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The Towers' History

Origins of the World Trade Center and the World's Tallest Buildings

The origins of the World Trade Center extend back to 1946, when the New
York Legislature created the World Trade Corporation with a view to
creating a trade center in Manhattan.

The history is recounted in greater detail at Great Buildings Online.
The Port Authority chose as the site for the WTC in 1962 the block bounded
by West, Church, Liberty, and Vesey Streets, and selected architect Minoru
Yamasaki to design the project. At Yamasaki's request, Worthington,
Skilling, Helle and Jackson was selected as the engineering firm, and
Yamasaki worked closely with its engineers John Skilling and Leslie

The architectural firm Emery Roth & Sons handled production work.

The site MASTER PLAN from 1963, though detailed, was modified in some
respects prior to implementation. In particular, the final configuration of the
low-rise buildings WTC 4, 5, and 6 was different than shown in the

The Towers' Architecture
• The Innovative Design of the World Trade Center Towers

• The Twin Towers were the tallest buildings in the world when they
were completed in 1972.
• The design, created by architect Minoru Yamaski, was innovative in
several ways, including its elevator system, and its structural
• These innovations would be widely adopted in later skyscrapers.

Elevator System

A conventional elevator system would have taken up half the space of the
lower floors.

A novel system employing express and local elevators was developed by
Otis Elevators.

The express elevators took people to "sky lobbies" on the 44th and 78th
floors, where they could board local elevators.

This system halved the number of elevator shafts.

and a dense bundle of columns forms its core. .Structural System • 1 and 2 World Trade Center used the so-called tube within a tube architecture. • Tall buildings have to resist primarily two kinds of forces: lateral loading (horizontal force) due mainly to the wind. • The tube within a tube design uses a specially reinforced perimeter wall to resist all lateral loading and some of the gravity loading. spanning the ring of space between the perimeter wall and the core. • The floors and hat truss completed the structure. and transmitting lateral forces between those structures. in which closely-spaced external columns form the building's perimeter walls. and gravity loading (downward force) due to the building's weight. and a heavily reinforced central core to resist the bulk of the gravity loading.

but has since been widely employed in the design of new skyscrapers. including: • The Sears Tower (1450 ft) • The World Trade Center Towers (1350 ft) • The Standard Oil of Indiana Building (1125 ft) • The John Hancock Center (1105 ft) . In fact most of the world's tallest buildings use it.Structural System • The tube within a tube architecture was relatively new at the time the Twin Towers were built.

WTC 1. • The owners initially had difficulty finding tenants to fill the enormous towers. • Of the over 10. 62 died in construction accidents. Although not completed until 1972. the South Tower.000 workers involved in building the complex. • The towers were dedicated on April 4th. 1973. which had over 8 million square feet of floor space. rose ahead of WTC 2. the North Tower.Construction • • Construction began in 1966. was finished in 1973. lower floors were ready for their first tenants in late 1970. WTC 2. . • Most of the North Tower was still unoccupied when a serious fire broke out in February of 1975.

Construction • The 110-story Twin Towers.362 feet. . rising 1.368 and 1. remained the world's tallest and largest buildings until they were surpassed by the Sears Tower in 1974.

glass. concrete slabs on steel truss joists temperate urban Modern Yamasaki and Associates. 2001 skyscraper.Facts • Architect • Location • Date • Building Type • Construction • • • • Climate Context Style Notes Minoru Yamasaki New York 1966 to 1977. Demolished by terrorist attack on September 11. with Emery Roth and Sons. . commercial office tower System steel frame. 110 stories tall.

plus Building 7. building first occupied floors elevators number area.Facts about the Famous World Trade Center • The World Trade Center consisted of a cluster of 6 buildings that occupied a single superblock.000 97 6 Building 4 1977 9 84. ft^2 passenger freight North Tower 1970 110 45.000-50.000 12 1 Building 5 1972 9 108.000-50.000 9 Building 6 1975 8 80. which occupied an adjacent block.400 8 Building 7 1985? 47 no information available 4 .000 97 6 South Tower 1970 110 45.

Foyer of WTC .

2001 . (99 year leased signed in April 2001 to groups including Westfield America and Silverstein Properties) Architect: Minoru Yamasaki.Some Engineering Aspects Height: 1. 1973 ribbon cutting Destroyed: Terrorist attack. Emery Roth and Sons consulting Engineer: John Skilling and Leslie Robertson of Worthington. September 11.World Trade Center . April 4.368 and 1. 1966 Opened: 1970-73.362 feet (417 and 415 meters) Owners: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Helle and Jackson Ground Breaking: August 5. Skilling.

like the perimeter wall structures. . The cores were rectangular pillars with numerous large columns and girders. The core structures. which were structurally independent of the floor diaphragms that spanned the space between the cores and the perimeter walls. stairs. measuring 87 feet by 133 feet. and other services. were 100 percent steel-framed.The Structural System of the Twin Towers • • • • • Each tower was supported by a structural core extending from its bedrock foundation to its roof. The cores had their own flooring systems. The core structures housed the elevators.

In addition.The Structural System of the Twin Towers • Reports on the number of core columns vary from 44 to 47. in which elevators and stairwells were grouped. the centers of the steel columns were 40 inches apart. The exact arrangement of the columns is not known due to the secrecy of detailed engineering drawings of the towers. The interior core of the buildings was a hollow steel shaft. Ibid.the 9/11 Commission Report -. • These exterior walls bore most of the weight of the building. such as the one on the right.denies their very existence. the outside of each tower was covered by a frame of 14-inch-wide steel columns. that the core columns were abundantly cross-braced. . • Establishing the true nature of the core structures is of great importance given that the most widely read document on the World Trade Center attack -. see FEMA report. "World Trade Center Building Performance Study. It is clear from photographs. claiming the towers' cores were "hollow steel shaft[s]:" • For the dimensions." undated.

halving the number of shaftways. Worried that the intense air pressure created by the buildings’ high speed elevators might buckle conventional shafts. Faced with the difficulties of building to unprecedented heights.The Structural System • • • Yamasaki and engineers John Skilling and Les Robertson worked closely. The columns. making the towers appear from afar to have no windows at all. and the relationship between the towers’ design and structure is clear. Also unique to the engineering design were its core and elevator system. For the elevators. . the engineers employed an innovative structural model: a rigid "hollow tube" of closely spaced steel columns with floor trusses extending across to a central core. whereby passengers would change at "sky lobbies" on the 44th and 78th floors. finished with a silver-colored aluminum alloy. engineers designed a solution using a drywall system fixed to the reinforced steel core. were 18 3/4" wide and set only 22" apart. The twin towers were the first supertall buildings designed without any masonry. to serve 110 stories with a traditional configuration would have required half the area of the lower stories be used for shaftways. Otis Elevators developed an express and local system.

The Structural System • The structural system.B. and also acts as a diaphragm to stiffen the outside wall against lateral buckling forces from wind-load pressures. thus not transferring the forces through the floor membrane to the core.000 square feet of office space per floor. that spans the full 60 feet to the core." . • Office spaces will have no interior columns. only 33 inches in depth. in effect. the central core takes only the gravity loads of the building.M. is impressively simple. economical structure results by keeping the wind bracing in the most efficient place. with columns on 39-inch centers acting as wind bracing to resist all overturning forces. as in most curtain-wall structures. • The 208-foot wide facade is. • The floor construction is of prefabricated trussed steel. Building in Seattle. a prefabricated steel lattice. deriving from the I. In the upper floors there is as much as 40. the outside surface of the building. • A very light.

Typical Floor Plan of the World Trade Center A perimeter of closely spaced columns. which spanned between the outer columns and the lift core. The floors were supported by a series of light trusses on rubber pads. . with an internal lift core.

Columns • Like the perimeter columns -. where the steel was five inches thick. . where the steel was about two inches thick. whereas near the tops it may have been as little as 1/4th inch thick. • The bases of the columns also had slabs of steel running through their centers. Near the bottoms of the towers the steel was four inches thick. • The bottom figure shows the base of one of the larger core columns.and like steel columns in all tall buildings -the thickness of the steel in the core columns tapered from bottom to top. making them almost solid. • The top figure in the illustration to the right is a cross-section of one of the smaller core columns from about half-way up a tower.

The outermost rows of core columns were apparently considerably larger. about half-way up the tower. measuring 54 inches wide .Columns The top illustration indicates what may have been typical dimensions and thickness of the smaller core columns.

and the aluminum cladding with window frame conections. . The leftmost figure shows a section of a column. its enveloping insulation. where the steel was thinnest.Columns This diagram shows horizontal sections of the Twin Towers' perimeter columns. The left and middle figures show sections of a column near a tower's tops. The rightmost figure shows section of a column in the lower part of a tower. where the steel was much thicker.

• It depicts the top floors of a tower and does not indicate the widths of the columns on a typical floor. • The arrangement of box columns depicted in Figure 2-10 of Chapter 2 (pictured to the right) seems plausible. even though it contradicts other illustrations in the report showing a more random arrangement. .Column Arrangement • The exact arrangement of the columns and how they were cross-braced is not apparent from public documents such as FEMA's World Trade Center Building Performance Study.

• In addition. • The debris photograph below shows what appears to be one of the smaller core columns surrounded by perpendicular I-beams approximately three feet deep. the tops of core structures were further connected by the sloping beams of the hat truss structures. .Cross-Bracing • Construction photographs show that the core columns were connected to each other at each floor by large square girders and Ibeams about two feet deep.

This photograph from Ground Zero is apparently of one of the smaller core columns connected to a set of I-beams. .

. whose dimensions. are apparently 52 by 22 inches.This image from the documentary Up From Zero shows the base of a core column. with walls at least 5 inches thick. minus the four flanges.

looking across the plaza and fountain Photo. Photo. up! Photo. newly constructed World Trade Center towers at dusk.Photo. up. with U. lobby interior at mezzanine Photo. looking east from the Hudson River to Manhattan and the World Trade Center towers. with the World . Photo. looking up. flag. before Battery Park City. looking west from the Brooklyn Bridge. exterior.S. Manhattan.

Photo. looking north to midtown Manhattan. from World Trade Center observation deck. with the Empire State Building Photo. looking east to the Brooklyn Bridge and beyond. looking south across Manhattan from the Empire State Building. photo. Manhattan and the World Trade Center towers. looking south at night toward the World Trade Center. from World Trade Center observation deck. Manhattan overview Photo. Photo. looking northeast with the World Trade Center from the Hudson River to towers in the distance. Photo. . with the World Trade Center towers in the distance.

which were structurally independent of the surrounding floor diaphragms.The Floors The Structural System of the Twin Towers • The floors of the Twin Towers completed the structural system whose main elements were the core structures and the perimeter walls. • The cores had their own flooring systems. • The floor diaphragms were annular structures that spanned the distance between the core structures and the perimeter walls. . providing large expanses of uninterrupted floor space.

a fact ignored by the truss failure theory. The primary trusses were 900 mm deep. and spaced on 2.The Floors • • • • • The floor diaphragms consisted of lightweight concrete slabs poured onto corrugated steel pans. The floors were the only major part of these mostly steel buildings that contained concrete. Its density and exact composition remain unknown. but such lightweight concrete is typically 60% as dense as concrete used in roads and sidewalks. which were supported by trusses. The 10 cm thick concrete slabs were apparently a lightweight form of concrete typically used in high-rises. Primary double trusses were interwoven with transverse secondary trusses -. .04 m centers.

of which two are pictured.The Floors This illustration from FEMA's report shows a section of the flooring system. The main double trusses. are perpeducular to the view plane. .

• In addition to supporting gravity loads. Richard Roth. it is clear that the core structures were designed to support several times the weight of each tower by themselves.“ • Regardless. speaking on behlf of the architectural firm that designed the Towers. • The fact that these structures were on the exterior of the Towers made them particularly efficient at carrying lateral loads. described each of the perimeter walls as essentially "a steel beam 209' deep. particularly those due to winds. supported the towers. . • These.The Perimeter Walls • The Structural System of the Twin Towers • The towers' perimeter walls comprised dense grids of vertical steel columns and horizontal spandrel plates. the perimeter walls stiffened the Towers against lateral loads. along with the core structures.

The Perimeter Walls .

the perimeter wall structures were assembled from pre-fabricated units consisting of 3 column sections and 3 spandrel plate sections welded together. and one column on each corner bevel. • The illustrated cross-sections represent columns near the top. • Adjacent units were bolted together: column sections were bolted to adjacent columns above and below. • There were 59 perimeter columns on each face of the towers. making a total of 240 perimeter columns in each tower. and spandrel plate sections were mated with adjacent sections on either side with numerous bolts. . • Like the core columns. the thickness of the perimeter columns tapered from the bottom to the top of the towers. and near the mid-section of the towers.The Perimeter Walls • As the diagram and photograph illustrate.

The structure successfully redistributed the building weight to the remaining elements and maintained stability long enough for a life-saving evacuation. The report explains why the buildings failed — but didn't fail right away. Preliminary Observations and Recommendations. the most heavily loaded columns were probably near.Engineers Explain WTC Collapse After seven months of wide speculation about the causes of New York's World Trade Center collapses on September 11. their ultimate capacities. World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection. and other organizations. was produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). enabling 99 percent of people below the floors of impact to escape. the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). but not over. Image: ASCE/FEMA . The report. a report has been issued based on physical evidence and a thorough engineering analysis. After the initial impacts. 2001.

the sprinklers were not operating as designed. "they would likely have been ineffective.Engineers Explain WTC Collapse • • • • • • • The authors attribute each tower's collapse to three separate but related "loading events. adding stress to the damaged structure.000 gallons (38 kiloliters) of jet fuel.. Meanwhile. "most of the load supported by the failed columns is believed to have transferred to adjacent perimeter columns through Vierendeel behavior of the exterior wall frame. "Even if these systems had not been compromised by the impacts." The first event was a Boeing aircraft hitting the building. The highrises' structural systems were sufficiently redundant. cutting through the exterior structure and creating a fireball that immediately consumed some of the estimated 10. that this major damage by itself did not cause the collapse. however." ." The second event was the continuing fire. According to the report. fed both by the remaining jet fuel and the office contents of furniture and paper. the initial flash fires of jet fuel would have opened so many sprinkler heads that the systems would have quickly depressurized and been unable to effectively deliver water to the large area of fire involvement. This fire heated and weakened the structural systems." says the report..

. buckled at the bolted column splice connections and also collapsed. to protect all structures from all hazards simply by strengthening the building codes. accelerating as the sequence progressed.. • Freestanding exterior walls.Engineers Explain WTC Collapse • The third event was a progressive collapse: • "As the large mass of the collapsing floors above accelerated and impacted on the floors below. the authors caution. • However.. punching each in turn onto the floor below. • Indeed a theme throughout the report is a call for additional research. if not impossible. it caused an immediate progressive series of floor failures." • The complete story may never be known. it will be prohibitively expensive.

leading to progressive collapse. Image: ASCE/FEMA . at the same time that the heat softened the steel and the aircraft debris contributed to gravity loads.Engineers Explain WTC Collapse Heat caused steel in the floor trusses to expand. promoting buckling in columns.

In particular. they looked for columns exposed to fire or aircraft impact. and floor trusses. connections. bolts. Photo: Structural Engineers of New York (SEAoNY) .Engineers Explain WTC Collapse Engineers searched through piles of steel for pieces of the World Trade Center.

Why Did It Collapse? .


Since the mass of the combined towers is close to 1000000 tons.Why Did It Collapse? • • • • The only evidence so far are photographs and television footage. The extent to which the internal parts were damaged during the collision may be evident in the rubble if any forensic investigation is conducted. . finding evidence will be an enormous task. Whether failure was initiated at the perimeter columns or the core is unknown.

it is possible that a storey on only one side of the South Tower initially collapsed. However. The North Tower collapsed directly downwards. on top of itself. is the likely cause of failure of both towers. It is evident that the building is falling over to the left. The same mechanism of failure. the combination of impact and subsequent fire damage. . resulting in the "skewed" failure of the entire tower.Why Did It Collapse? This photograph shows the south tower just as it is collapsing.

a large number of columns were destroyed on impact. • Not much significance should be taken from the fact that one tower fell in 45 minutes and the other in 90 minutes. the basic cause is similar for both .Why Did It Collapse? • While the ways the two towers fell were slightly different. The gigantic dynamic impact forces caused by the huge mass of the falling structure landing on the floors below is very much greater than the static load they were designed to resist. and the remaining structure was gradually weakened by the heat of the fire. .

000 built-in shock absorbers to lessen the buildings' sway in strong wind. .Each of the Twin Towers had 11.

368 feet •Amount of masonry walls 6 million square feet Height of Tower Two 1.000 tons Amount of rentable space about 10 million square feet Number of windows 43.000 Amount of fill excavated beneath the WTC site >1 million cubic yards Weight of contract drawings for the steel used in WTC 650 pounds Amount of structural steel used in WTC 200.600 Number of elevators in both towers 198 Number of "passenger movements" per day in WTC elevators 450.000 tons Weight of each tower 500.000 Distance seen in every direction from observation deck 45 miles Amount each tower swayed from true center in strong winds 3 feet Cost to build the WTC about $1 billion .Surpassing Facts • Number of stories in each tower 110 Height of Tower One 1.362 feet Amount of painted surfaces 5 million square feet Height of TV mast on Tower One 330 feet Number of lighting fixtures 200.