Sandia LabNews

Nation's top architects receptive to Labs' building surety message during conference

No building, save perhaps some bunkers, could withstand a collision with a 100-ton airliner followed by an 800š C jet fuel inferno. The World Trade Center didn’t stand a chance.

Nevertheless, the attack on one of the world’s greatest architectural achievements and the idea that the structure, not the plane, killed most of the World Trade Center’s victims are prompting architects and building designers to take another look at how public structures can be made safer and more secure.

A recent survey of building designers by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) found that 72 percent of respondents anticipated their clients would request additional security features in design projects currently under way.

This month Sandia’s Architectural Surety® program co-sponsored the AIA’s annual conference Jan. 10-13. More than 250 architects, construction managers, corporate and public facility managers, and building owners gathered in Albuquerque for the event, themed "Building Security Through Design: Protecting Environments in an Open Society."

Security, function, aesthetics

The conference exposed some of the participants to the principles of surety and risk management for the first time in their careers, says Rudy Matalucci (5862), Sandia Architectural Surety program manager. Others got a unique chance to see how these principles might be applied in real settings, and how emerging technologies might enhance designers’ abilities to protect building users.

It began with a windshield tour of local buildings whose designs and security considerations incorporate some of the safety, security, and reliability approaches advocated by Sandia’s Architectural Surety program. One of the buildings, the United States Courthouse in downtown Albuquerque, includes features recommended by Sandia during 1997 consultations with the building’s architect.

Several Sandians gave invited talks and presented displays focusing on emerging technologies useful to architects:

  • RAMPART ™ software to help prioritize upgrades to government facilities (Regina Hunter).
  • Tests to characterize and glazes to improve the blast resistance of window glass (Jill Glass).
  • Computer modeling and simulation of blast effects on buildings (Richard Jensen).
  • Sandia’s assistance providing "K-9 cams" to World Trade Center rescue teams (Ron Glaser and Richard Sparks).
  • Computer analysis of fire and smoke propagation scenarios through a building (Lou Gritzo).
  • Computer modeling of chem-bio agent dispersal through a building (Fred Gelbard).
  • Designing reliability into buildings using a systems approach (Laura Swiler).

Rudy gave two talks focusing on the benefits of systematically considering the surety approach in preparing for the range of threats to structures — normal (such as aging and deterioration), abnormal (such as natural disasters), and malevolent (such as terrorist attacks) — when designing and retrofitting buildings.

Other presenters focused on striking a balance between security, function, and aesthetics; assessing the relative risks of a wide variety of threats; developing strategies to design safer buildings; and technologies and approaches available to mitigate threats.

"Even before Sept. 11 Sandia has been taking an active role in Architectural Surety," says Prof. Kuppaswamy Iyengar of the University of New Mexico School of Archictecture & Planning. "Presentations by Rudy Matalucci, Jill Glass, and others from Sandia were relevant, timely, and extremely useful. Overall, the presentations made by Sandia were unbiased and critical for the present conditions in the USA."

"I heard people talking about many of the issues we’ve been discussing at Sandia," says Rudy. "But I also heard people saying let’s not overreact. We want to create an environment where people feel secure but not become overwhelmed with guards and concrete that ultimately make us feel ‘bunkered’ and actually less secure."

9/11 gives program a boost

Since the Architectural Surety program began in 1995, says Rudy, researchers from all over the Labs have contributed much to the Labs’ ability to answer the nation’s call following Sept. 11 with regards to the vulnerabilities of structures to attacks.

Labs security experts have traveled the country during the past four months developing and applying security assessment methodologies and other risk-management tools for the nation’s dams and power systems (Lab News, Dec. 4, 2001), government buildings (Lab News, July 13, 2001), chemical plants (Lab News, Nov. 2, 2001), water supplies (Lab News, Oct. 5, 2001), and other potential targets.

Building designers now have better computer models for analysis of blast effects on structures. (Several companies approached Sandians during the conference asking how they could license Sandia’s blast codes, he says.)

And Sandia has raised the awareness of risk-management and surety principles among architects and builders nationwide through conferences, speaking engagements, and university lectures.

"Sandia anticipated the growing threats to structures years ago and has developed a good foundation for a methodology to improve building surety," he says. "This conference was a great opportunity to spread the word"