General Question

Mr_M's avatar

Wouldn't it make SENSE to design the World Trade Center to "pancake" on itself rather than topple over in one piece like a HUGH tower?

Asked by Mr_M (7596points) September 12th, 2008

I watched films of 9/11 and it made sense to ME that the structure would be designed to “pancake” in the event of a massive force (ex., passenger jet) pushing it from the side? Would you design a structure that tall to just fall over intact? Imagine the damage and deaths THAT would have caused? I wondered why the “pancaking” and even entertained the notion held by the conspiracy theorists but now I definitely don’t. I can see it being DESIGNED to pancake and NOT topple in a densely populated city. What do you think?

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29 Answers

waterskier2007's avatar

of course it should be designed like that. some smart engineers over there

osullivanbr's avatar

Its not the fact that it “pancaked” on itself that they question. The speed at which it did it is their concern.

Mr_M's avatar

No. I have heard people claim that the corner beams were purposely exploded and that’s the only reason for the “pancaking”.

bodyhead's avatar

Any building that pancakes in on itself because of a nearby building getting hit by a plane is an extremely poorly designed building. (building 7)

critter1982's avatar

@body: I disagree. I doubt that builders/engineers before 9/11 or even presently design buildings able to withstand peripheral forces such as a world trade center falling adjacent to you. I can’t imagine and can only have some sort of idea what kind of force that large of a building would fall with. Because the building pancaked and didn’t topple over, which may have happened had a plane hit low on the building and one high, the building had debris flying at tremendous speeds normal to the flow of debris down because it had nowhere else to go. I see it no different if my house experienced 2 ton peices of steel flying through it, it would probably topple over as well.

bodyhead's avatar

I’ll keep that in mind when a tree falls on my house and a neighbors house collapses.

The force the media has said brought the building down is the earthquake like force of the other two buildings falling. We all have our theories. There’s never been any evidence that 2 ton pieces of steel hit building seven.

JackAdams's avatar

I think that the Empire State Building may have been more “structurally sound” than the WTC towers, because, according to the Wikipedia:

“At 9:40 a.m. on Saturday, July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, piloted in thick fog by Lieutenant Colonel William F. Smith, Jr., accidentally crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors, where the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council were located. One engine shot through the side opposite the impact and fell on a nearby building; the other plummeted down an elevator shaft. The resulting fire was extinguished in 40 minutes. Fourteen people were killed in the incident. Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver survived a plunge of 75 stories inside an elevator, which still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall recorded. Despite the damage and loss of life, the building was open for business on many floors on the following Monday. The crash helped spur the passage of the long-pending Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, as well as the insertion of retroactivity provisions in the law, allowing people to sue the government for the accident.”

The reason the above is mentioned, is because that building (as some structural engineers have claimed) did not pancake at all, simply because it was constructed better.

I don’t know if that is true, but that’s what others (more learned than I) are claiming.

bodyhead's avatar

Betty Lou Oliver actually has an amazing story. I can’t find the link to the 8 page article I read about her but she sure is a survivor.

JackAdams's avatar

Might this be a start toward finding the article you are seeking?

Mr_M's avatar

@critter, I think you’re on the money. I suspect that those buildings were MADE to pancake rather than topple over in the event that their basic structure was damaged. It would SO make sense. Had the building toppled over we would have had far more deaths and damage.

I think the plane damaged the basic structure of the floors it hit. That made the floors above pancake down and the cumulative effect of those floors crashing upon each other brought the floors below down. I can see how debris from the two towers would weaken the integrity of building 7 and it pancakes too. Like a domino effect only instead of dominoes toppling over, they pancake straight down.

critter1982's avatar

@body: I’m not sure you can relatively compare a tree to the world trade centers? Just a thought….

Mr_M's avatar

Plus we KNOW that the “dust” cloud ALONE broke neighborhood windows and knocked people over.

bodyhead's avatar

I was actually comparing my house to the world trade center and the tree to a plane. You’re right though. If I was making an accurate to scale comparison, I would need something much smaller to hit my house.

Mr_M's avatar

@bodyhead, I want to get this straight…you want to compare the cumulative effect of TWO full passenger airlines traveling at some speed I can’t even phanthom, crashing from the side into TWO buildings the mass of the World Trade Center towers, both of which pancake down upon themselves creating a cloud of dust and particles so dense it smashes neighborhood windows as it passes, with an old tree falling down a short distance, slowly, due to gravity on your little house?

I mean, if the dust cloud ALONE did damage blocks away, do you not think an adjacent building could be jeopardized?

When the tree hits the roof of your wooden house, is there a dust cloud that damages the rose bush even?

Mr_M's avatar

Correction: phanthom should be “fathom”

JackAdams's avatar

Damn! You beat me to that, Mr. M!

I was gonna tease you a bit about that, but I see you are quicker than I am.

I bow to your superior intellect, Sir, and hope to become just like you, if/when I ever grow up.


bodyhead's avatar

Really, it’s not a strech. It’s a rough comparison. Lets say a tornado throws a tree from hundreds of miles away into my house… and my neighbor’s house falls down.

I’m just saying it’s a stretch no matter how you see it. A dust cloud is caused by a strong wind. I was under the impression that skyscrapers are built to withstand extremely windy situations so they don’t fall down on a random summer day. I would agree that that yea, the wind could bust out some windows but you’re saying that wind blew on steel girders built to withstand earthquakes which made the frame of the building collapse into itself?

Mr_M's avatar

It’s more than a stretch. It’s not even close.

No. I am saying that if the dust cloud itself was so dense with debris that it smashed neighborhood windows and knocked people over for blocks (NOT because of wind currents but because of the solid contents of the “dust” cloud), imagine the effect of the ACTUAL DEMOLITION on the building right next to it?

The flying debris from the plane and the building weakened the internal structure of building 7 which was designed to pancake down in the event that it’s internal structure was compromised. And why was it designed to “pancake”? To avoid the worse devastation should such a tower topple over like a domino.

bodyhead's avatar

Your argument is insane. You believe that the debris from the plane weakened the structure of building seven causing it to fall.

The official stance is that the sprinkler system pipes were damaged by flying debris because they were vulnerable from the outside. The debris caused a couple of small fires that turned into huge fires. Fire crews rushed in but the water pressure was so low from the damage to the pipes that they couldn’t contain the fires. When the fires got to floor 13 they weakened the structural foundation of the building just enough for it to collapse in on itself.

You didn’t even mention the fire and you believe it’s totally possible for the building to come down with only flying debris. That makes me even more skeptical on the official stance. In a crisis situation, it’s easier to misdirect peoples beliefs.

Mr_M's avatar

“Your argument is insane. You believe that the debris from the plane weakened the structure of building seven causing it to fall.”

“The official stance is that the sprinkler system pipes were damaged by flying debris

It’s obvious that the dust cloud isn’t the only thing that’s dense.

bodyhead's avatar

Woah now, I respect your opinion just as I assume you respect mine. To me, your argument of ‘flying debris bringing down building 7 through structural damage i.e. a 2 two ton steel girder ripping though the building’ sounds insane to me because there is no evidence to back up a claim like that. To you, I would assume that my analogy and my argument sounds crazy. I’m fine with that and I will not berate you or call you names because of it. We’re expressing opinion and hearsay, not facts. We didn’t do the research. We’re not forensic architects.

Whenever you bring things on the level of personal attacks, i.e. I’m dense, it lowers the importance of everything else you have to say. It just means you’ve run out of facts are are no longer interested in backing up your arguments. It sounds more like you’d like to meet me at the flagpole after school. I’ll have no part of that thanks.

Mr_M's avatar

My friend, you yourself are citing evidence that talks about the damage caused on building 7 by flying debris from the demolition of the other towers. No one is talking “2 ton steel girder”. The debris was generated by the scenario I described above and it’s debris that explains the damage in your OWN “official stance”.

But you won’t see it.

BTW, when you tell me my “argument is insane”, I suppose you won’t see THAT for what it is as well.

bodyhead's avatar

Ok, let me rephrase because I’m obviously not expressing myself well.

I just reread the thread and it was critter who brought up the two ton steel girder, not you. My apologies. And really that was an analogy so I would guess that he thinks debris much larger then that struck building 7.

I just see it like this:

Argument 1: Flying debris caused damage to the sprinkler system. This exacerbated the fires which helped them to cause structural damage to the building. A couple main beams buckled on the thirteenth floor because things got so hot.

Argument one doesn’t sound insane. There are stories and papers which state different facts but it isn’t totally far fetched.

Argument 2: Discounting any damage done by any fires, the debris already weakened the building enough for it to collapse into itself.

This sounds insane. Reading through your responses, I was getting the impression that you think this. (from this statement particularly I can see how debris from the two towers would weaken the integrity of building 7 and it pancakes too.)

As a favor to you personally, I will work on my reading comprehension.

I’m sorry if my use of ‘insane’ caused an angry gut impulse reaction in you. You’re obviously mad about it because the tone of your responses has changed drastically.

I’m sorry you’re angry. That was never my intention. This is a debate, not an argument.

Also, to correct you: That’s the media’s official stance, not mine. I choose to think that we don’t often get the full truth in the media.

Mr_M's avatar

No apology is necessary. I apologize too. And thanks for enlightening me about the fires. I did not know about the fires and, I admit, my theory WAS based upon debris from the massive collapse and airplanes doing structural damage (in some way) to the adjacent building 7.

JackAdams's avatar

@bodyhead: As a former employee of The Fourth Estate, I just wanted to mention that The Press publishes the full truth, as given to it/them by public officials.

If the officials are lying (and many times they are) then the published information will, of course, be inaccurate.

The honorable men and women of The Press do not knowingly and deliberately publish lies, unless it is part of a plan to catch a lawbreaker.

Mr_M's avatar

The bottom line is, I no longer have ANY doubt that it was NOT some covert conspiracy that brought that building down.

critter1982's avatar

@all: The working hypothesis, released in the June 2004 progress report and reiterated in a June 2007 status update, was that an initial failure in a critical column occurred below the 13th floor, caused by damage from fire and/or debris from the collapse of the two main towers. The collapse progressed vertically up to the east mechanical penthouse. The interior structure was unable to handle the redistributed load, resulting in horizontal progression of the failure across lower floors, particularly the 5th to 7th floors. This resulted in “a disproportionate collapse of the entire structure. -Fact sheets from the NIST

- It also mentions a 10 story gash in the center of the South side of the building about 1/4 of the way into the building. Yes I had assumed that something 2 tons or greater would be required to yield this sort of destruction. Whether it was a steel beam or simply debris flying from the building at some astronomical speed, something impaired the structural integrity of the building. It was initially assumed that fires were the main cause of the building collapse but after investigation it was determined that both played a critical role in the collapse.

@body: I wasn’t just throwing this information out there, there is evidence to back up what I stated earlier.

bodyhead's avatar

@critter1982 It really depends on what you’re are reading. Where is that information coming from? Can you link to the report? I don’t really believe in the typical ‘conspiracy theories’ but I always think when I’m reading a paper or report, “what is the agenda here?” What are they trying to get me to believe and why?

Maybe this is just worded funny but how can both play a critical role? Are you saying that either factor would have brought the building down or that the culmination of both factors brought the building down (only both could have brought the building down).

critter1982's avatar

NIST was the agency that investigated the world trade center disasters. I don’t (personally) have any reason to believe that they would fudge a report.

The key findings state that the building was damaged on the south side. This damage bore into one of the 4 main supports of the building. Because this single support was damaged the other 3 columns had to pick up the load and the building was even seen by eye witnesses leaning, which makes sense. I personally believe that the building would have been able to withstand the addtional load for a period of time. When I built my home I used a huge safety factor when deciding which I-Beam to use to support my top 2 stories (it was approved by a civil engineer that said “you plan on your house surviving a tornado?”. Now because of costs I doubt the world trade center 7 used such a large safety factor but they probably built it to withstand large peripheral forces from the outside, high winds, etc. I believe the fire which once it got up to the 13th floor, weakened the remaining supports and therefore the building collapsed. So yes I personally believe, not sure if it can be proven but the NIST records it this way, that both played a critical role in the building failing.

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