SENIOR CONSTRUCTION professionals this week urged the government to reopen the Cardington large scale fire testing facility for vital post 9/11 fire research.
They said tests at Cardington would help answer vital questions raised by the official investigation into World Trade Center collapses of 2001.
But the government rejected the call, saying the much of the research could be done using computer simulations.
Cardington was mothballed in 2002.
The official report into the collapses produced by the US National Institute of Science & Technology (NIST) provoked arguments about the use of prescriptive fire protection versus European style fire engineering (NCE 30 June).
'The controversy surrounding the NIST report highlights different philosophies of fire design.
These need urgent clarification, and Cardington is the place to do it, ' said ICE president-elect Gordon Masterton.
IStructE chief executive Keith Eaton said closing Cardington in the early 1990s was 'a sad loss, a crying shame, and very shortsighted.
'If we are going to be serious about building fire safety we need Cardington - which can also be used for testing the effects of explosives.
'Industry can find the funds for the testing, but the government should cover the running costs of this unique facility.' And IStructE president Michael Dickson said there would be a worldwide demand for full scale fire testing following the NIST report.
'Cardington is the only place this could be carried out, ' said Dickson.
Cardington is a Grade II* listed former airship hangar near Bedford built in the 1930s.
It is owned by privatised construction research body BRE.
BRE hosted a series of ensive research programmes involving the construction of four full sized buildings inside the hangar.
These were up to nine storeys tall, and included concrete, steel and timber framed structures.
(NCE 23 July 1998).
A number of full scale fire tests were carried out on the buildings. These gave Britain world leadership in the developing fi ld of fire engineering.
But once all the projects were fi nished BRE put the site up for sale in September 2002.
'It costs at least £850,000 a year to keep Cardington open, and several million to offer a complete testing service' BRE finance director James Horan said. 'We put it on the market at more than £4M.' No buyers were found. Currently the building is leased to Warner Brothers, which filmed the latest Batman movie there.
An Offi ce of the Deputy Prime Minister spokesman said the decision to close Cardington was taken before 9/11. The ODPM is responsible for building regulations.
'Our opinion is that there is no real need to work on this scale any more, thanks to advances in computer technology.'