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Healing National Wounds: Engaging Due Diligence

by Henry MacLean

09/08/2018 - 12:04

This last April, 375 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) signed a statement to restore science based policy in government. The Open Letter underscored the dangers of human-induced climate change and suggested that the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord would further stress the world’s climate system while thwarting this country’s credibility and leadership in this arena. This initiative secured resounding international support, eventually included Syria, but sadly now excludes us, the voices from the country where it was crafted, leaving us all further wounded.

The fact that Mr. Trump has taken twice as long to name a Director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) than any modern president, is also a telltale sign of the forces that brought his administration into office and allowed this level of disdain for science to persist. The Director of the OSTP is responsible for giving scientific and technical advice in “areas of national concern,” ranging from national security to the environment. The new appointee announced this last week (meteorologist  Kelvin Droegemeier) won’t be staffed up until the midterm elections, roughly 15 months after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris agreement, for which he certainly could have used his services. The next worse president on this issue was George W. Bush, who took nine months to appoint his OSTP director John Marburger shortly after 9/11. Marburger was well known for his work in defending that administration against the National Academy of Science’s  assertion “ that politics were skewing government agency research.”

Open letter to our Representatives 
This September 11, on behalf of 90 architects and engineers in Eastern Mass (including over a dozen NESEA members), I am proud to join my colleagues reaching out with an open letter to our representatives in Congress. The goal is to introduce new legislation aimed at reopening the investigation into the destruction of the three WTC towers that fell on 9/11. It is part of a national effort openly supported by 3,000 architects and engineers across the country, now asking the same of their elected congressional representatives.

In our letter to Representatives Lynch, Capuano and Clark, we wrote:
Sadly, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted its investigation based on the pre-­determined conclusion that all three failures were due to fire — and thus ignored, dismissed, and denied the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence contradicting that conclusion. The Bobby McIlvaine Act — named after 26-‑year-­old Bobby McIlvaine, who was killed by an explosion while entering the lobby of WTC 1 — is draft legislation that would establish a select committee in the U.S. House of Representatives to conduct the unbiased investigation that NIST should have done. Such an impartial investigation, which must include a full inquiry into the possible use of explosives and incendiaries, will enable the American people to finally get to the bottom of this tragic and pivotal event in our nation’s history.

This is one way to show our respect and help seek justice for all those whose lives were destroyed by the events and aftermath of September 11 seventeen years ago this week. By far the biggest crime of our lifetime, it was also the three greatest building failures in history. As building professionals, our building science eyes, ears and voices are indispensable in this particular issue if we care about having science-based policy in government. It is also a way to take concrete steps in managing the inevitable outrage that follows when one closely observes the raw facts of this historic event, an event that lit the match on two wars that claimed millions of lives and trillions in resources.

AE911Truth, the educational non-profit that 3,000 of us support, has also launched a new campaign this summer called Project Due Diligence, a coordinated effort by a team of engineers around the world to engage the profession in performing its due diligence regarding the World Trade Center failures. As stated in the introduction: “As engineers, we have a legal responsibility to guard the public’s safety. Given the magnitude of the building failures at the World Trade Center . . . it is our duty to understand the official reports and to call for further investigation if those reports are not satisfactory.”

Why should this matter to NESEA members?
As NESEA members, we are also expected to weigh in on significant events in our national dialog related to issues that involve building technology, particularly when they have to do with public safety. Through our commitment to being “supportive of connection and community,” as stated in NESEA’s vision statement, we are naturally linked to our other regional professional building, design and engineering colleagues, as well as related associations and schools. Our USGBC colleagues expressed the relevance of this issue by their positive response and support of the  AE911Truth booth at Greenbuild 2017 last fall in Boston. Sustainability, whole systems thinking and integrative design are all tools well suited for this effort, and can help further underscore our voice, credibility and leadership in this arena.

We also understand the value of accurately reporting the facts pertaining to our projects each day, as an essential piece of managing our world in the profession of designing and constructing buildings. The whole rationale for applying due diligence in our professional undertakings is to protect people from pitfalls resulting from oversight, ensuring operations in areas of competence and being honest with our peers and clients. The health, safety, and welfare credits we have been earning at NESEA conferences for the last 35 years are absolutely dependent on the concept that we all engage in project due diligence with all of our work. For those who are not familiar with the essential due diligence failures of NIST’s study on the World Trade Center failures, here is a quick overview.

What went down?  
As lead investigator for NIST, Shyum Sunder stated in his technical briefing in August of 2008, “A free-fall time would be an object that has  no structural component below it.” He also admitted that “Tower 1 collapsed in about 11 seconds, .…and Tower 2 collapsed in about 9 seconds” ….. “This essentially is the rate at which free-fall collapse would happen.” In the pile driver and progressive collapse theories put forth by NIST, both upper sections of these two towers somehow found the energy to destroy 80,000 tons of healthy structure below, while accelerating to near free fall. This is absolutely impossible by gravity alone, and the law of momentum conservation won’t allow this to happen without something clearing the way.

Newton’s 3rd law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Applying this to what happened to both Twin Towers helps explain why the much smaller and lighter top sections of both towers could not have fallen though the much larger and heavier bottom sections of both buildings, much less at free-fall acceleration, as NIST openly admitted after being challenged on that point. This fundamental concept generally  sparks complete surprise by builing professionals when they come to realize that it was fully ignored by NIST. As stated by civil engineer Roland Angle (lead presenter and organizer for Project Due Diligence), “It is basic 9th grade physics . . . and our whole society is being let to believe that these fundamental laws of physics, hard science, don’t apply anymore”.

Even if we believe that the top sections of the towers had enough energy to destroy the bottom sections, they could not have done so at nearly free fall as they did, without violating the law of momentum conservation. One particular example of momentum conservation is free fall, when the only force being applied to a body is gravity, and all of the energy of that system is converted to vertical motion. As soon as the falling object hits an obstacle and deformation or breakage occurs, the speed must be reduced, because some of energy in that system needs to be converted into the physical breakage. The only way you can have this effect of a building falling, as all three did, is precisely timed, pre-engineered removal of the underlying structure, a practice known as controlled demolition.

Help heal the national wound of 9/11
We have to get 9/11 right, because the official version we were fed was not based on science. Over time, it has become an underlying abscess in our national psyche, an existential urban legend based on lies that continue to creep though our lives. There reaches a point when we may no longer be okay with watching a former big city mayor say with a straight face on Meet the Press, “Truth is not truth.” But he was just doing his job, defending his boss, recently named as an un-indicted co-conspirator in a hush money scam that helped win the biggest election on the planet. How many watching that Sunday morning show know that the same former mayor presided over the systematic destruction of evidence that sent most of WTC steel off for recycling before it was properly examined.

As we turn our attention to the mid-term elections in the coming weeks, this is a good time to join the growing symphony of groups voicing their desire for a return to the rule of law and science-based policy. For us, as individuals and the building profession as a whole, it comes with the territory (a blessing and a curse) to authenticate what happened to these buildings by applying basic standards of building science and forensics. As always, scientific evidence and research are a key component of getting to the truth. We are being shown, as part of everything else happening around us now, that this is our moment to step up to the plate as a profession, and provide our particular skill set and expertise to help expose what really took place at the World Trade Center on  9/11.

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Henry MacLean AIA, LEED AP is an architect, educator, and principal of his firm Timeless Architecture. Promoting green design in the northeast since 1987 as an active member of the Boston Society of Architects, he has developed curricula and taught at the Sustainable Design Institute (at the Boston Architectural College) and the Architecture Dept. at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Henry chairs the Town of Milton energy committee where he lives and works and has has been an active member of NESEA since 1992.

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