Fire-induced structural failure: the World Trade Center, New York

Jose L. Torero

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Abstract / Description of output

Fire investigation has generally concentrated on determination of the cause and origin of a fire. Methodologies developed for this purpose have thus focused on the dynamics of fire growth and investigation of its effect on different objects within the structure affected by the fire. It is unusual to see a fire investigation emphasising structural damage as a way to obtain information for fire reconstruction. The series of dramatic fire events that occurred on 11 September 2001 within the World Trade Center, New York complex have emphasised the need to introduce structural analysis as a companion to evaluation of a fire timeline. Only a combined analysis is capable of providing a complete reconstruction of the event and therefore a solid determination of causality. This paper presents a methodology to establish, by means of modern structural and fire analysis tools, the sequence of events leading to a structural failure. This analysis will be compared with classic cause and origin techniques, emphasising the importance of a comprehensive study. Specific structural features and fire conditions that lead to unique forms of failure will be discussed, establishing the complexity of linking fire, structure characteristics and failure mode. The collapse of buildings 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center will be used to illustrate different forms of failure and the fires that cause them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-77
JournalForensic Engineering
Volume164
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011

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