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WTC lessons prompt Canary Wharf design changes

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MAJOR CHANGES have been made to the design of at least one tall building at London's Canary Wharf as a result of September's World Trade Center (WTC) disaster, sources close to the project told NCE this week Pressure from banking giant Barclays and its staff unions is understood to have driven safety improvements to the 34 storey BP1 building design, which is due to hold 5,000 Barclays staff when it opens in 2005.

The Canary Wharf changes are thought to be the first made to the design or construction of a structure in direct response to fears raised by September's WTC collapse.

Structural engineer Cantor Seinuk's original design uses a concrete core and structural steel frame. This would have met all current UK regulations and codes, including requirements to prevent disproportionate collapse.

However, the building has now been redesigned with much stronger structural joints. These will be capable of withstanding the loss, through impact or explosion, of two main columns rather than the one required by existing codes.

All structural steelwork will also now be protected by much more dense material able to resist the type of intense 'hydrocarbon cycle' fire that triggered the WTC collapses.

It is also understood that the escape stairs have been widened significantly to boost capacity.

A spokeswoman for Barclays said on Tuesday: 'We had only signed the agreement on BP1 on 5 September, so it was very simple to take the lessons from New York into consideration once detailed design began.

'Obviously, the safety and security of our staff has to be a priority and we are working with the unions on this relocation project.'

Structures built with concrete central cores are believed by most experts to be inherently more resistant to a catastrophic collapse. Most, if not all tall buildings in and around the Canary Wharf development have concrete cores housing escape stairs.

However, experts are also now focusing on boosting the fire protection systems used on structural steelwork. Aircraft impact on the WTC towers is thought to have weakened the brittle 1960s developed steelwork coatings and contributed to premature collapse.

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