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The World Trade Center Towers – Stability Under Stress

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  1. Introduction
  2. The towers construction
    1. The difference between the roofs of WTC 1 and WTC 2
    2. The rectangular service core
    3. The floors of WTC 1 and 2 outside of the central core
    4. Columns that supported the floors
  3. The failures that culminated in the total collapse of each of the towers
    1. The potential energy in the floor members
  4. The colapse of WTC 7
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works referenced

The World Trade Center towers, hereafter referred to as WTC 1 and WTC 2, were regarded as revolutionary when they were constructed in the late 1960s. Within the next two decades, five additional buildings were constructed in the World Trade Center Plaza. Among these was World Trade Center 7 (WTC 7) built in 1985 located north of WTC1 and WTC 2 across Vesey Street. The structural systems incorporated in the 110-story towers designed by Minoru Yamaski & Associates were unique, the process of construction was the first of its type, and the vertical fenestrations that adorned the skyscrapers aided in the towers' structural system and were very aesthetic. WTC 1 even garnered the title of world's tallest building upon its completion. Tragically, the Towers have also come to be known as the site of the largest loss of life from any single building event in United States history. This report will focus upon the structural design, the transference of vertical and lateral loads, and the failure mechanisms of WTC 1, WTC 2, and WTC 7.

[...] Once this process had been started, the collapse of the World Trade Center towers was inevitable. Fifty-six minutes after the attack, WTC 2 began to collapse. Twenty-nine minutes later, WTC 1 followed. At 5:20 PM EDT, WTC 7 began collapsing after burning for seven hours. WTC 7 did not collapse due to any direct structural damage from the attacks, however. The collapse of WTC 1 sent debris in all directions, some of which hit the south side of WTC 7. [...]


[...] As efficiently as the World Trade Center Towers had been designed, they eventually succumbed to the stresses resulting from the attacks of September and collapsed in a cloud of ash and debris. The effect caused by the impact of the Boeing 767-200ER aircrafts into the Twin Towers could not have been expected by the towers' designers. They had, however, considered the effect of an impact of a much smaller airplane in a Boeing 707. The greater speed, weight, and volume of fuel onboard the Boeing 767 resulted in a much more devastating impact and grave effect than the collision that the engineers had designed for. [...]


[...] Silverstein, the lease owner on the trade center, assumed that the floors were unable to give way, which, in light of the evidence presented by FEMA, does not seem plausible. The FEMA report is very convincing. Though, as FEMA admittedly states throughout the report, time will tell whether their findings are valid. Damage to the building's core was not considered by FEMA, however. Presumably there would have been at least some damage in that area which, because of its load-bearing responsibility, would have affected the stability of the WTC towers. [...]

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