PM EST

There is a bit of arrogance which I do believe played a large part in the buildings becoming targets.

Reminds me of what happened when they said of the Titanic, "Not even God himself could sink this ship." :-)


[ Parent ]

Sprawl is a larger problem (4.60 / 5) (#76)
by soulcatcher on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:31:58 PM EST

I personally feel that the skyscraper, and even the super tall are important to our future as a country (US). Dense cities, such as New York, Chicago, and Boston present a far better quality of life in my mind then Cities like LA. The Comment:

One might look to the example of Los Angeles, a relatively low-rise, horizontal city and ask how 'vibrant the quality of urban life' is there."

is absolutly correct in one unintended way. Looking at LA as a model for future cities is far and away the wrong direction. For at least me, I find LA to be one of the most miserable cities in the US to live in. Miles upon miles of walled off suburban blight as far as you can drive in any direction is not a high quality of life to me. LA has an abysmal record of producing sprawl, and badly sustained growth. LA has a very low amount of mixed income/mixed race neighboorhoods. Houses are consistantly seperated from commercial and retail areas, by large distances. Most of the neighboorhoods are neighbor unfriendly, with driveways in the front, instead of alleyways, and the small front porches.

Indeed, my personal experience with LA, Denver and New York tells me that LA has one of the worst qualities of life (at least of those three). LA's sprawl divides people, on racial and economic lines. In Manhattan, people of all walks of life, races and creeds mix together, and form a much tighter community. A New Yorker is a New Yorker, and there is a sort of comraderie about that. In LA, there is nothing like that.

I personally live in Denver - a city that was moving more towards the LA model, but recently has taken an interest in sustainable growth, instead of just creating mile upon mile of soulless suburban neighboorhoods with little variety.

On a seperate note, I also happen to feel that the New York model is far healthier for the environment. LA spreads - adding more and more territory, and longer and longer commutes. in Manhattan, anyone can get anywhere with the subway. Large (as in high) dense cities, that take up less square miles seems far more sensible then flat cities that go on forever.



Why not build down instead of up? (3.00 / 2) (#79)
by lowca on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:41:17 PM EST

I think that skyscrapers, super tall buildings, whatever the hell you like to call them, are great things. They exemplify Man's marvelous engineering ability, and they look cool in general. However, as many have pointed out, they can't be reinforced without major economic costs.

So, why not build down instead of up? Put offices, industry, homes, etc., underground, instead of on the surface. Some cities, such as Toronto, have already done this to a limited extent. Certainly, some complications would arise, such as not being able to see outside, but they could be gotten around, such as underground parks/courtyards. While someone could certainly plant a bomb underground, it'd be more difficult to inflict large-scale damage. (More importantly, it would be almost impossible for an airliner to inflict any significant damage.) Also, a well-designed city could have reduced commute times, if homes were on one vertical level, offices on another, industry on another.

---

"Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us." - P.J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

COST (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by madgeo on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:50:48 PM EST

When you head into the earth, you have to hold back earth and groundwater instead of just air. You also have to contend with rock. No Fun and costly.

[ Parent ]
Tallest buildings: (4.66 / 3) (#80)
by Roman on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:47:18 PM EST

Why build tall if we can build underground? What if your office buildings are all underground - digging lower and lower to the center of the planet? Isn't it going to be easier to build and maintain these? Can entire cities be build in tunnels - roads in tunnels, office buildings in tunnels, so that the outside world is free from us (humans) so that there could be space outside where people got up to get some fresh air and to have a lunch or a walk?

Because People Like Windows? (n/t) (none / 0) (#84)
by tlhf on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:11:17 PM EST



[ Parent ]
light (none / 0) (#113)
by Roman on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:10:09 PM EST

People like light. Light comes from artifficial sources as well as from natural (such as the Sun.) Obviously windows could be simulated. People like windows today but in tomorrow's society they may not even know what those are. In some cultures houses are built with no real windows - only skylights.

[ Parent ]
Not enough light (none / 0) (#148)
by MSBob on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:57:29 PM EST

I can't remember the exact figure but even the strongest bulbs we can make today give brightness that is two orders of magnitude smaller than sun rays. That's why people need and feel good in natural light. We can't simulate that.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Let them have windows (none / 0) (#210)
by vectro on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 09:23:12 PM EST

They can look out of their steel enclosure into a brown one.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Re: Underground cities (5.00 / 1) (#87)
by Gord ca on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:30:21 PM EST

That's a whole lot of excavation. Enough, so that the equivalent to a downtown would essentially be a man-made crater with high-rises siting inside it.

That is, unless the tunnels housing the roads & buildings are concrete re-inforced. In which case you'd need a lot of concrete.

There would also be the problem of sunlight. Of course modern downtowns have this as well. Only they get to have windows. Undergrounds wouldn't have any windows, not even ones facing other skyscrapers.

If I'm attacking your idea, it's probably because I like it
[ Parent ]

Producing steel needs excavation too (none / 0) (#141)
by BlowCat on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:01:53 PM EST

At least some weight could be supported by the surrounding soil, saving a lot of steel and concrete. Don't forget that producing concrete and especially steel requires a lot of excavation in some other place.

[ Parent ]
Morlocks (none / 0) (#122)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:46:46 PM EST

Could that be the first step towards the society in "Time Machine"?
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
But... (none / 0) (#151)
by shortboy slim on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:09:07 PM EST

This isn't a viable strategy for all cities. My city (Halifax) is built on pretty much solid rock, because a glacier pulled through here a couple thousand years ago. As a result there is very little top soil left. It'd get pretty expensive if someone decied to dig more than a couple dozen metres down. I don't know if other cities have this problem but the land value here dosn't justify digging too deep.

[ Parent ]
Slightly o/t: High pedestrian networks (4.33 / 3) (#82)
by Gord ca on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:02:37 PM EST

Why is it that there aren't ways of getting between high rises, other than from the first few floors? Consider a pedestrian or even light rail network, ~10-40 stories up, to service the super-tall buildings.
  • This would aleviate the problem of having excessive elevators in the first few stories.
  • This could possibly provide structural support. (It could also intensify damage. I'm not an architect/engineer/physicist.)
  • This would make commuting between two high-rise buildings easier.
However
  • It would require more architectual cooperation. The street level facilities are publically owned, while the buildings are private. The network would probably require municipal co-ordination.
  • Structural support could be a problem, especially for a rail.
  • Building swaying would have to be neutralized or accounted for. (How much do they sway?)
So, am I a genius? Nuts? I'm a CS student, so don't know much about such architectual issues. There must be some reason I've only seen this type of thing in sci-fi.

If I'm attacking your idea, it's probably because I like it
In the olden days... (none / 0) (#90)
by enthalpyX on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:42:54 PM EST

... they didn't do this, because buildings were made of wood. And if one wooden building caught on fire, the walkways provided a ready portal for the fire to jump from building to building. At least, that's the historical precedent.

I think the reason it doesn't happen nowadays in our world of steel and reinforced concrete is more for privacy reasons. The kind of architectural cooperation you talk about-- I imagine many building tenants would be loath to adopt.

I think the reason for this has something to do with the nature of cities in general. Cities can be viewed as a living, breathing entity. Some parts develop into the "good" parts and others develop into the "bad" parts. A major factor in this is accessibility; something as simple as the lack of a simple access road can be the dividing line between ghetto & not.

Carry this logic up into the skies, and while we get something that's reminiscent of Snow Crash in terms of technological beauty, we get lots of problems that people just don't want to deal with.

Peace,


[ Parent ]

Highrises have ghettos? (none / 0) (#94)
by Gord ca on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:03:23 PM EST

First, I don't see what you're getting at with the privacy issues. These are high rises, not personal homes. They deal with access points at ground level and often some below ground, what would be the problem with having an access point higher up?

Do >40 story buildings develop this 'good-part or bad-part' thing? I don't see how a high connection would help transmit some negative ambiance. Nor how a skyscraper would even have such an ambiance. Of course, I'ven't been around bad parts of cities, nor any particularly good parts. (Well, I've driven though some rich neighbourhoods in Toronto.)

If I'm attacking your idea, it's probably because I like it
[ Parent ]

hamster trail ghettos (none / 0) (#98)
by louboy on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:21:57 PM EST

When you have these sky-tubes, they are effectively acting as streets.  Just as streets can be "good" or "bad", so can the tubes.  No, they won't be a residential "ghetto" since nobody lives there, but they can be more or less lively, safe, crime-ridden, scary.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN have extensive networks of third story "hamster tubes" (forget the real term) in their high-rise districts.  Minneapolis' downtown is mixed-used -- most office towers have bars, shops, services on the first few floors.  Some larger retail buildings are along the hamster tubes.  These tubes feel like a natural extension of the street, and in inclement weather, they help to replace the street.  The tubes are lively, and filled with small shops.

St. Paul's downtown is primarily offices.  Outside of office hours, the hamster tubes are filled with menacing teenagers -- most people don't go there or feel comfortable there.

I think that hamster tubes on the higher floors, being separated from the street, and from diverse street activity would just be asking for trouble. The buildings themselves aren't "bad", but the "streets" between them can be.

[ Parent ]

I'dn't heard of this before (none / 0) (#117)
by Gord ca on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:29:25 PM EST

This is pretty much what I was thinking of - have a street-like environment some stories up. (My idea was higher, of course. I've seen a few such walkways, but not an entire network.)

Yes, I see your problem with unsafe streets. I've walked down some that weren't the friendliest.

So, the problem with these tubes is they would be confined, without a steady stream of trafic to make people feel safe and to discourage ganging of undesireables. I'm assuming your problem with them being so far up is that any incident which occured wouldn't be visible from street level so could go unnoticed.

This might be cleaned up a bit with security cameras and plenty of lighting. Making the tubes bigger and situating them as major pedestrian traffic routes would put them almost on par with streets for safety.

If I'm attacking your idea, it's probably because I like it
[ Parent ]

Building accessibility (none / 0) (#157)
by enthalpyX on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:23:07 PM EST

I think the point is that buildings, to a certain extent are atomic. They're elements of the city. When you start inter-connecting the buildings, they no longer become atomic elements, but rather part of the all-encompassing whole. While this might make sense in certain situations where you have families of buildings by the same owner, having access portals up in the sky connecting arbitrary buildings leads to a perceived loss of control from the building owner's perspective.

Currently, it looks odd if someone just waltzes into the Hyatt Regency. If this tunnel system was in place, the Hyatt changes from a hotel to a hotel AND an access point. That bodes not well for the yuppie contingent. ;)

So often in cities poverty and wealth are juxtaposed; by opening up the insides of buildings, you invite the urban surroundings into them.

[ Parent ]

sway (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by X3nocide on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:06:39 PM EST

If you've got a really big structure, forces like wind can be a harrowing factor. If wind causes the two buildings to move, then theres considerable torque on any potential skywalk. At 50 stories high, you also have to consider the potential for failure, with the most likely outcome being fatalities. Finally, Its a hell of a bitch to add in skywalks, and at 50 stores I'd guess its prohibitively expensive. Hell, Sprint's new World HQ campus is running over budget because the contractors forgot the subterranian walkways and now they're throwing in skyways.

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]
Twin Cities (4.00 / 1) (#139)
by Vader82 on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 07:35:40 PM EST

I used to live in Minnesota, and the downtown areas there have skywalks all over the place.  The 2nd floor of just about every building is planned as a second lobby with shops, restaraunts and plenty of interior walkways to connect all the exterior walkways.  It's very feasible at the 2nd story level and wonderful.  Don't like the food court at your building?  Walk a building or two over and get lunch there.

The real problems with your idea would be for the buildings that sway a lot.  at the 10th story it would probably be feasible because most 10 story buildings aren't 10 times taller than they are wide.  They are typically a lot more evenly proportioned and so the sway is negligible.  I don't think it would be feasable to build things like that any higher for two reasons.  One is that as you get higher and higher the sway increases more and more.  Several inches can be compensated for without any genius feats of engineering.  Several feet is a lot harder.  The second problem is that there aren't tons of 40 story tall buildings.  You would connect 3-30 buildings in the average metropolitan area with a 40th story transportation system, where as a 10th story would connect a much greater number.  Without connecting lots of buildings the system is worthless.  It would be about the same as trying to use an amtrack passenger train like a subway, just not efficient.
Need food? Like sharing? http://reciphp.vader82.net/
[ Parent ]

skybridges (none / 0) (#177)
by Jim Tour on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 10:28:44 AM EST

The Petronas Towers have a skybridge between them at 558 ft., more than a third of the way up (about the 30th floor). This might be one more argument in favor of full steel frame, high concrete/steel ratio construction. Less sway makes significant pedestrian & perhaps light rail traffic possible between buildings. Such skybridges would also enhance security-- if you're in one of the top floors your flight to safety would be around 70 stories rather than 100.

[ Parent ]
Arcologies (4.00 / 1) (#86)
by TinWeasil on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:27:57 PM EST

The problem with modern skyscrapers is the extreme hight coupled with it's small footprint.

A building the height of the WTC towers that was also the same WIDTH as the height would not have faced the inevitable collapse that the towers did.

The key problems with any such building would be providing the infrastructure needed to combat any emergency that might occur. Multiple access points to each major compartment would be needed. An external shell could be built to protect the interior.

http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Self-sufficient_20Arcologies
Brought to you by Ozone Nozone.

Arcologies and Double-wide Petronas class (none / 0) (#226)
by Thyrsus on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 07:15:45 AM EST

To make explicit the implication of the previous poster, I'd like to speculate that such ``fortress'' buildings would be more capable of supporting a wider variety of activities than weaker structures. Thicker walls would mean increased noise and vibration abatement, allowing residential, retail, office, and light industry to coexist. I don't see any inherent reason why such structures should have a poor quality of life; to find out whether a high quality of life would be economical is beyond my ability. For instance: recently my town zoned an area for mixed use: houses, condos, retail, office. The idea was that people could live where they worked, decreasing traffic. The result is pleasing to the eye, but the majority of the people who work there cannot afford to live there -- instead they commute from higher density, cheaper appartments or trailer parks in the (still nearby) countryside. The people who can afford to live there commute to corporate offices five to thirty miles away. This illustrates that quality of life, which includes a variety of facilities, a minimum of commuting, neighborhood privacy and interaction, and accomodation for a wide range of income groups, is really hard to accomplish. The height of the building is not the main determinant.

[ Parent ]
Context is everything (4.50 / 2) (#89)
by Avumede on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:31:51 PM EST

A skyscraper amidst skyscrapers is beautiful.  You don't have to believe me, just go down to where they cell postcards of your city and tell me what you see.  Skyscrapers.  They define the shape of the city, and by doing that, define the city itself.  

However, a skyscraper by itself looks out of place.   This happens a lot.  The trend is to build these things around the city perimeter as part of office parks, where commuters can get easily.  Everything else around it is one story tall, and these things are 20+ stories tall.  This is ugly.

It would be far better if we strived for consistency.  A town of 4 story tall buildings is beautiful, but a town of one story tall buildings with the occasional office building monstrosity and big box retail is ugly.  

So we don't need super tall building everywhere, but we do need them where they look the best, in city centers, among other tall buildings.

I agree. (none / 0) (#92)
by enthalpyX on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:52:50 PM EST

Case and point is Paris. La Defense is looked upon with disdain as the "little Manhattan." I'm not sure if skyscrapers are banned from certain parts of Paris, or rather, it's merely a cultural artifact.



[ Parent ]

They're banned from everywhere except La Defense (none / 0) (#132)
by Wateshay on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 06:08:11 PM EST


"If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for everyone else."


[ Parent ]
Oh I see... (none / 0) (#147)
by MSBob on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:53:57 PM EST

I see you must have been to Saint John (New Brunswick) lately? Old architecture throughout the city with two monstorcities stuck in the middle: the Irving tower (who else) and the NBTel tower. Ugly as a sin. But Saint John has been branded the armpit of Atlantic Canada anyways so who gives a fuck...
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Cloud Scrapers (4.50 / 2) (#91)
by thelizman on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:52:23 PM EST

First of all, let me say that this is one of the most well written and entirely original stories I have yet to see grace K5, and certainly makes the case for having a K5 Klassics Arkive. Excellent work.

Now with respect to supertall buildings and the objections of those on "quality of life" grounds, I can't help but answer the nagging feeling in my brain that they aren't really concerned with quality of life, but their own political perceptions of supertalls. In all frankness, a giant skyscraper like the Empire State, WTC Towers, Sears Tower, and Petronas towers are phallic representations of capitalist domination. Some people, not suprisingly, have a problem with that. Anything "phallic", "capitalist", or "dominating" is necessarily bad under certain political ideologies.

The author didn't get overly specific with what the QOL objections were, so other than my suspicion of their political reasons (i.e., communist liberals who are afraid of the allmighty dick), what QOL issues do supertalls present that urbal sprawl does not have an equal to?
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
quality of life objections (none / 0) (#97)
by louboy on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:12:30 PM EST

I don't think that most objections about supertall buildings are about "phallic representations of capitalist domination" (love the phrase by the way!).  Instead, most Americans (at least in the West) feel uneasy about or outright hostile toward cities, density, urbanism, etc...  The quality-of-life objections to super-tall buildings are merely an extension of the quality-of-life objections to urbanism in general.

I spent most of my life in California suburbs, and currently live in the bay area, which is filled with anti-urban NIMBY reactionaries. The primary complaint most people seem to have about cities is not about the architecture, so much as it is about the crowding.  High densities of buildings and people:

-block the sunlight
-increase traffic
-make parking difficult
-speed gentrification
-drive up rents

Now, I don't agree with this anti-urban perspective, but just wanted to throw out the things that I think most anti-development/anti-urban folks dislike about dense cities.

Ultimately, I think that the West, and California in particular, MUST urbanize if it is going to stay livable.  During the dot-com boom, there was lots of screaming and crying in San Francisco (and to a lesser degree Oakland) about the speeding pace of development -- that the city would be "Manhattanized" by the new office and apartment blocks being built.  But if there's one thing that you can't control, it's demographics.  If you have an influx of companies and people coming to an area, they have to live and work SOMEWHERE.  And I'd rather see the warehouses South of Market razed and replaced with mid-rise office and apartment blocks than have even more beautiful countryside destroyed to make room for tract homes and office parks.

[ Parent ]

Another great disaster (3.14 / 7) (#95)
by IHCOYC on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:07:59 PM EST

It is probably impossible to guarantee that no large aeroplane will ever again crash into a tall building, whether as an act of deliberate terror or as a consequence of human error or equipment malfunction. We now have a greater appreciation of the possibilities than we did before 9/11. Still, tall buildings were built before; they will be built afterwards for the same reasons.

But the so called International Style or Bauhaus style of architecture is another great catastrophe when it strikes our urban centres, and one of the worst and most misshapen things to come out of the Age of Charlatans.1 These monolithic boxes of chrome and glass, in various shades of white, grey, beige, or black, devoid of every symbol or decoration, are in themselves dehumanising and dehumanised. No bunker style building could possibly be drearier than these hideous rectangular monoliths.

A church built with Gothic arches points towards Heaven and inspires piety. A bank built like a Greek temple suggests Roman prudence and classical traditions. These ugly buildings are built deliberately to repel every such suggestion and symbol, and to give you no clue as to the arts practised inside. Fancy law firms fill the front offices inside these towers with polished dark wood and leather, hang chime clocks on the walls, and seek to project the atmosphere of a Regency period club. On the outside, though, they are housed in an overgrown milk carton.

People like windows: but the windows on these buildings can neither be looked out of, and certainly not opened: that would spoil the austere lines outside, and give an inkling that there were individuals inside the damned thing. (No doubt, the strong winds six hundred feet up have something to do with it too.)

These things will not even make attractive ruins. We should not stand still until the last of these misbegotten children of Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe is down and the land reclaimed. Build great Art Deco towers; build it like a Gothic church, for that matter, but for the love of your fellow man don't inflict any more of these Damned Things on any city, anywhere.

---

1 The Age of Charlatans is a name I made up for the cultural period that produced such things as atonal and twelve-tone music, abstract expressionist painting and sculpture, and International Style architecture.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy

Beauty in Simplicity (none / 0) (#184)
by HypoLuxa on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:47:51 AM EST

I don't know enough about architecture to get into a serious critical debate over this, but I have a genuine fondness for Mies van der Rohe's buildings. When put into an urban context with many other contrasting styles surrounding it, the austere simplicity is attractive. However, after being on the UIC campus that van der Rohe did, I think I can see your point. When all you see is Bauhaus style buildings, it feels oppressive; so institutionally cold.

I guess, like most architecture, it comes down to context. A good city needs at least one (but no more than two) stark box of simply defined lines, but mixed with the other styles on building.

--
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen
[ Parent ]

That's why the style is so wrong. . . (none / 0) (#198)
by IHCOYC on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 03:14:50 PM EST

It is impossible to banish symbolism from architecture. Given the way the human mind works, you cannot have a building or an architectural style without it becoming a symbol of something.

The pure "form follows function" spartanness itself becomes a symbol, but this time, a symbol of the worst of times: of faceless institutions, of colourless office-warrens, of a dismal Future of austere and dreary efficiency. This is where the "man in the grey flannel suit" goes to take his place in the vast bureaucracy.

Of course, some of the people who find these buildings dismaying make them out to be the giant phalluses of a pretentious patriarchy. The claim is easy to mock, but it is no more absurd than any other metaphor. A building with carven gargoyles or Corinthian columns at least knows what it's supposed to be. A glass and concrete monolith invites more capricious interpretations, of which this is one of many possibilities. Symbolism in architecture is more than mere superfluous ornament; it is a basic human need that must and will be met by any building. No building's form can follow its function without it.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
[ Parent ]

Learn your stuff (none / 0) (#207)
by Miscreant on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 08:27:16 PM EST

The international Style and Bauhaus were completely different.

Hannes Meyer was the 2nd director of the Bahaus, straight after Gropius left. Try finding him in your "international style"

[ Parent ]

Start at street level, work up. (none / 0) (#100)
by quasipalm on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:22:49 PM EST

One of the many problems with the WTC, in my non-architect view, is that it started with the notion of a huge concept structure and then figured out ways of forcibly squeezing it into Lower Manhattan. This is much like building a pyramid from the top down.

The WTC was famous for being separate from the rest of the city -- an unconnected island. This time around, we should look at what works for NYC. Grand Central Station is an obvious example. That structure has been a backbone for NYC for years. We can also look to other city centers like, Penn Station and Times Square. In all of these cases, the streets are taken care of first, and the density rises from those streets naturally, not the other way around.

My Plan of Attack would be (in no particular order):

Transit: Bring back at least one East-West street. Create a large Grand Central type transit center connecting PATH and NYC Subways (keeping in mind a possible 2nd Ave Line).

Buildings: Smaller blocks, mixed use. Probably a few very tall buildings (60+ stories) and a few smaller ones. Incorporate open space. Bring residential units back to the 'hood.

Memorial: Small but breath taking (Lower Manhattan is too important for the living -- including buisness owners, local residents -- to create a multi-block sized memorial).

(hi)
building buildings (4.62 / 8) (#103)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:39:08 PM EST

The first thing to notice about a skyscraper or super-tall building is that it has a lot of potential energy. It is inevitable that that energy will one day be expended. It's better if this happens under control, as in the case of a demolition or controlled implosion. In case of an unanticipated collapse, however, two problems arise. The first is the safety of those inside the building. The second is the safety of those outside the building but nearby.

The WTC had a design that was too skewed toward the economical and away from public safety. A fire that was set by burning jet fuel, but mostly consisted of burning paper and other combustibles, burned hot enough and long enough to weaken the structural steel and fell the building within a very short period of time. Admittedly, the impact of the planes had knocked a lot of the insulation off the structural steel, but that shouldn't have mattered. Future skyscrapers and super-talls should have better fire suppression systems (placed on top of the building so they can always reach flames), and better fire resistance (more structural steel and more fire protective coating on that steel). Buildings should be designed to remain standing for 12 hours in the event of any conceivable fire. This would allow every person, including the disabled, or stranded (as were hundreds of people on the upper floors of the towers) to get out.

For buildings like the WTC, redesigning them to have more concrete is a good step, as that would protect against fire.

At least one reinforced concrete stairway leading all the way down is needed in every skyscraper. It should be mandatory. (In the WTC attack, the lack of these stranded people on the upper levels.) The elevators, however, might be best designed with sheetrock walls. (In the WTC attack, several people who were trapped in elevators escaped by opening the doors to their cars and then clawing through the sheetrock with whatever metal they had on hand.)

The upside to being in a skyscraper is the view. It's not only pleasurable; it's also so confidence inducing that it can tempt one into arrogance. You almost get the feeling that you are much more important than those ants scurrying on the ground. That view wouldn't exist in a fortress. A fortress would not be economical without tenants, and tenants wouldn't want to live or work there without windows.

Another of the failings of the WTC was its unwelcome environment for the radio transmissions of emergency personnel. A report published recently in The New York Times said as much. Firefighters couldn't talk to each other even when only two floors separated them. Many firefighters did not get the mayday signal to leave immediately. To prevent such problems from happening again, I'd suggest a twofold approach. First, install repeaters in strategic locations in the building. Make sure those repeaters have battery backups. Second, install an intercom system with redundant wiring throughout the building so that the building manager can immediately communicate to all people on all floors in the event of an emergency. It would probably be necessary to do redundant "home runs" to each floor so that competitors on different floors couldn't hack the intercom system and spy on one another. Of course, the intercom system would also need a battery backup system.

I'm confident that the age of the skyscraper is not over. Skyscrapers and super-tall buildings that can be built economically with sufficient public safety measures can still be built and should be.

That leaves the people on the ground. One of the effects of the WTC attacks was to close off an entire section of Manhattan for months. The rescue and cleanup operations were magnificently and heroically conducted. There was no way to have done it faster. The problem was that the WTC was so tall and so massive, and yet so close to other buildings, that when it collapsed it not only endangered people on the ground, but also created a huge, long lasting disaster zone.

When designing how a building will be erected, one should also design how the building will come down, as eventually it must. It's something that is not often considered in the design of tall buildings, but should be.

The best business justification to build a skyscraper is that the price of land is very high. It wouldn't make sense to put a super-tall building in the middle of Kansas. It's more cost-effective to build a low, wide building in such locales.

Is there a future for skyscrapers and super-tall buildings? Yes. Just don't build them so close together. Require that a good number of small and medium size buildings be permanently situated between the skyscrapers and super-talls. That way, if one collapses, it won't cause as much destruction on the ground. Future cities should not copy Manhattan verbatim. A large city should have a skyline, but that skyline should have bigger spaces between its tallest buildings.

If we continue to build any building, terrorists will be tempted to strike it. What should be done about that? The best way to deal with terrorists is to destroy their organizations. The best defense is a good offense. This works in the short-term.

In the long term, the question is whether my country, the democratic freedom-loving country that I love, is becoming an empire. If so, it will engender neverending resistance not just from evil cowards like Osama Bin Laden, but from others. That line of inquiry would take us, however, outside the present discussion.

These are just some random thoughts. They do not represent any conclusions that I've reached. I'm not committed to any of these positions (except that Osama Bin Laden is an evil coward).

building buildings (none / 0) (#116)
by samsara on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:25:01 PM EST

The WTC had a design that was too skewed toward the economical and away from public safety. A fire that was set by burning jet fuel, but mostly consisted of burning paper and other combustibles, burned hot enough and long enough to weaken the structural steel and fell the building within a very short period of time.

A lot of effort was put into designing the WTC to withstand an impact from aircraft that existed at the time. In particular, a Boeing 707 (slightly larger than a 727) was used. I don't believe that anyone concieved a much larger plane existing, but sure enough the 747 emerged in '69. (The WTC began construction in '66). And later on in 1981, the 767 had it's first flight. If we are to build super tall buildings that can withstand a plane crash, which I believe is the main point of this post, then we'll have to take under consideration that the planes of the future will be 3 times larger than the ones of today (not to mention the fuel will be 10 times more flammable). Super tall buildings need to withstand super big planes, such as the up and coming AirBus A3XX.

[ Parent ]
Are they necessary? (4.00 / 3) (#104)
by bodrius on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:41:52 PM EST

In general I'm in favor of increasing urban density, but I have to wonder if super-talls are actually needed for that.

Skyscrappers, I would think, are a necessity because I don't think we can achieve critical density without them. At least not considering the standard of life Americans are used to.

A "city" without density degenerates into a mesh of suburbs connected by local malls which people ironically call "urban areas". "Downtown" dies with the office hours, and the wonderful quality of life of the citizens is restricted to their respective homes, with a social life that encompases perhaps little more than their neighbors, friends by necessity and geographical convenience.

Density and a decent public transportation system are necessary for a good urban quality of life because they lower the threshold for urban activity. Instead of depending on requiring the typical citizen to turn on the car, plan ahead a route, drive distances measured in miles and deal with parking for the most menial task, the urban citizen can measure movement in meters and his activities require no more planning than the decision itself.

It makes improvisation possible, which is a requirement for an active urban life.

But there is such a thing as too much density. An overcrowded city can indeed present an unpleasant quality of life to its citizens. Provided that the city can expand horizontall, and that as the city expands the transportation system keeps up, and that on average the critical density is maintained, particularly in the more active areas, I don't see a reason for the super-tall...
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...

Worse threat (4.33 / 3) (#110)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:59:22 PM EST

I'm not as concerned about a repeat of 9/11 as I am about a plain old fire. No fire engine ladders go 100+ stories high. Presumably, high-rises have sprinkler systems, but if they fail to extinguish a fire on the 85th floor, you're SOL!
Information wants to be beer.
not really (none / 0) (#121)
by Sleepy In Seattle on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:46:32 PM EST

because a typical office fire is relatively low-temperature and slow-spreading. People would have time to evacuate (and unlike 9/11, at least some of the stairwells would likely be navigable).

[ Parent ]
A Myriad of Possibilities (4.66 / 3) (#114)
by superdiva on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:22:25 PM EST

Should all new super tall construction be discontinued and all proposals abandoned?

I don't think so.
  1. Remember that there were two other planes headed for the Pentagon and presumably the White House or U.S. Capitol Building. The intent wasn't to crash into a skyscraper; it was to target and destroy centers of intelligence, government, and commerce.

    What was the end result of the attack? a) 3000 people died b) important political and economic centers were attacked. You don't need to hit a skyscraper to achieve goals "a" and "b".

  2. The very nature of terrorism requires intelligence to bypass any security system in place. Whatever new safeguards are put in place, a terrorist group will simply figure out a way to get around it; a new terrorists-act-victims-react cycle would begin.

  3. The WTC attack was contingent on the terrorists willing to die; if they had to figure out a way to fly into a skyscraper and still live, the WTC attack would not be feasible. When you're willing to die for your beliefs, you can plan an attack that has opens up new possibilities for mass destruction. What new security measures can combat this all-or-nothing terrorism? (Remember Michael Corleone's observation of the Cuban rebels in Godfather II?)

_____________________________________________
There is also the economics. (none / 0) (#115)
by Apuleius on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:24:41 PM EST

Skyscrapers and super-talls are much more difficult to fill than they are to build. During the early 90's recession, places like the Sears Tower were seriously hurting for rent money, and the WTC has never had an easy time reaching the black. Super-talls are like the Apollo program: originally, just their coolness value was enough to justify trying them out, price tag and danger, warts and all. But now that it's been demonstrated that they can be built, people will need better justification than that to build more of them.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
my feedback to wtc2002.com (5.00 / 1) (#118)
by tbc on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:35:35 PM EST

via the "Your Voice" button at http://www.wtc2002.com/

Dear Visionaries:

Your building is also talked about in a story at Kuro5hin -- A Call for Opinions: The Future of the Super Tall Building (Op-Ed)

As I write to you, the readers don't seem to be taking your particular idea very seriously. See my comment and the replies.

I'm ambivalent.  One one hand, I don't live in NYC and so don't have to live with how your vision would replace the skyline of the Twin Towers.  Based on your concept drawings, though, I think it overshadows the rest of the landscape. One commenter predicted your concept would be built in Las Vegas.  I hate to admit I agree.  But on the other hand, I applaud your effort for being so bold. In any case, I wish you success in promoting your idea.

P.S. Your site probably isn't being indexed by search engines because it uses animation exclusively.  Search engines have a strong bias in favor of plain text. Perhaps your idea would spread more effectively if you offered a plain text version of wtc2002.com.


Doesn't work in Mozilla (none / 0) (#127)
by DodgyGeezer on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:32:13 PM EST

P.S. Your site probably isn't being indexed by search engines because it uses animation exclusively. Search engines have a strong bias in favor of plain text. Perhaps your idea would spread more effectively if you offered a plain text version of wtc2002.com.
Even worse, all I get in Mozilla is a blank page, even though I have Flash installed correctly.

[ Parent ]
clarification of low-rise cities (5.00 / 2) (#120)
by Sleepy In Seattle on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:43:58 PM EST

Interesting question posed here, though I personally don't care much either way. But I do want to comment on one assertion that I think is overly dismissive:

They favor low-rise cities on a "human scale" and would like to see outright laws banning super talls, and all skyscrapers for that matter. One might look to the example of Los Angeles, a relatively low-rise, horizontal city and ask how 'vibrant the quality of urban life' is there.

L.A. is a singularly poor example of a low-rise city, because it is hugely automobile-centric and pedestrian-unfriendly. In most parts of town it would be more accurate to call it "no-rise" than low-rise. As a counter-example, I would propose something like central Paris, which is dense and lively but has few buildings higher than six floors or so. (I don't know for certain, but I strongly suspect this is because they were constructed before elevators made taller buildings practical.)

Better examples (none / 0) (#125)
by DodgyGeezer on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:12:52 PM EST

For American cities, one only needs to look a Washington DC. There are no high rises there, and it is also a very nice city in itself. As for Europe, Paris is not the only one low on high rises. Most European cities are in this style. You could argue that London (Europes largest city) only has one skyscraper: Canary Wharf... which itself has been a target of the IRA. I don't count the high rises that replaced the slums of WW2 as anything comparable to the high rise developments in the core of most American cities.

[ Parent ]
build whatever you want, just (5.00 / 1) (#124)
by turmeric on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:02:16 PM EST

put a freakin sidewalk out front and a frickin curb cut.

Chickens with our heads cut off. (4.50 / 2) (#128)
by Gravaton on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:33:43 PM EST

Everyone think about your life. Think about how easy it would be for someone, whose sole objective was to kill you and who had no reguard for his own safety, to accomplish that goal. The fact of the matter is that when someone sets out to perform an act of terror, they are going to try their damndest to do it the best they can. It doesn't matter how we build our buildings. In fact, it might be better to let them have "easy" targets then force them to up the ante to chemical or biological weapons. So there we have it. We have an enemy who WILL want to hurt us, and doesn't particularly care how it's gone about. We can either cower in fear like animals or stand up like human beings.

The World Trade Center wasn't attacked because it was a skyscraper. It was attacked because it was a symbol. A giant, multifaceted symbol that many people didn't realize the signifigance of until it was gone. What matters now is showing that our spirit and drive has not been destroyed. And for this reason, simply sitting down and saying "Well, guess we can't build big anymore" is letting terror break us. I am 110% in favor of the continued construction of skyscrapers, and would gladly spend time in one. I believe that, for as long as they are commercially viable (as others have brought up that point) there is no reason not to continue building them. Let's make our cities places to be proud of instead of bunkers within which we hide.

On the urban planning side of this issue, I have to admit I'm not sure quite what kind of atmosphere a skyscraper-heavy city creates. I've lived for this past year in the East Village and found it to be a rather lively and ultimately enjoyable area, but I didn't really spend much time near large buildings. I'll honestly say "I don't know" :)

Yes and no. (none / 0) (#130)
by aphrael on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:49:30 PM EST

The WTC was attacked because it was a symbol, true. But it was also attacked because it was easy to attack; and it was a symbol because it was easily visible.

I can understand the desire not to 'give in' to terrorism, and not to change what we're doing just because terrorism has increased the costs. But at the same time, it is legitimate to sit back and ask 'why are we doing this?', and see if the means we have adopted to serve our goals really make any sense at all.

Why are we building skyscrapers? It is not giving in to terrorism to ask this ... and for my part at least it's an honest question; i've never known why.

[ Parent ]

Why skyscrapers? (none / 0) (#131)
by MeanGene on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:56:48 PM EST

Very simple - to maximize net profit function = rental revenue - construction cost - land cost

[ Parent ]
Easy to attack!?!?! What?!?!?! (none / 0) (#133)
by 955301 on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 06:14:09 PM EST

I cannot believe you just said the WTC was easy to attack! Hooo, that's a good one.

Okay cowboy. Turn the TV off and step away from the remote.

[ Parent ]

It was. (none / 0) (#136)
by aphrael on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 06:32:00 PM EST

Compare the difficulty of attacking the WTC (which had been bombed in 93, remember) with the difficulty of attacking, say, a random building on a soundstage lot, using the chosen delivery mechanism.

[ Parent ]
Umm.... (none / 0) (#165)
by Gravaton on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 01:46:04 AM EST

Well the delivery mechanism was chosen for it's ability to hit the chosen targets. I don't think this argument is valid as had the target shifted, the delivery mechanism would have also have been changed.

[ Parent ]
Delocalisation and high density living (4.00 / 3) (#134)
by pjc51 on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 06:23:32 PM EST

High density, mixed use urban centres are definitely a much better solution in terms of quality of life than low density suburban sprawl and highly segregated zoning.

One model for urban development about which I recall reading an article is the idea of building clusters of medium-population, high density cities. For example, a population of 1.5m could be accommodated in ten centres, each supporting about 150,000 people. These centres would be separated by a few miles of mixed-use open land - parks, woodland and some farmland, and would be connected by a high-speed mass-transit network. Built this way, it is possible to achieve a large centre of population, complete with the associated level of services, where all inhabitants would have pedestrian access to a medium sized city centre and public transport to get to a much bigger area. Effectively you'd have a city that was all downtown.

A bonus is that you'd have the delocalisation of financial centres described by someone else, although I think that the threat of terrorism shouldn't be allowed for disproportionately in city planning.



Frank Lloyd Wright (and others) did this already (none / 0) (#208)
by Jeffrey McGrew on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 09:05:57 PM EST

This idea was thought up and drawn out by several architects a long time ago. Frank Lloyd Wright & Corbu both had plans for such a city. Ironically, those same ideas of thiers, when carried out in a watered-down and dumbed-down fashion, is what gave us the housing project and the Suburbian development.

Corbu's ideas of housing for the working class lead to the 60's horrifing hosing projects and thier ultimate falure- of treating people like robots and houses like 'machines for living'. No one living there had any desire or pride to make the place a 'home' and things really fell apart. Now most low-income houseing in urban areas is of a 'townhouse' sytle, with much better results.

Wright's ideas for housing, where there was a medium-desity city surrounded by farms, is what lead to levettown, suburbain sprawl, and the cul-de-sack.

Not that the result, fifty years later, of thier ideas in some way invaldates them- not at all, for had thier ideas BEEN CARRIED OUT BY THEM things probably would have worked.

Just some history for y'all.

Jeffrey McGrew

[ Parent ]

Also (none / 0) (#215)
by Miscreant on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 02:02:50 AM EST

Also check out Hilberseimer's Hochhausstadt.

If theres anything we've learnt in the 20th century its the difficulty and impracticality of alot of the "tower city" ethos.

[ Parent ]

Answers (4.00 / 2) (#137)
by trhurler on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 07:06:31 PM EST

First off, the terrorist threat argument is a joke. These people did this once. So we're going to change the whole world to accomodate them? Anyone who thinks that's a reasonable solution should be shipped off to Afghanistan. I don't even care what it takes; you do not change your whole way of living to accomodate a few nutballs. If you do, you lose.

Second, luckily, that doesn't matter. The truth is, stronger lighter building materials become feasible with every passing year. It won't be long before we'll be able to build 100 story or more buildings, WTC style, out of materials that will not burn, melt, or decompose under the heat of burning hydrocarbons. These same materials will likely have better flex characteristics than reinforced concrete, higher strength, and quite possibly lighter weight. Will they be cheap? Not the first couple, no, but after that, the materials will likely become standard issue pretty quickly; that's the history of construction in the modern age. The danger, of course, is that we'll use them to build monstrosities so huge that they're just as fragile as our present buildings, but economics might prevent what common sense will not.

Third, this whole "quality of life" thing is just ranting by people who like or dislike tall buildings. Personally, I find them inspiring, but some find them intimidating or even ugly. Fine. But let's call a spade a spade; this is personal preference, not some overriding fact of human nature.

Finally, let me just say that I'd happily live on the top floor of a 100 story building if it were available and reasonably priced. Why? Because frankly, you're going to die somehow. Your odds, as of today, of dying in a terrorist action in the US - even in a very tall building - are just not high enough to be a serious rational consideration. Fear, panic, yes, but when you look into the reality, you've got a better chance of dying in a car wreck, of a heart attack, or many other things. And really, that's my breaking point: once something is rarer than at least a few other things that might kill me, it isn't worth altering my life because of. The mortality rate is 100%, folks, and don't forget it.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

please do not abuse statistics (none / 0) (#149)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:00:14 PM EST

I don't find burying our heads in the sand to be the right response to terrorism. While mindless fear would not be valuable, we must do something positive. We don't live in Disneyland anymore.

As for your argument about the odds, please do not abuse statistics in an attempt to put your preconceived notion beyond argument. For the individual case, the "odds" are irrelevant, as if they existed at all. For the individual case, the only thing that matters is whether one will die that day (or suffer harm or win the lottery or whatever). The odds only matter when we talk about populations.

Furthermore, in the case of risk benefit analysis, it seems apparent to me that each person is capable setting his own risk threshold. So long as his decision only affects himself, one's risk threshold is for one's own free self to decide. I will decide for myself what is rational, thank you.

[ Parent ]

Oh? (none / 0) (#190)
by trhurler on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 01:43:19 PM EST

While mindless fear would not be valuable, we must do something positive. We don't live in Disneyland anymore.
Speak for yourself. This sounds more like emotional masturbation than an argument. I am reminded of the grotesque scenes we are all forced to witness every time some famous person dies. Despite the fact that billions of other people DIDN'T just die, many people are compelled to act as though the sky has just fallen. Well, it hasn't. Sorry.
For the individual case, the only thing that matters is whether one will die that day (or suffer harm or win the lottery or whatever).
Your argument seems to be that I should refuse to cross the road on foot, because if I die from a car impact the low probability of that event will be no consolation to me. Mine is that yours is a stupid argument, because life is always risk, and everyone dies. The question is, is the risk too much? Most peoples' perceptions of risk are skewed badly by emotional hogwash; 3000 people died in a tall building on TV, so people think tall buildings are dangerous, but is that true? Maybe, but I think I want more reason to believe than that people died on TV, thanks.
Furthermore, in the case of risk benefit analysis, it seems apparent to me that each person is capable setting his own risk threshold. So long as his decision only affects himself, one's risk threshold is for one's own free self to decide. I will decide for myself what is rational, thank you.
Certainly. However, in cases like whether we should pass laws banning certain kinds of buildings, it seems rather blatantly obvious that this decision you intend to make WILL have an impact on other people. If you want to hide in your basement with four tons of canned goods and bottled water, that's your business, but I intend to live while I'm alive.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Anti-terrorist logic. (4.80 / 5) (#146)
by mindstrm on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:32:41 PM EST

Okay.

SO let's say we CAN build an attractive building that will remain standing after being hit by a fully fueled 747 going 400MPH. That's cool.

But what about if it gets hit by 5 of them at once?

What about 10?

What if the terrorists hit it with 10 planes at once AND carbombs in the garage.

What if they have a nuclear weapon in one of those carbombs?

I mean, really, think of the safety concerns!

The point is, if they wanna knock it down, they will.

They only used what they did to crash the WTC because that's all it took to do it.

gotta differ (5.00 / 1) (#179)
by Jim Tour on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:07:24 AM EST

I think we owe it to people who work in, live in and visit these buildings to do what can be done. Your scenarios are barely this side of possible (while an exact repeat of 9/11 is very possible), but even if they were to happen, wouldn't you want to be in a structure that sacrificed a little elegance and profitability (read: floorspace) for sheer strength?... "The point is, if they wanna knock it down, they will." Sometimes even where there's a will, there's no practical way. They could wanna knock down a Doublewide Petronas-class all they wanted-- they simply couldn't without a nuclear weapon or an ultra unlikely synchronized multi-attack... "They only used what they did to crash the WTC because that's all it took to do it." According to Bin Laden, at least, they were surprised when the whole thing came down. If anything, the now demonstrated weakness of non-full-frame super talls will be a spur to copycats.

[ Parent ]
I can live without them (3.00 / 5) (#152)
by mami on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:13:35 PM EST

1. can't open windows - bad
2. can't jump out of the window in case of fire -
   very bad
3. prisoner of technology - bad
4. Any building, which a sixty-year old out of shape grandma can't climb up on the provided  stair cases or can't run down in case of emergency is plain inhumane. I want humane houses.

My ideal house:

1. It's built on a concrete platform, on concretes poles high above the platform - flooding won't bother me one bit. Actually beneath the the poles would be the parking lot for my boat. When the flood comes, I will comfortably step down from my elevated house in a boat, which then would float on the flood's water level, which then would supposedly at the same height of my house's entrance level.

2. It includes its own well, upon which the house is constructed, so that you can pump manually or with electricity from the inside of your house your own groundwater directly into your house. My mother's house is still like that (though it's illegal officially - she can disconnect from city water and switch to her own ground water easily, with one little switch.)

3. It has a roof with solar energy plates, it has conventional wood and coal stoves and floor heating based on hot water.

4. It's built like a terrace and has at least four floors - from the windows you cam jump into the balconi of the next lower lewel, from there you jump again - one floor at the time - if the fire breaks out on the bottom floor you can sprinkle from above, if it breaks out on the top floor - you can safely jump and the fire would not easily move downwards. So, my house would look a bit like a Pyramide.

5. If there were an earthquake, there would not be too much damage, because the smallest unit would be on the top floor. Nothing much can fall from the top to the lower level.

6. If there were a storm, there wouldn't be much roof, which could fly away.

7. In my next life I would be an architect and construction engineer and would write this in a manner that you guys wouldn't have to get heart attacks reading through this baloney and turn around in your graves.

8. The house would have a composting facility, which takes care of the treatment of sewage and wastewater. There are individual units which can do that.

9. On the balconis, which are large and are wrapped around the house on each floor, you would grow a lot of stuff, at least half of what you eat regularly.

10. Beneath the concrete poles, where my boat is residing and my car, there is not much light and it might be moist. I will grow champions there on cut of tree stumps.

11. I also will have some rabbits living aside my boat.

12. If I get a nasty neighbor, who doesn't like my pyramide house, I will also get a couple of hens and a rooster (my revenge).

13. If it were a city house, where you work, you could staple those unit on to of each other and connect them on the north side so it would be a pyramid with one straight side on to which you add the next unit etc.

Ok, I am at the number 13, that brings luck, so I would stop here.

Not sure about 13 (none / 0) (#158)
by {ice}blueplazma on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:37:29 PM EST

I'm not sure I understand number 13. Could you explain it a little better?

"Denise, I've been begging you for the kind of love that Donny and Smitty have, but you won't let me do it, not even once!"
--Jimmy Fallon
[ Parent ]
hey, hey (none / 0) (#161)
by mami on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:55:01 PM EST

the building code of No. 13 is as difficult for you to read as for me your sig's code ...

And otherwise I think I could draw it, but not in ascii :-)

[ Parent ]

bedroom? (none / 0) (#159)
by xah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:43:07 PM EST

Would you have a bedroom in this house of yours? A kitchen? Heh heh, just kidding.

That leads to the question: where is the open source architecture movement? Would that not be cool?

[ Parent ]

not only that (5.00 / 1) (#162)
by mami on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 12:09:34 AM EST

we need open source software to openly co-develop the building structures of this "open community house".

And who needs bed- and living rooms? Both rooms are 50 percent of the time unused or misused.

Kitchen? Of course.

Basically my house has:
one big kitchen eating working area,
one big study reading office quiet working area,
one big noise chatting music party area,
one big bath workout household working area,
one prison cell for unruly husbands and sons,
one secret room known only to me,
one formal reception room, where you have to be polite to all those people, who visit you though they were not invited, and whom you don't want to show your house,  
and one little cozy in-law apartment for my mami.

ok enough ...

[ Parent ]

I forgot something (none / 0) (#163)
by mami on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 12:13:03 AM EST

my mother's in-law apartment must have a room with a view in the garden and to the west and into the sun.

and the secret room sits on top of all of it

whereas the prison cell is a dark room under the concrete floor

[ Parent ]

totally (none / 0) (#166)
by xah on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:29:35 AM EST

Totally. I'm there, except for the prison cell. Gotta stand up for male rights and all that jazz, y'know. (Just kick bad people out.)

[ Parent ]
hey, hey (none / 0) (#213)
by mami on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:26:11 PM EST

my prison cell is very humane compared to the government run torture buildings. Good food and a little bit "common sense" gets you outta there.

[ Parent ]
I'm an Architect, saw your post... (4.66 / 3) (#164)
by Jeffrey McGrew on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 12:45:31 AM EST

I'm an Architect in San Francisco, saw your post, and wanted to comment. If you care. :)

> My ideal house:
>
> 1. It's built on a concrete platform, on concretes poles high above the platform

This 'pole foundation' or 'pile foundation' is used a lot on hillsides and over water/wet/swamp areas. It works rather well, however it costs more than a normal foundation for two reasons. There's more work involved in it's fabrication, and by being held off of the ground everything must support it's weight to those poles via beams. Most current foundations are able to just send the majority of the house's weight to the ground directly, so you can have much much thinner floors on the ground floor and don't have to have beams under everything.

It's a perfectly feasible idea; In America, where labor is more than materials, and concrete being a somewhat-labor heavy thing (formwork, casting, steel re-enforcing fabrication, specialized workers)

Also Concrete isn't really the most ecological of materials. unless you were turning out a whole bunch of these houses, and can re-use the formwork, you have to first build the formwork, then cast the house, then toss the formwork (which is usually made of plywood). Concrete also takes a lot of energy to make (transpiration, mixing, and cement production). It's also really hard/takes a lot of energy to get rid of/reuse. There are ways for making it better, but locally collected sustainable wood (Bamboo, Pine) or recyclable steel could be more ecological selections for materials.

> 2. It includes its own well, upon which the house is constructed, so that you can pump manually or
> with electricity from the inside of your house your own groundwater directly into your house.

This a way cool idea, however wells aren't so predictable and could just simply not be there, such as in rocky or arid areas. Also in a city like San Francisco, the ground water you could get might be polluted from prior industry, and might be polluted by salt water.

> 3. It has a roof with solar energy plates, it has conventional wood and coal stoves and floor heating
> based on hot water.

They make roof tiles with built-in photovoltaic. They are really cool. The roof could also be made to trap rainwater for your hanging garden.

Radiant in-floor heating work really well and has gotten a lot cheaper in recent years, due to the pipes being flexible plastic and easier to set up prior to casting the concrete. Another advantage is that the *Ceiling* of the room would get heat too, from the 'floor' above.

The wood/coal stove is a good idea too, for it could burn anything. Another thing would be to have a heat pump as part of the house design, so that the heater doesn't have to do as much work, and the cooler (if there needed to be one) would need as much work either.

> 4. It's built like a terrace and has at least four floors

The ability to escape from fire via the balconies is neat. However, the house may benefit from NOT having a pyramidal shape. For example, in a cold place, having it be a pyramid could work, for each floor would get more sun and warmth. In a hot place, however, you would almost want the house to be the opposite, so that each floor shades the one below. Also if you wanted to take advantage of solar angles then the pyramidal scheme goes out the window.

So I think it's the right idea, but you may want to think about other shapes that would make this possible.

> 5. If there were an earthquake, there would not be too much damage, because the smallest unit
> would be on the top floor. Nothing much can fall from the top to the lower level.

Damage from an earthquake primarily happens via *shear*. If something like your house gets shaken, it's not that something will fall, it that something (a wall, a concrete pillar) will crack from getting raked by the movement of the building. also if a floor above moves enough, it will 'tip' it's supports under it causing the whole floor to fall castrophically on the one below. This is what happened to the apartment buildings in the big Mexico City earthquake.

Now your idea is right, if there is less mass up high, the house will get raked less. But it's the house's movement within itself, trying to tear itself apart, that is dangerous in an earthquake. Most buildings either try to be squat and heavy, so they ride out the earthquake like a rock; think of churches or houses. Tall buildings try to sway like a tree in the wind, so they take the shock and ride it out without much damage. Something in between, like a four story post & beam house like you describe, is the worst, for it's not flexible enough to take the shock, nor is it massive enough to ride it out. by adding some heavy walls to your scheme, or making the house like one big frame, would make it massive enough to ride it out, and by isolating the pillars and such you could make it flexible enough to take the shock...

> 6. If there were a storm, there wouldn't be much roof, which could fly away.

You are spot on. Also there is less roof for less solar gain, a problem in hot areas.

> 7. In my next life I would be an architect and construction engineer and would write this in a
> manner that you guys wouldn't have to get heart attacks reading through this baloney and turn
> around in your graves.

All your ideas are completely valid. Just because someone is an architect or engineer doesn't mean they can see the forest for the trees. Just because I'm an architect doesn't mean I can't design an ideal drawing program and have valid ideas on what it should do :)

> 8. The house would have a composting facility, which takes care of the treatment of sewage and
> wastewater. There are individual units which can do that.

The wastewater could also be processed via your hanging garden, via a system of three ponds. pond one digests the raw waste, and is mostly bacteria. Pond two is swamp plants feeding on the gray water from pond one. Pond three cleans the water more with special species, and then the water that runs off of pond three can be used for any of the plants in/on the house and can be filtered and then drank.

> 9. On the balconies, which are large and are wrapped around the house on each floor, you
> would grow a lot of stuff, at least half of what you eat regularly.

See no. 8 above.

> 10. Beneath the concrete poles, where my boat is residing and my car, there is not much light and
> it might be moist. I will grow champions there on cut of tree stumps.

Why stop there? there are plenty of things you can eat that like lots of shade. :)

> 11. I also will have some rabbits living aside my boat.

The rabbit 'exhaust' if you will could be fed to your composting system too- more fuel for the plants. There are some wonderful little greenhouses made by Jay Baldwin that use fish tanks to feed the plants. the tanks also work as a heat sink to stabilize the internal temperature, and you can eat the fish too.

> 12. If I get a nasty neighbor, who doesn't like my pyramid house, I will also get a couple of hens
> and a rooster (my revenge).

And a really touchy alarm on the boat & car :)

> 13. If it were a city house, where you work, you could staple those unit on to of each other and
> connect them on the north side so it would be a pyramid with one straight side on to which you add
> the next unit etc.

Better yet, you could make them in such a way where they link together and share resources, much like computers in a cluster, so that they can pool available water/power/heat...

Jeffrey McGrew


[ Parent ]

You are hired :-) (4.00 / 1) (#212)
by mami on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:21:59 PM EST

Gee, I was one tired of life sort of person, when I jokingly wrote this down ... and you respond seriously... Thank you, how nice to take my scribblings with that much humor. I have no idea about what I am talking, so now you get some more dumb questions:

This 'pole foundation' or 'pile foundation' is used a lot on hillsides and over water/wet/swamp areas. It works rather well, however it costs more than a normal foundation for two reasons. There's more work involved in it's fabrication, and by being held off of the ground everything must support it's weight to those poles via beams. Most current foundations are able to just send the majority of the house's weight to the ground directly, so you can have much much thinner floors on the ground floor and don't have to have beams under everything.

It's a perfectly feasible idea; In America, where labor is more than materials, and concrete being a somewhat-labor heavy thing (formwork, casting, steel re-enforcing fabrication, specialized workers) [snip]

There are ways for making it better, but locally collected sustainable wood (Bamboo, Pine) or recyclable steel could be more ecological selections for materials.

I think I didn't mean to use concrete. I don't like wood, because I hate to see houses burned down to absolutely nothing. I don't like plywood and all this flimsy wall sheet material people use in the US. Bamboo? I am not building this in tropical climate ... so why not simply brick, stone, mortar and steel enforcements?

This a way cool idea, however wells aren't so predictable and could just simply not be there, such as in rocky or arid areas.

If land is always dry, you just don't live there. I mean, it was bad enough to sell the "dreaming the American dream wanna-be immigrant" the soil of the dry flatland in Montana as something like a wonderful meadow, ready to grow and farm. This secret little trick to lure and cheat out the newcomers ain't working anymore. Leave the desert alone, and if you want to live in there, do it like the Nomads, just don't settle.

Also in a city like San Francisco, the ground water you could get might be polluted from prior industry, and might be polluted by salt water.

All the more important to stop the current water usage and change treatment methods in urban areas. I guess, I have to call upon the evil terrorists to make people think about the insanity of their water treatment plants. Well, of course, in order to get a well of your own, you would just have to leave San Francisco and go a little bit in the countryside. It costs a bit to drill a well, but I think it's very much worth it.

For example, in a cold place, having it be a pyramid could work, for each floor would get more sun and warmth. In a hot place, however, you would almost want the house to be the opposite, so that each floor shades the one below. Also if you wanted to take advantage of solar angles then the pyramidal scheme goes out the window.

hmm, this house will be in cold climate, if it were in the US at least somewhere in upper NY, Maine, Vermont, Wisconsin or so. If it were in Europe, it would be anywhere aside from Greek, Italy south of the Alps and Spain and Portugal. Those places are just for "getting away from the stubborn Northerners", I won't spoil myself to move there permanently.

So, what kind of shape would you suggest? It also should be a stackable building block, must be like Lego, somehow you need to attach them together in two dimensions and still keep this terrace-like form. So what would it be?

All your heating comments are good and common sense. No problem, I would combine several of them. I like radiant heat from the floor and like a stove for the tough, very cold days.

Something in between, like a four story post & beam house like you describe, is the worst, for it's not flexible enough to take the shock, nor is it massive enough to ride it out. by adding some heavy walls to your scheme, or making the house like one big frame, would make it massive enough to ride it out, and by isolating the pillars and such you could make it flexible enough to take the shock... Well, I was thinking about heavy walls, real thick brick walls inside and out, but I thought that's not a good idea for earthquakes? What do you mean by isolating the pillars? If you have thick walls and everything stands on pillars, how can the poor pillars be flexible enough to take the shock?

How about you used magnets to keep the house attached to the pillars? If the pillars wouldn't crack, and the magnets in the pillars would keep the house close to the pillars without really being connected, would the shaking movement be transferred from pillar to house via electromagnetic forces? (Just kidding)

Just because I'm an architect doesn't mean I can't design an ideal drawing program and have valid ideas on what it should do :)

Someone was kidding about an open source program for construction codes etc. If you have an ideal drawing program, is it something several people can work on simultaneously online?

But what do we do about my secret room? Who controls the construction code of my secret space, if it were to be an open source drawing program and built by an online co-developing community. Sigh... always the same questions spoil the fun :-)

Why stop there? there are plenty of things you can eat that like lots of shade. :)

Like what? I wasted my whole life to learn absolutely superflous. I wished I were a gardener, a real sophisticated one.

The rabbit 'exhaust' if you will could be fed to your composting system too- more fuel for the plants. There are some wonderful little greenhouses made by Jay Baldwin that use fish tanks to feed the plants. the tanks also work as a heat sink to stabilize the internal temperature, and you can eat the fish too.

Do you have a link?

Better yet, you could make them in such a way where they link together and share resources, much like computers in a cluster, so that they can pool available water/power/heat...

Absolutely, who would want to live alone anyway. I am all for clustering, but not on the cost to have each unit of the cluster not being capable to sustain itself independently from the next unit. A cluster and then a networks of clusters is only fun to live in and with, if you can disconnect any part from the whole and be on your own, independent of the other, but can be close and connected whenever you want. It's this deal like you can't live with the cluster and you can't live without the cluster ...

If I were a rich man you were hired ... really :-)

[ Parent ]

Re: I can live without them (none / 0) (#175)
by petis on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 09:09:32 AM EST

On the balconis, which are large and are wrapped around the house on each floor, you would grow a lot of stuff, at least half of what you eat regularly.
Hey, let me guess. You have absolutely *no* idea how much you eat regularly, do you? ;)

[ Parent ]
in response to the original article and comments (4.66 / 3) (#153)
by Das Gericht on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:13:44 PM EST

Several opinions have stuck out as I have read this article and the comments that follow it. (The answers to the original authors questions are later in this response, feel free to go ahead and skip to those.)

First and foremost is the idea that not building, or even modifying existing plans for, skyscrapers or super-talls is giving in to terrorism. Modifying existing plans is simple prudence. To not modify plans would be the height of arrogance and it would be incredibly irresponsible. Yes, the event which spawned this debate only occured once. However, the possibility of copy-cats cannot be discounted. Terrorist groups have a tendency to copy each other. Let me give an example: The Tamil Tigers, a large group of terrorists in Sri Lanka fighting for autonomy from the government in Colombo, pioneered "the Jacket." "The Jacket" is the device that was issued to Tamil suicide attackers. Several years later, Palestinian groups lifted the design for the Tamil jacket and have unfortunantly put it to very effective use. In another example, more relevant to this discussion involving airports and airplanes: The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine "is best known for pioneering the technique of international airplane hijackings in the late 1960s and 1970s.(1)" People feared airplane hijackings long after the 60s and 70s. My point being that the fact that something happens and the injured party take precautions to prevent a recurrence of a similar incident does not mean it will not happen again. Therefore, history has shown that to say that terrorism is "noise," or that the chances of someone using and succeeding with tactics similar to that of September 11th will not happen is simply not true. I dismiss the argument that, because of personal or governmentalhubris, the issue of changing/destroying existing plans for supertalls and skyscrapers should be discarded.

Second, the Quality of Life issue is fairly important in my opinion. Bright, aesthetically pleasing environments, according to many studies, do actually affect worker morale and productivity. Several people suggested expanding the underground capacity of the buildings. I think that the underground area, while perfect for a large parking garage, is not a great place to put your workers. Besides the fact, many companies are probably going to be hesitant to purchase underground realty that more resembles a bomb shelter than a place of business. Most of the buildings that we are discussing, skyscrapers and supertalls, will hold many different companies and only some of the more important personnel of that company, I think it will be the rare CEO that wants to live in an underground cave. If instead of high-ranking employees, less-important personnel are based within the underground levels, the experience will be likened to that of crawling into a cave and truly being locked away from the world.

The idea of being locked away brings me to my third point. The idea of fortress-like structures is, to me, not a plausible solution. One comment mentioned that the fortress design would be rendered old by evolving technologies associated with architecture(improved materials, in particular). If that is true, then why would a company invest in such a desolate place with the understanding that more aesthetically pleasing office spaces are on the horizon. One must remember within this argument, that skyscrapers and supertalls are symbols. They are not necessarily the most practical of buildings. As another comment mentioned, it is notoriously difficult to get the number of investors necessary to make one of these buildings a viable financial investment. So, if this hold true, that the buildings are mainly symbols, in this age of placing human faces on major corporations, is a company going to be willing to reverse it's efforts and barricade itself in something that more resembles a Middle-Ages Keep than a modern, friendly workplace, even in the name of safety? I tend to doubt it as it would be financially irresponsible in two ways. 1) The building fees, because of the costly construction, would quite possibly be immense and 2) the Fortress style while appropriate at Ft. Knox in the US, is not inviting and may actually hurt the companies PR.

On to the author's main questions: 1) Should all new super tall construction be discontinued and all proposals abandoned?

I think that all new supertall construction needs to be reexamined. The supertall buildings, by thier very nature make them symbols and targets. For example, the "Tower of Peace" would make a great target for any terrorist group, even through Brazil is fairly devoid of domestic terrorism, the name alone would attract the attention of those wishing to disrupt world events. The symbolic nature of these buildings means that they must be protected because the destruction of a building like this has terrible repercussions on both a physical and psychological level.

2)If not, what terrorist-resistant designs might circumvent the fortress factor?

I admit that the pyramid structure idea appeals to me in this case. On a purely structural level, if one placed several of the larger lower floors below ground as parking space, and opened that parking space to other buildings in the vacinity it may be economically viable while being functional as both a support and eliminating the need for a seperate parking area for both the main building and the surrounding buildings, hopefully allowing for more area for possible development. Understand though, I'm not talking about building this pyramid with inclines similar to something like the Pyramid at Giza. I'm talking about something with a 85-89degree incline from corner to top point; enough to be more structurally supportive than a pillar, but not so much so that the base must be completely immense. The building design could be varied, as opposed to Egyptian pyramid design, perhaps the Ziggurat(sp?) could be used as a basic design for variety. I would also place stairwells in central locations and allow the office spaces to spiral out from those exits as opposed to having stairwells at the corners of the floor, this gives them better protection from impact and the stresses should radiate outward as opposed to centering on the core of the building.

The mention of new materials is ideal to me, however, it does not provide an immediate solution as those materials are currently physically unavailable and will even be economically unavailable for many several years after the release of such material. I think that in the case of an airplane crash, currently, we must work to cut personnel losses as well as structural losses (in my opinion they are linked, as the latter will help prevent some of the former). I propose a series of steel bars encased in cement pillars throughout the structure at intervals that must be determined by the size of the building itself. The pillars can then be covered in some aesthetically pleasing way, preferably to the design of those who purchase the working space. Windows present a true problem. Due to the nature of glass, even of technologically modified clear panelling that seems like glass, one is presented with the fact that the heat and force that would be emanated by the impact/explosion would likely shatter or melt anything in place. The best advice I can offer is to use windows sparingly, but effectively. Place windows where they are likely to let lots of light through. To compensate for the darkened interior use lights that are bright, possibly have a hollow center leading up to an open space at the top of the structure and use reflective panels to spread natural light. The ratio of windows should be directly proportional to the floor level. Levels that eclipse all other surrounding buildings should have a very small number of windows. Floors even with other buildings may be allowed more windows.

I understand that financial problems with the pillar suggestion. It would be expensive, I make no pretense of it being otherwise. However, I think it would allow for an aethetically pleasing building that would be attractive to companies that could still be regarded as fairly safe. It should be noted that the pillars will also provide protection from some natural disasters.

3)Are there any compelling reasons, such as the need to work and live vertically to prevent suburban sprawl, that might compel us to forge ahead with super talls despite the risks?

I think that any building that is going to have a majority of residential capacity needs to remain below the level of skyscraper(x<40stories) and supertalls should not even be considered for this purpose at this time. As for business concerns, if a business wishes to invest in a supertall and place it's employees there, then ensuring the safety of it's assets is it's own business. I do not see the need to work and live vertically as a compelling reason to forge ahead with supertalls that are simply a recipe for disaster, even if not from an airplane than from a natural disaster or from another terrorist attack(the WTC in NYC was bombed first, there is no reason why a terrorist might try that again instead). I see the need to work and live as compelling reasons to forge ahead with making supertalls and skyscrapers safer, not faster. <P>4) Should quality-of-life concerns have kept us from ever going above the Woolworth Building? Simply put, no.

5) Would a return to full steel frame construction with high concrete/steel ratios be too much of an aesthetic compromise? As with all architecture it depends on how it is implemented. I think that in this scenario a company would have to draw up the plans. Show the plans to potential investors and potential buyers and if the investors are willing to invest and the buyers willing to buy, then go ahead with the project.

6) Does the 'human spirit' demand super talls? Does the 'human spirit' demand 'human scale' buildings? Frankly, I don't know. I think part of the human spirit likes to build things bigger and better and to excess. However, that attitude may be shifting; for many reasons not just recent events.

Hope that answered all the questions,

My .02

Das Gericht

(1)http://www.cfrterrorism.org/groups/pflp.html
Das Gericht The Court

Warriors Insurance (1.00 / 1) (#155)
by Baldrson on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:45:58 PM EST

When there comes available Warriors Insurance the tall buildings may make sense.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


Stop tall buildings general safety, not terror (4.00 / 1) (#168)
by StephenThompson on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:40:49 AM EST

The main reason not to build such large buildings is fire and earthquake safety, as well as general issues with access in an emergency: if the elevators are not working, and someone needs an ambulence on the 200th floor, what are their chances? As far as terrorism goes, the added risk of tall buildings isn't that much of a concern. We still need cities for thier land and resources efficiency which means that population density will be high. High population density means terrorists will always have targets for mass murder. The only reason the terrorists attacked the WTC is it was a symbol of power; don't make big symbols of world dominance and put people in them, and everything should be ok.

Absurd to think skyscrapers are dangerous (4.20 / 5) (#169)
by titaniumtommy on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:50:20 AM EST

Skyscrapers and suepr tall buildings are not the problem...terrorists are.

First, let's look at where our world is headed: Population growth continues exponentially so without a major catastrophic event (such as a large meteor hitting the planet), population density will continue to grow. Skyscrapers and super talls are a logical step in our ever crowded world. Sooner or later, many cities may look like those seen in the movie "The Fifth Element" and "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones". Use of vertical space is just logical and has been proven in the most dense cities in the world. Sprawl (Los Angeles, being the best example from my personal experience) is a much larger problem than tall buildings. Sprawl can be blamed for pollution, congestion, our dependency on oil products from middle east, and many other problems. Los Angeles's problems have become much worse in the last two years. I moved to the Bay Area of California two years ago and going back to visit my family in Los Angeles, I've noticed the city is dying under the weight of traffic congestion. Not just freeways, but try driving around the city streets! Getting to the market just 4 or 5 miles from home now takes over 30 minutes. Sprawl sucks...build up.

Second, tall buildings are not the problem. Hundreds of cities around the world have clusters of skyscrapers and super talls. Some have tall buildings throughout the entire city. Shanghai has tall buildings everywhere. So does Tokyo. And Bangkok. Have any of these buildings "fallen"? Are they inherently dangerous (aside from the occasional stuck-elevator)?

The root cause is, of course terrorism. How can it be stopped? It seems that the US is always a step or two behind the terrorists:

--4 planes are used as projectiles to bring down buildings. Response? Call the National Guard to walk around with large guns in airports looking tough. Result? Nothing really...just burning tax dollars to give some of the more "easily placated" citizens peace of mind.

--A guy is caught with a shoe bomb on a plane. Response? Start checking people's shoes in airports. Result? People have to spend more time getting checked...no more bombs are found. Guns still get through x-ray machines.

--Many people (including federal investigators) are able to go through airport security with fake guns and weapons of all sorts. Response? Federalize airport security screeners. Result? Nothing...the screeners are the same inept people, but now they're on the federal payroll which means they are harder to fire, get better benefits, and are burning tax dollars.

--A guy opens fire at an LAX ticket counter...an area that is accesible without going through security. Response? Airports will probably institute security checks to get into airport buildings. This guys hasn't been linked to any terrorist group, but it does show that we are still very vulnerable to violent incidents in airports and on planes. Result? Shootings will occur OUTSIDE the airport buildings and possibly on nearby roads.

So what is the solution? Plan for every possible terrorist attack? That's impossible since that would require infinite resources. Stop building skyscrapers? That would increase sprawl and sprawl has is a terrible, terrible thing.

How about this?

We reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, build clean power sources, build viable alternative fuel vehicles, ban 8 cylinder SUVs and trucks except for those who can prove they actually need it for business and not just to burn up a gallon of gas every 7 miles to haul around their kids and costco-sized-everything shopping runs, build useful public transportation, build a high speed rail network linking all major cities across the country (this will reduce airport load--all trips under 500 or 600 miles should be done via high speed rail...anything longer should be via plane). The goal here is to reduce our oil consumption to that which we produce domestically...stop buying oil from the Middle East so we can stop caring about the stability of that region and pull out of there once and for all. Then Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, et al can figure out their own business without the US nosing around. Terrorists will finally have a chance at what they have been ranting about all along and we'll see if there is any real meat to their "demands". Personally, I doubt it, but at least they'll be out of our hair...

That's my 2 cents...maybe 2 1/2...

Tommy
dodoskido.com

re: how will this help? (1.00 / 1) (#181)
by mveloso on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:22:20 AM EST

It's unclear exactly how fossil fuel reduction ties into a drop in terrorist activity, nor how all the pork-barrel projects listed would do that. The fact is, Middle East (and now Russian) oil is cheaper produce than domestic oil, so we buy from there. Reducing our use of fossil fuel won't change that fact.

Rail, etc won't help either - the Car is a point-to-point transportation device, while buses, trains, etc aren't. How are you going to get from point A to point B if the transit system only goes from point C to point D?

Plus, the middle east won't leave the US alone. The extremist freaks over there have nothing better to do, apparently, than fulminate over the wrongs that the US has done to them. You'd think they'd build schools, or form a stable government, or something. Nope. It's much more fun to go off and kill people instead of doing something productive, like teaching or getting a real job. Allah doesn't promise paradise to the guy that provides for his family, community, whatever...at least in their worldview.

Getting back to the discussion, build the skyscrapers any dang way you want. Determine some way for the safest, active exit to be announced, since lots of people at the WTC were killed because they had no idea some of the exit stairways were still intact. But they'll never be terrorist proof, because some loser with a big bomb'll always find a way. Find a way instead to minimize the effects of that bomb when it goes off.

Or, alternatively, kill the guy before his bomb goes off. That's outside the realm of architecture, though...

[ Parent ]

Point-to-point? Learn to walk...It's good exercise (5.00 / 1) (#192)
by titaniumtommy on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:00:21 PM EST

Reduction of fossil fuel consumption is not only good for the environment but will reduce our "we care about what happens over there" factor in the Middle East. If we weren't so dependent upon fossil fuels, we wouldn't have to run around playing "police man" over there. Only about 20% of our oil is imported...so, if we increased fuel efficiency by 20% or preferrably reduce our oil consumption over the next 20 years by using hybrid-electric cars as a transition, developing viable fuel cell/solar/wind/whatever technology for automotive and home use, and basically end our dependency on oil, it would not only clean up the environment but it would affect terrorism. Terrorism is supported by money. Money comes from selling stuff. Stuff like oil. Stuff like heroin. I would bet that some of the "business men" in the Middle East have one hand shaking hands with US business while the other hand is giving money to terrorist organizations.

Rail and public transit has been proven in hundreds of cities around the world. Take Europe for example, you can get around cities with light rail, buses, and plain old foot power. Intracity travel under 600 miles in distance should and can be accomplished by high speed rail..look at Japan's network of Shinkansen. The California High Speed Rail System will take passengers from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours. Via plane, it's 2 hours at the airport, 1 hour on the plane and from LAX to downtown is another 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on traffic. In China, 15 million people, mostly without cars, get where they want to go with a combination of people power, subways, and buses. New York subways have been running for almost 100 years and millions of people use it as a primary form of transportation. Remember it's a two pronged approach...reduce sprawl, increase mixed-use zoning. This will allow folks to live, shop, get entertainment all with walking distance. Check out Santana Row in San Jose, CA. This is mixed use at it's best. The reality is that cities have recognized that sprawl is the enemy and using land more efficiently will not only improve quality of life, but will reduce traffic, pollution, and consumption of oil. Point-to-point? Learn to walk...It's good exercise and it's free.

I do agree with you that the terrorists will probably not completely leave the US alone even if we get out of their hair. There will always be fanatics. There will always be those people that blame other based on ill-conceived notions. The idea is to help those that aren't terrorist improve their quality of life. Help the citizens of these nations build schools and viable economies. Help them learn about different cultures and to respect different ways of life. It's all about education, standard of living, and killing terrorism not with guns, but with education.

Tommy
dodoskido.com

[ Parent ]
Too far (none / 0) (#193)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:22:46 PM EST

Maybe public transportation has worked in some cities, but it's a dismal failure in others. If I could take a bus to work in 30 minutes (how long it takes me to drive) I would, but it would take more like 90 minutes! Each way! Assuming I didn't miss any of the 3 busses I'd have to transfer to. As for walking to the grocery store, while I could walk TO the store, walking several miles back with an armload of heavy groceries does NOT appeal to me.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Poor public transportation and sprawl (none / 0) (#202)
by titaniumtommy on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 05:26:13 PM EST

Well, it looks like your city has grown out too much and hasn't invested into use of vertical space and public transportation enough.

As for groceries...how about a little cart? Or a wagon? Or you could ride a bike with baskets attached. Or even a Think Neighbor. I'm already on the list for a redesigned Think City which I plan to use most of the time to go to work, get groceries, go to the movies, etc. I'll use my gas-powered Acura RSX strictly as a long distance (anything over 50 miles round trip) vehicle which will save me the cost of maintenance and gas.

[ Parent ]
Fossil fuels (none / 0) (#195)
by Jim Tour on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:32:46 PM EST

You make a lot of good points, but one thing that gets me is that environmentalists (you seem to be one) have succeeded in severely limiting the use of the one form of energy that would both drastically cut our dependence on mideast oil and seriously cut air pollution (and its contribution to global warming): nuclear power.

[ Parent ]
Me? Environmentalist? (none / 0) (#201)
by titaniumtommy on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 05:14:29 PM EST

Hmmm..never thought of myself as a tree-hugger. I'm all for nuclear power except for the whole radiation/melt-down thing. Nuclear does provide enormous effeciency, but the downsides are just too difficult to ignore. What if nuclear plants were built way underground? If there would be less chance for radiation contamination, I think that would definitely be a viable solution. I bet cities could mandate the use of un-obtrusive solar cells on every building over a few stories. Give building owners and development companies tax credits if they put solar cells on top of buildings and we may be able to cut back on the rampant power plant construction.

[ Parent ]
Terrorist Attacks (4.50 / 2) (#172)
by Peej on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 07:52:56 AM EST

Here in the UK, we have stopped building shopping malls ever since the IRA blew up the Arndale centre in Manchester.

</sarcasm>

Only Comparing it to 9/11? (4.50 / 2) (#176)
by dbretton on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 10:22:17 AM EST

Why are people using a 9/11 class event to determine what would be the "extreme" type of accident that a super-tall could withstand?

Let's say the WTC was a single, double-entendre dicky-whoozitz building (class 4) like you mentioned above.  

How would it have fared againts 2 747's flying into it from opposite sides?  How about if the terrorists managed to hijack a C5 carrier plane?  What about a 747 hitting low, and an 18-wheeler truck filled with a fertilizer bomb?  

My point here is twofold:

  1.  These a reactive measures to prevent an identical attack.  Proactive measures should be considered instead.  That is, if we are going to take these defensive engineering measures, they should be taken to the next level, and should be applied across the proverbial board.
  2.  If in fact we do take an appropriate proactive architectural stance, doesn't it really seem silly, overall?  This is an attempt to solve a problem which is really not a problem, but a side-effect of the root cause.

If you can read this, you are too close.
finding it hard to agree (none / 0) (#178)
by Jim Tour on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 10:52:48 AM EST

Imagine yourself in the WTC that morning, or in a similar building in the future just before an attack. Most of the points you raised would drop out of sight. What matters to you then are things like: Is the core of the building shielded by gypsum (WTC) or concrete (Petronas-class)? Are the stairwells shielded by gypsum (WTC) or concrete (Petronas-class)? Is the building held up by a full steel frame that sacrifices some floor space and line-of-sight for structural resilience (Petronas-class) or is it held up by a slender core and slender external supports that maximize floorspace at the expense of overall resilience (WTC)?... The scenarios you mention could happen, but they are far less likely than an exact repeat of the 9/11 episode. I'm pretty amazed at how a lot of people have convinced themselves the same thing can't happen again, like it was an item in the terrorists' bag-o-tricks that has now been all used up. Whatever they choose to do, if you place yourself in the target I think you would vote for concrete over gypsum and full steel frame over slender core/loadbearing walls... As for root causes, who can tell when they will be effectively addressed? Taking a proactive architectural stance in the meantime strikes you as silly?

[ Parent ]
Re: finding it hard to agree (5.00 / 1) (#183)
by dbretton on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:43:08 AM EST

Imagine yourself in the WTC that morning, or in a similar building in the future just before an attack. Most of the points you raised would drop out of sight. What matters to you then are things like: Is the core of the building shielded by gypsum (WTC) or concrete (Petronas-class)? Are the stairwells shielded by gypsum (WTC) or concrete (Petronas-class)? Is the building held up by a full steel frame that sacrifices some floor space and line-of-sight for structural resilience (Petronas-class) or is it held up by a slender core and slender external supports that maximize floorspace at the expense of overall resilience (WTC)?

In that situation, I bet that not a single person in the WTC buildings was thinking any of those things you just mentioned.

The scenarios you mention could happen, but they are far less likely than an exact repeat of the 9/11 episode.

Far less likely?  How less likely?  How do you know this?  

Why is two hijacked airplanes flying into a single building "far less likely" than two hijacked airplanes flying into two adjacent buildings?

How less likely is it to combine the 9/11 attacks with something like what was attempted on the WTC buildings about 6 years prior (the car bombing in the downstairs garage of the WTC buildings)?

I'm pretty amazed at how a lot of people have convinced themselves the same thing can't happen again, like it was an item in the terrorists' bag-o-tricks that has now been all used up

I think it's amazing how a lot of people think that only the same thing can happen again, as though terrorists couldn't contaminate water supplies, drive 18 wheelers into buildings, blow up dams, bridges, etc. etc.

Taking a proactive architectural stance in the meantime strikes you as silly?

Like I stated before, if you are going to take a proactive stance, why use 9/11 as your measuring stick, and why take only super-tall buildings into account?
If you can read this, you are too close.
[ Parent ]

a bit literal (none / 0) (#186)
by Jim Tour on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 12:27:09 PM EST

You're being a bit literal, I think. Of course nobody in a crisis will be comparing gypsum to concrete and full-frame to slender-core, but they will be thinking "will this freakin thing hold up?!?", which, in this case, is just shorthand for gypsum/cement/frame/core issues.

I concede your point that a future attack could as easily consist of two planes into one building as 9/11 consisted of two into two. But I don't think that changes the issues-- no matter what specifically was happening, you'd want to give the people a far better chance than they had in the WTC. Concrete instead of gysum and full-frame instead of core/loadbearing wall would achieve this.

Finally, no one is saying *only* the same thing can happen again. We should take steps to prevent/minimize anything we can foresee. But the fact is, something very similar to 9/11 heads the list in terms of probability. The word 'copycat' hasn't entered the lexicon for nothing.

[ Parent ]

Space Elevator -- only slightly OT... (5.00 / 5) (#182)
by Dr. Zowie on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:37:08 AM EST

Recently I read a NASA-commissioned report on the feasibility of a Clarke-style space elevator. Apparently, carbon nanotubes ("buckytubes") are just the thing to make an Earth space elevator physically plausible. You "just" have to go get a carbonaceous asteroid and put it in GEO, then build a buckytube factory on it and start lowering your elevator. If any of the several private space programs get off the ground, we could potentially see construction of one of these things begin within the next 50-100 years.

The report didn't mention the possibility of terrorist action on (what amounts to) a 46,000-mile-tall skyscraper -- a possibility that was vividly elaborated by Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars. In that book, terrorist insurgents destroy a space elevator built to aid in terraforming Mars. The elevator wraps around the equator of the planet, and ever after is a landmark for anyone crossing between the Martian hemispheres. On Earth it would be accompanied by tsunamis, Earthquakes, and various other sorts of mayhem.

It seems to me that the WTC collapse demonstrates a new (to me) type of limit on the large structures that a civilization can build: the cost of very large structures can only be borne by a very large civilization -- but the larger and more difficult the structure is to create, the more of a target it becomes for insurgents and terrorists. As the civilization grows, so do the number of terrorists (perhaps in proportion to the population), so there must be some kind of limit to the largest, most complex structure that's worth building and defending.

Yamasaki and Robertson (4.50 / 4) (#191)
by Jim Tour on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 01:55:40 PM EST

I guess one of the things I was hoping for direct comments on is the general praise that the architect and chief structural engineer of the WTC have received. Do you think it's justified? Yamasaki died a few years ago, but Robertson, after an initial period of reticence, has been out defending his decisions in force. A Prebyterian minister resently said in a sermon:

"This week's New Yorker Magazine carried a remarkable piece, entitled "The Tower Builder". It is a story about Leslie E. Robertson, the structural engineer who designed the World Trade Center's twin towers. Unlike most of his colleagues who have fiercely debated the structural issues surrounding the collapse of the towers on September 11th, Robertson has remained silent. His only public appearance was at the National Council of Structural Engineers Association meeting on October 5th. When an engineer in the audience asked him, "Is there anything you wish you had done differently in the design of the building?" Robertson broke down and wept at the podium.

Most of Robertson's colleagues defended his design of the buildings. After all, no one could have imagined that two large airplanes, each containing over 10,000 gallons of jet fuel could have crashed into the twin towers, causing both to collapse.

What struck me about Les Robertson was that he possesses something that is very rare today, a sense of remorse. In an e-mail he wrote to one of his fellow engineers who had written an article in the New York Times praising Robertson for the fact that the buildings had stood long enough for 25,000 people to be evacuated Robertson replied:

'Your words do much to abate the fire that writhes inside. It is hard. But that I had done a bit more.. Had the towers stood up for just one minute longer... It is hard.'"

While I appreciate Mr. Robertson's obvious humanity, I feel it's important to be blunt about his choices back in the late 60s. Gypsum instead of concrete protecting the core of a building that was entirely dependent on its core? Maximizing floorspace for economic reasons when full steel frame construction, in which the building core plays very little structural role, is clearly safer?... I realize I'm projecting an event of 2001 back to the 1960s and I certainly don't think Mr. Robertson can be seen as culpable in any formal way. Nonetheless, all the talk about the WTC's laudable performance on 9/11 is more than a little disconcerting. The public needs to understand what the consequences of opting for slender core/load bearing walls over full frame steel and gypsum over concrete were. These facts get buried in all the comforting generalizations being made about the WTC's "excellent performance under the circumstances".

the WTC failed (5.00 / 4) (#194)
by xah on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:27:26 PM EST

The WTC was a failure. The jet fuel fire was unpredictable, but it did not cause the towers to collapse. Instead, the jet fuel fire burned very fast and was out quickly. Had that been the only fire, the towers would not have collapsed. Unfortunately, the large amount of combustibles inside the building, including paper, furniture, and carpet, were set on fire by the jet fuel fire. The paper fire burned for much longer than the jet fuel fire. Although it did not burn as hotly, it nevertheless reached enormous temperatures. This kind of fire should have been foreseen by the designers. Eventually, the structural steel lost stiffness, bent, and gave way.

So where is the fire suppression equipment? At the bottom of the building. The pipes were in the core, and there was apparently no redundancy not based in the core. More structural steel or more concrete would also have made a difference. At the very least, the buildings should have stood for 3 hours, and preferably for longer.

In my view, the buildings were designed below what the standards should have been.

I wouldn't hesitate to shake the building designers' hands, however. The real menace was Al-Qaeda. The building of the WTC showed us all that our biggest aspirations can come true. It would have been better if the designers did a better job, but they are to be commended for trying, and for succeeding in many ways, even if not in all ways.

[ Parent ]

thanks, excellent comment (none / 0) (#196)
by Jim Tour on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:34:32 PM EST



[ Parent ]
"n/t" for above - n/t (none / 0) (#197)
by Jim Tour on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:35:22 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Skyscrapers, urbanism, and common sense (4.20 / 5) (#199)
by KWillets on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 04:28:54 PM EST

One might look to the example of Los Angeles, a relatively low-rise, horizontal city and ask how 'vibrant the quality of urban life' is there.

Unfortunately the fact that the author made such an inaccurate comparison casts doubt on his credibility, and his ability to evaluate these issues effectively.

In Los Angeles, 60% of the land area is devoted to automobiles.  Zoning prevents people from living near where they work, and the city is fragmented into vast single-use areas linked by freeways.  If the author had read any of Kunstler's work, he would know these facts, and the fact that not only is LA nothing like what anyone in the New Urbanism movement advocates, it is the opposite of it.

One would expect someone who is interested in skyscrapers to have more than a passing interest in issues of urban structure.  Any super-tall building has to have tenants who commute daily (if they don't live in the building itself, which is possible) from surrounding areas via different means.  The WTC was made possible by a huge transportation infrastructure which delivers people to lower Manhattan by the hundreds of thousands.  It was also made possible by the presence of large banking and financial organizations which group people together on a huge scale.  The fact that lower Manhattan is a space where any two people can reach each other within a few minutes is what distinguishes it from other built areas.

As I see it the main issue with super-tall buildings is the same one that determined the safety of the WTC:  ease of transportation between floors and to the surface and surrounding neighborhood.  Even by elevator the upper floors of the WTC could not have been convenient.  As buildings get taller their footprints become consumed by elevator shafts, and the subtext of most high-rise projects seems to be how to convince people to ride elevators for ten or twenty minutes each time they need to go outside.    The heart of the matter is that any new development must match its structural improvements with access improvements, or risk economic collapse.

connect them (none / 0) (#206)
by rkh on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 07:57:28 PM EST

I think that the answer to this problem involves developing greater physical interconnectedness among buildings. If there were a way out of any one building every 15 stories or so, say by "roadbridge," injury if not damage could be localized in the event of another calamity.

[ Parent ]
Yes, that's what I was hinting at (none / 0) (#209)
by KWillets on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 09:12:38 PM EST

The old metropolis idea of having aerial railways and so on makes a lot of sense where access and intercommunication are concerned.  There might be other solutions which are easier to build, too.

The problem with physical interconnections is that current towers aren't built to handle the loads that a bridge-type structure would entail.  It would take some re-engineering.

[ Parent ]

Buildings do not last forever (5.00 / 2) (#203)
by cribeiro on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 05:38:03 PM EST

There was one point that I think was missing in the article: the myth of the eternal building. The collapse of the WTC Towers remembered us that no man made structure is eternal. In fact, this is a fact of life, but one that we humans keep trying to forget.

Back to the facts: buildings do not last forever. The oldest standing structures, such as the Pyramids, are not exceptions - they are exactly the proof of this assertion. Those structures are now a little more than ruins - still admirable, but only as memorials of a time long gone, and no more apt to their original use. The buildings that last longer in actual use are only able to make it because they are actively maintained; in many cases, it goes beyond maintenance, and entire sections are rebuilt.

With this in mind, I propose that one additional criteria should be added to the list for any building, including super-tall buildings:

Is it possible to take down the building?

Buildings do not live forever; they will die at some time in the future. When the time comes, will it be possible to safely demolish it? Even if it is not still dead, but only 'sick', so to speak - is it possible to make structural repairs? The collapse of a building as big as the WTC - albeit catastrophic - and the immense amount of rubble that was left behind, remembers us at how important is to plan for the death of the building.

Some people may point out that the comparison is not fair. After all, the WTC was not orderly demolished; and we already have a lot of experience demolishing buildings. However, even if we agree with the first count, the second is not true. Ask a demolition expert, and you may be surprised at how hard can it be when it comes to implode big structures. A building of the size of the WTC would pose severe headaches for the demolition team, if only because of the logistics involved.

This same question is also open to philosophical ramifications. Nothing is eternal. Death is a fact of life. In fact, there would be no evolution if it was not for death. It seems to me that the younger generations - mine included - are forgetting how to deal with death. Ask anybody who is 60 or 70 years old; death was a fact of life for them, and many had seen a brother die at a young age. Now many people can't stand thinking about it. This mindset is fueled by our technical advances - in medicine, for the human life, and in civil engineering for buildings. But death is still here, not only for ourselves, but also for any of our creations. Accepting death as it is should be an integral part of the deal, but it is increasingly more difficult not only to accept it, but to recognize its importance.

In short - be it for life, or for buildings - planning for death is important. This is a very good reason to think twice before building superbig structures.

hindsight is 20/20 (4.50 / 2) (#205)
by azool on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 07:20:29 PM EST

I find a little presumptuous that so many people are vilifying the engineers on the WTC for not better preparing the buildings for an terrorist attack using civilian vehicles that didn't exist at the time the buling was built.

Economic decisions were made.

That's how things get built.

Engineers can try to do better in the future,learn from what happened in New York w/o disparaging people who did the best they could at the time with the information available to them.



They *said* it could withstand the impact (3.00 / 1) (#216)
by StephenThompson on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 04:41:25 AM EST

The reason everyone is making a big deal about is that the architects went around expounding on how the buildings were so strong they could withstand the impact of a jet airplane. They were wrong and probably deserve to be derided for their arrogance.

[ Parent ]
I heard (none / 0) (#228)
by marc987 on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 08:57:55 PM EST

they designed for lighter planes in vogue at the time, but the fire component, well, it can always get hot enought to collapse anything and as far as i know, in that respect, they followed the building code.

[ Parent ]
My immediate, superficial reaction to the article (5.00 / 3) (#214)
by El Zahir on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 12:03:25 AM EST

Maybe these are not pertinent to the discussion, but perhaps more so to the cause of the discussion.

The impetus seems to be a thought that we shouldn't build large buildings because large buildings might suffer catastropic destruction.

To that I say: Any building can be destroyed. It is much simpler to destroy a small building than a large building. It is much simpler to destroy many small buildings than a large building.

And then, I don't understand why the author believes a wider base and thicker steel would prevent a similar fate befalling other buildings in similar circumstances. Watch again, if you will, a tape of the jetliners impact, and watch the towers. They don't move.

You'd expect to see the towers shake, sway, rebound  from the forces inflicted. Watch the tape and tell me if you can see that. (I can't see it... but you knew that already)

Despite the gaping, multiple-story hole, the floors above don't begin to collapse downward. The upper stories don't begin to tilt in the direction of the vacant walls. Both towers withstood impacts notably beyond what the original design called for. And there they stood. Burning.

The buildings were not felled by impact or explosion.

They burned down.

Smaller buildings will burn down. The wider, the stronger, even the monsterous fortress of a building, will still burn down.

You can design and construct a building which could withstand any conceivable impact by an aircraft. You cannot construct a building proof against any conceivable fire. You say it can withstand fire x, I say, fine, what about x+1.

The author mentions airborne firefighting. I don't buy it. A fire intense enough to melt the WTC's steel would not respond to a few Coast Guard helicopters and a bucket drop every quarter hour. If you could get enough suitable aircraft stocked and flying, how long would it take for them all to reach the blaze? Days?

Does every city then need an airborne fire fleet? In Singapore? Hong Kong? Mexico City? I can't imagine it even for NYC, which has spent enormous sums of money on public works which stand as far greater achievements than the WTC was.

So every tall building is a fire trap. So build small buildings. Oh wait, they burn down too. I guess it's back to the trees then. Oh wait...

The supertalls exist (well partly for ego, yes) because of economic benefit. While land is finite, people will build upwards; when the costs are too high to do otherwise, people will build upwards. Need even more space? Build even higher. There are tradeoffs to be made, as with anything. And as long as the economic benefit exists, these tradeoffs will continue to be made.

Now would I want to live/work in one of these buildings? Heck no. But not because I'm concerned for their stability in tha face of terrorist attacks. I'm just afraid of heights :)

To answer the main questions:

  1. No. And they won't be regarless of what we think.
  2. I think the WTC was already terrorist-resistant. It did take them two tries to bring it down, you'll remember. If the land owner feels like building a fortress, they're welcome to do so. But I think those working to destroy it would fan the flames just that little bit hotter, so to speak.
  3. I think sprawl has as many risks. For some reason I don't think the world will be better served by turning, say, the Amazon basin, into sub-divisions rather than building taller structures in Sao Paolo. Not that supertalls are the answer to all of humanity's need for shelter. But they are an answer.
  4. Maybe. But we did. And if we hadn't, do you think that know one ever would?
  5. Did you ever see the WTC? I think the aesthetic compromise was made long ago.
  6. My spirit doesn't demand it. But I won't legislate the desires of other peoples souls. If people want to build them, they will be built. Somewhere, somehow.
  7. Every building you discuss is 'human scaled'. Not a demand of the spirit, but of the bodies that use the buildings.
Sorry for my spelling & grammer. Sorry for not making my points clear; fatigue makes more words inadvisable.

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. - Richard Feynman


full-frame vs core (none / 0) (#217)
by Jim Tour on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 06:58:31 AM EST

You say "I don't understand why the author believes a wider base and thicker steel would prevent a similar fate befalling other buildings in similar circumstances."

The thickness of the steel is much less important than the difference between full frame construction and core/loadbearing wall construction. The WTC was the first super-tall to use this design. Think about it: in a traditional full-frame building the weight of the structure is evenly distributed among columns placed at regular intervals all the way from the center to the walls. In the WTC design most of the weight falls on the few columns bunched in the core, and these are supplemented by the slender columns on the outside of the walls. This made all the difference in the world. When the core columns lost their strength from the fire, the weight of the entire building was shifted to the comparatively lightweight external columns. They weren't up to the task and that was the end of the story. In a full-frame building the fire would need to be ultra intense almost throughout the entire floor to have the same effect. If you bunch your support in a small part of the floor you run a huge risk that a fire there will bring everything down. If you spread strong supports everywhere on the floor, the fire has to be almost everywhere to bring everything down. Somehow, fire in one or more floors of the WTC in both towers became ultra intense and sustained smack in the middle of the floors. Most likely the plane wreckage penetrated close to the core and came to rest there. The same fire in a full-frame building simply wouldn't have brought it down. Columns near the center might lose their weight holding capacity, but the building's weight would have been manageably distributed to the other full strength columns elsewhere on the floor instead of to those slender external columns on the WTC... So, it's not a matter of steel thickness. It's a matter of basic structural arrangement.

And I'm sure after a little more reflection you would see why a wider base (and not just base-- the whole tower would be wider) would enhance overall resilience tremendously. Just recall playing with blocks as a kid. Say you used those midsized square blocks to build a little tower of 2 blocks by 8 blocks (16 blocks total). Then you punch out one of the blocks on the fifth floor. The whole thing comes down. Then you build one 4 blocks by 8 blocks and punch one out on the fifth floor again. It stands.

[ Parent ]

All true, but irrelevant to my main thrust (none / 0) (#220)
by El Zahir on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 03:13:10 PM EST

The building could still burn down. It might take longer, sure. The increased size of the building would increase the difficulty of fighting the fire.
You say that fire x wouldn't have brought it down. I say, what about fire x+1?

I'm sorry if I simplified the differences in structural arrangement. I was just trying to express my thoughts expediently.

The WTC was constructed in its fashion for economic benefit. Maximum utilizable area on each floor. How much more will the (supposedly) superior superstructure cost? The suggestion is not even to build a structure of the same size with more and stronger materials, but to build yet larger ones.

What's the cost per usable square foot? I doubt that we've reached a point where the need for office space is so great that this would be cost effective. Not to say that its possible at some point in the future. Maybe space will become so valuable that the additional cost of the materials would be negligable. Many things become suddenly feasable when the baseline economics change.

But I'm not living in the future. And I don't want people constructing theoretical buildings. The towers were efficient, effective, economical. They were not destroyed due to a design failure. They were destroyed because an active intelligence had the means and opportunity to do so. There is no building that could not be brought down by people determined to do so.

I don't believe there is any point to designing impracticle buildings in reaction to a unique event.

So what happens when you knock 2 blocks from the 5th floor?

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. - Richard Feynman


[ Parent ]
x+1 (none / 0) (#221)
by Jim Tour on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 03:55:23 PM EST

I see what you mean, but I think the fire needed to bring down a full-frame doublewide wouldn't be x+1-- more like x*2. Sure it could happen, but the probability must be magnitudes lower. If you were sitting in a tower wouldn't you want the engineers to have given you double or triple the chance to live?

[ Parent ]
Problems with the LA City Design (none / 0) (#218)
by opendna on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 11:59:32 AM EST

I understand the strength and stability of distributed city planning, and admit it's got its strengths from both economic and security perspectives.

However, it's worth recognizing that distributed cities rely more heavily on oil for the transportation infrastructure. Arguments regarding reliance on oil leading to war, ecological impacts, etc are valid. But it's more directrly relevant to consider where gasoline will be stored. Somewhere in LA there are several privately-owned multi-million gallon tanks of gasoline being guarded by the principles of cost-cutting businesses. Each one is a fuel-air bomb waiting to happen. I bet New York doesn't have *one* of these depots inside city limits.

Concentrations of value and concentrations of consequence are both good targets from a military perspective. Those who focus on past attacks to thwart future ones will inevitably push the values around and make new targets more desireable. Murphy's Law suggest they will be even more catastrophic.

Has anyone suggest WIRED Magazine's 9-11 special issue? Highly recommended, IMHO.



'Tower of Peace' in sao paulo does not exist (none / 0) (#223)
by C0vardeAn0nim0 on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 04:26:02 PM EST

and never will. it was found that it was just a scam to take money from suckers^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hinvestors.

and the place chosen to build the tower (Cambuci) would make it a threat to air trafic from both the international airport in Guarulhos and Campo de Marte (a central airport in Santana, a close neighborhood), not to say that both Cambuci and Santana are in a valley, with several water stream (Tiete and Tamanduatei rivers are the largest ones) what makes the region subject of floods.

a suitable place for a super-high here would be Paulista Avenue, a rock hill. but Paulista is overcrowded and, again, air trafic is an issue, this time with Congonhas airport. another place is downtown, near Sé Cathedral, but this place is full of historical buildings.

other suitable grounds are too far away from financial (Paulista) and corporate (Berrini) centers to be atractive to investors, lack infrastructure or AGAIN put the building in conflict with air trafic.

http://www.comofazer.net

Some comments on super talls (5.00 / 1) (#225)
by khallow on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 01:59:42 AM EST

The only real arguments I've seen for or against supertall buildings are economical. In particular, the two primary concerns: safety and quality of life are independent problems. Safety is just another risk of having a lot of people in one place. If it is too unsafe, then insurance coverage will be uneconomical, and the place will lose money.

The quality of life argument is misleading since I haven't seen many buildings bother to take that into account. I guess it comes from too much living in apartments with paper-thin walls and shoddy homes with a ludicrous markup. In particular, while the "secret" of good quality of life still hasn't been figured out, there are a number of things that seem to help a lot. For example, I don't want to hear my neighbors nor tread delicately around my living space eternally in fear of breaking something. Further, I like a lot of space.

The popularity of cubical farms indicates to me that quality of living is just another throw-away phrase. Ie, the people in charge don't care about quality of living as long as it doesn't effect them in a negative way. In particular, the talk about quality of living is just that. It's plainly, obviously, clear that many people in the US experience declining "quality of life" in their homes or work areas and that this problem is independent of the size of the building. OTOH, I have no real clue how widespread the problem really is. Perhaps, most people are living better now than in the past. I don't really see a relationship between building size and quality of life though I do see a relation between density and quality of life.

Finally, huge buildings are a great way to stress society's engineering muscles. Big engineering projects pioneer all sorts of new construction practices, architectural ideas, and often lead to innovations in other areas. In fact, I would consider architecture to be one of the prime movers of human history. Would we have civilization if it weren't for the inventions of the granary, wall, road, tower, or bridge?

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Safety concerns (none / 0) (#227)
by wnight on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 02:21:35 AM EST

I think the issue here isn't as much, what constitutes "too large", or hard enough to knock down, as what will be easy enough to evacuate.

It has been said that the WTC would have taken three hours (estimates vary by quite a bit) to evacuate, had everyone been ready at the sound of a fire alarm. That's without a disaster to cope with, just a drill.

That makes me think of the Titanic, which, being guaranteed unsinkable, didn't need to get everyone off in a timely fashion, just enough to cope with the minor disasters it might have. And then, well, it sunk.

So, design whatever building you want, as long as everyone can get outside (or safely away) to designated emergency areas, within a very small amount of time.


Super-tall construction died long ago... (none / 0) (#232)
by tapir on Sat Jul 20, 2002 at 05:14:51 PM EST

    I think that there's been vlittle interest in super-tall (more than about about 50 stories) in the developed world for more than a decade or so.

    The main reason is that elevator systems don't scale well to large buildings -- it gets to be a pain to take the elevator to work,  and more and more space gets allocated to elevator shafts and mechanical spaces rather than to rentable office space.

    Developing countries with rapidly growing economies (semi-peripheral countries like Malaysia) are interested in developing them for less tangible reasons:  as a way to prove their modernity and to capture attention by winning the "world's tallest building" contest.  In the developed world,  however,  developers are too interest in making money to play this game.

    It would be really stupid to start building uneconomical buildings just to thumb our nose at Bin Laden.  If terrorists ever deliver a strike equal to the 9/11 strike again,  they'll do it by striking an entirely different target -- one that we'd never seriously anticipate.  Technological civilization has many vulnerable points,  and terrorists will always be able to find one that is sufficiently unguarded.

    That said,  there certainly is the interesting question of hardening new smaller (less than 50 stories) skyscrapers against terrorist attacks and other disasters and the question of economical measures for protecting existing super-tall buildings.

A Call for Opinions: The Future of the Super Tall Building | 234 comments (227 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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