Designing terror-proof buildings

Published 26 February 2010

Terrorists attack high-profile building for the symbolism such attacks carry; students at Purdue University test methods to make buildings terror-proof, and the research results could be used in high-profile construction projects

Terrorist attacks on high-profile buildings in the United States is the reason behind a Purdue University research on how to construct buildings in a way that prevents collapse. 6News-The Indy Channel reports that students in Bowen Laboratory hope their research will keep incidents such as the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City federal building collapses from happening again, 6News’ Sarah Cornell reported. “It provides a tremendous platform for graduate students to test their theories,” said Dr. Mete Soven, a civil engineering professor.

In an experiment for the National Institute of Standards (NIST), students are learning what happens when a support column in a building collapses. During the experiment, pressure is applied to a concrete column for 20 hours. When 280,000 pounds of pressure was applied, the column buckled, but only dropped four feet. “You can still survive under this beam. You cannot survive under a beam like the one they had in Oklahoma, because once they removed those columns, everything just collapsed,” said Santiago Pujol, an assistant professor.

Reinforcement rods are a key component that made the column that was tested so strong. Most buildings don’t have as many rods because they’re very expensive. “We get caught up in money. We want to save anywhere we can, and this is a place where some people could argue you could save,” Pujol said.

Engineers at Purdue said that more reinforcements could save lives. “Some people could argue you don’t need as much reinforcement as this has, but I would argue, if you put that much reinforcement, you will sleep better. I will sleep better,” Pujol said.

The lab’s findings will be sent to NIST and could potentially be written into construction codes for high-profile buildings that could be terrorist targets.