NIST Calls for Standards Improvements for High-Rise Facilities

Need for better standards follows report from WTC collapse; focused on fire systems

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today called on the organizations that develop building and fire safety codes, standards and practices—and the state and local agencies that adopt them—to make specific changes to improve the safety of tall buildings, their occupants and first responders. The recommendations result from the agency’s investigation of the fires and collapses of New York City’s World Trade Center (WTC) towers following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Based on the findings of the most detailed examination of a building failure ever conducted, NIST is making 30 recommendations. “We believe these recommendations are both realistic and achievable within a reasonable period of time, and should greatly improve the way people design, construct, maintain and use buildings, especially high-rises,” said WTC Lead Investigator Shyam Sunder at a press briefing in New York City. “The recommendations also should lead to safer and more effective building evacuations and emergency responses. However, improvements will only be realized if they are acted upon by the appropriate organizations.”

The recommendations, contained within 43 draft reports (totaling some 10,000 pages) released today for a six-week public comment period, cover:

  • specific improvements to building standards, codes and practices;
  • changes to, or the establishment of, evacuation and emergency response procedures; and
  • research and other appropriate actions needed to help prevent future building failures.

The recommendations (see the NIST WTC Web site at for the complete list) are divided into eight groups:

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