The ASCE/FEMA report on the World Trade Center disaster has lessons for us all. Some are particularly hard for the steel industry and we are not surprised to see attempts to bring attention to other materials, notably concrete (NCE 16 and 23 May).
The UK steel industry has been consistently saving costs by paring down fire protection and material weights. So much so that some very fundamental questions are now being asked about steel's actual performance in fire. Many of the issues are highlighted in the WTC report.
As designers know, concrete is inherently fire resistant and concrete frames are inherently safe and robust. But we are not complacent. Research into concrete's performance in fire has been going on for decades and continues today.
We welcome the fact that this whole issue has come under scrutiny. Concrete has many inherent benefits to offer in framed structures and it has a solution for just about any fire situation. We remain quietly confident that clients and designers will come to this conclusion too.
Martin Southcott (M), director, Reinforced Concrete Council, Century House, Telford Avenue, Crowthorne, Berkshire RG45 6YS