THE MAGAZINE

The Challenge of Making Safer Structures

By Michael A. Gips

Stairway to Structural Security

The legacy of the World Trade Center collapse could be safer skyscrapers. Here's what tomorrow's high rises--at least those for which a risk assessment dictates special security precautions--might look like.

  • Greater structural support to prevent progressive collapse
  • Wider stairs for evacuation
  • Stairs and elevator shafts encased in concrete or steel
  • Better, longer-lasting fireproofing
  • Hard-to-access air intakes
  • Full sprinkler systems
  • Detailed evacuation plans and routes
  • Stairwells on opposite sides of building
  • Elevators for evacuation or emergency response
  • Sensor-activated electronic evacuation guidance
  • "Smart" bricks that detect structural weakness
  • Backup battery power for stairwell lighting
  • Antismoke stair pressurization
  • Multiple HVAC systems
  • Chemical and biological sensors in HVAC systems
  • Photoluminescent paint or electroluminescent strips on exit stairs

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