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Should city beef-up building codes?

Even before the threat of more bombings was made by a figure thought to be associated with the World Trade Center explosion, industry groups and legislative bodies began reviewing the incident to determine if changes need to be made to building codes and other procedures. Seminars on safety issues are also being held by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), and the Institute of Real Estate Management [see sidebar].

While the World Trade Center was not subject to the strict New York City building code, it was designed by Emory Roth & Sons to the Port Authority'S own code that was in place during construction of that towers 23 'years ago. In the years. since, changes were made to some systems, said a spokesperson.

As Two World Trade was reopened for business last Thursday, with the governor's office leading the way, battery powered backup lighting in the stairways and satellite communications were part of the new life safety systems.

This week, the New York City Council will be holding a hearing under the auspices of the Housing & Building Committee, chaired by Queens Councilman Archie Spigner.

Testimony will be given by Port Authority personnel, tire and elevator professionals, building department personnel, a sprinkler company and a life safety company, along with other experts both from governmental and private concerns. The hearing, scheduled for Friday, March 26 at 10 a.m. in the City Hall Council hearing room, will be the only one directly on the subject but others may follow on fire safety issues.

Spokesperson Ann-Marie Ninivaggi said she expects the council to hear about command centers, stairwells, the public address system, elevators and the building code. The sessions, she said, will include reviewing the code requirements and what 'state the World Trade Center was in, what was required, what was in place and what things went wrong, " at the time of the bombing.

In Washington, D.C., hearings held by Brooklyn Representative Charles E. Schumer concentrated solely on the terrorism aspects, said a spokesperson, and did not consider building safety procedures.

New York City Building Department Commissioner Rudolf Rinaldi has been meeting with the officials of the World

Trade Center and the Fire Department, said spokesperson Vahe Tiryakian, to see if there will be any need to modify codes.

'This always happens after major disasters," he recalled. "Unfortunately, code changes takeplace because of disasters."

A building code change for new construction was developed after study by the Building Department in the aftermath of the Westchester-based earthquake several years ago. Tiryakian said that, while the city is considered Zone 2, which 'is not very risky," this seismic code was developed to include factors that would reinforce new buildings to withstand earthquake loads.

That legislative program was recently turned over to the Mayor's Office of City Legislative Affairs, which is addressing some technical concerns, sources say, before introducing the measure in the City Council.

BOMA-NY's President Peter L. DiCapua, also senior vice president of Atco Properties & Management, said, 'We feel that the building and fire codes are quite sufficient. We reviewed those aspects of the World Trade Center situation and we feel that the codes and requirements of the various building staffs are appropriate."

Marolyn Davenport, vice president of government affairs of REBNY, who sits on various code committees, agreed the city has "extraordinarily" safe codes.

"We have not simply adopted some other models codes," she explained. "We take the models codes and adapt them to high rise needs."

Noting that the Trade Center explosion caused havoc with layers of backup and redundant systems, Davenport said, "This was a very singular problem caused by a bomb, and the question is, do we need to change to accommodate bombs?"
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Title Annotation:commercial building safety features considered after 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York, New York
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 24, 1993
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