Saturday, March 03, 2007

The renovation of WTC7

There’s a lot of crap on the internets about some BBC videos ‘proving’ shenanigans about the collapse of WTC7.  Frankly, there are far too many innocent explanations for any discrepancies for this to be any kind of smoking gun.  What we’re seeing is the collapse of September 11 research, falling into a combination of grasping at straws and sheer hucksterism (the janitor who claims to have heard the controlled demolition explosions – as I’ve pointed out, if this were true, he’d be dead – is on a lecture tour!).  I’ll bet that all the video salesmen have never heard of this blog, although a surprising quantity of the arguments they make were first made here.  As it is, I’m disgusted, and am washing my hands of it.

Almost.  From time to time I get a bit excited at something.  I like this Yayacanada skepticism about the BBC video story, and its link to an intriguing New York Times story, from 1989, about WTC7.  Salomon Brothers became the main tenant in WTC 7, but the building didn’t meet their requirements for double-height trading floors, so they spent more than $200 million ‘fixing’ it.  Some quotes from the article (my emphasis always in red):

“The work, which began last month at Seven World Trade Center, reflects both the adaptability of steel-framed towers and the extraordinary importance of fail-safe computer and telephone systems for the brokerage industry. According to many real estate experts, no company has ever made such extensive alterations to a new office building in Manhattan.”


“. . . in late 1987, after the stock-market crash, Salomon withdrew as the co-owner and principal tenant of a project planned for Columbus Circle in midtown Manhattan.

The termination of that agreement left Salomon with an after-tax charge of $51 million and put the firm under intense pressure to find new headquarters space before its lease at One New York Plaza, in downtown Manhattan, expired in 1990. It no longer had time to shape the blueprints of a project; instead, it needed to find an existing building or one under construction that could be fitted for its high-technology operations in about two years.

After studying more than 50 options throughout the New York region, Salomon signed a 20-year lease for 22 floors - each spanning nearly an acre - at Seven World Trade Center, an office tower that has been largely vacant since Silverstein Properties completed it two years ago.”


“Much of the new electrical, air-conditioning and mechanical equipment will serve three double-height trading floors. To create the extra height, workers are removing most of three existing floors, using jackhammers to demolish concrete slabs and torches to remove steel decking and girders beneath the concrete.”


'We built in enough redundancy to allow entire portions of floors to be removed without affecting the building's structural integrity, on the assumption that someone might need double-height floors,'; said Larry Silverstein, president of the company. 'Sure enough, Salomon had that need.”


“Sections of the existing stone facade and steel bracing will be temporarily removed so that workers using a roof crane can hoist nine diesel generators onto the tower's fifth floor, where they will become the core of a back-up power station.”


'This is the first time I've every seen such dramatic interior changes being made in a new building,' said Irwin G. Cantor, structural engineer for the project.”


“Salomon intends to move the work along at breakneck speed.

'THIS is a massive project with a tight time frame,' said Rudy M. Pavesi, a senior vice president of Morse/Diesel, construction manager of the Salomon project. 'I cannot think of any retrofit project in the city where anyone has spent more than $5 million a month. But at our peak time, we'll be spending more than $10 million a month.'”

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  What if Silverstein and Salomon Bros. were in too much of a rush to carve out the inside of the building and retrofit it?  Silverstein was in a hurry to find a tenant for a huge empty space, and Salomon Bros. was in a hurry to find somewhere before it lost its existing space.  What if, in their hurry, they undermined the structural integrity of the building?  Rudy Giuliani didn’t help, by putting tons of generators, tons of water, and tons of diesel fuel above the ‘fixed’ floors for his emergency command center.  What if the building collapsed under almost no external stress because it was structurally unsound?

What if Silverstein’s reported words to ‘pull it’ are themselves disinfomation intended to hide the fact that it did not need to be pulled because it was ready to fall down?  If the building came down because of a terrorist attack, the insurance claim is easy; if it came down because of a rushed negligent retrofit agreed to by the landlord, there may not be any insurance claim.