Last week, millions of people witnessed events commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, attack. Even after seven years, we still mourn the loss. In fact, all of our of lives have been dramatically changed by the safety measures we no accept as common.
I find it ironic that as these events were happening, our own government announced plans to fight portions of the building code that were recently adopted to help safeguard human life.
According to an NRMCA news release, the General Services Administration, which serves as the federal government's property manager, is now opposing the tougher standards, even though they were based on a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which issues recommendations for safety standards after investigating fires and building catastrophes.
The new provisions, which include requiring tall office buildings to have more robust fireproofing and an extra emergency stairwell, were enacted as a result of an exhaustive federal study into the collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers. Under the new rules, any nonresidential skyscraper more than 420 feet tall, or about 40 stories, must have a third stairwell and fireproofing capable of staying in place, even if hit with 1000 pounds per square foot of force.
A real estate industry group, the Building Owners and Managers Association, wants to repeal this. As an alternative, the group is urging that skyscrapers include specially designed elevators that can operate during a fire. The group estimates the standards could cost an additional $13 million per building and reduce rents by $600,000 annually.
I don't believe in spending money unnecessarily, but what is the value of a life? Why should we ignore expert advice on how to improve the safety of these structures?
I urge you to pay close attention to this effort to dilute our building codes. This movement is designed to replace concrete with steel and sprinklers. We must dispel the belief that we can design something as good as concrete, when it must be concrete.