The signs are subtle, but they cannot be mistaken: the images of the falling World Trade Centers are fading. The latest example? The General Services Administration (the government's property manager) and a coalition of building groups are trying to overturn post-9/11 building standards for skyscrapers.
Now the elusive local connection: The showdown will come next week in Minneapolis, when the International Code Council holds its meeting. Minnesota has adopted the ICC's codes as part of its statewide building code. In the Upper Midwest, only South Dakota has not adopted the standards.
Three changes are involved:
>> More stairwells in skyscrapers. The building owners say it adds $13 million to a 42-story officebuilding, and costs $600,000 a year in lost rent.
>> More fireproofing.
>> Glow-in-the-dark markings in stairwells so people can find their way in the dark.
Are these provisions real improvements to safety, or just an overly emotional response to 9/11?
The answer is simple, the chairman of the International Code Council, Gary Lewis of Summit, New Jersey, told the New York Times.
"We want buildings that stand long enough for people to get out and stairs that allow people to get out quickly," Mr. Lewis said. "If we reverse any of those improvements, we are not learning from the lessons of Sept. 11."
I will be testifying at the International Code Council conference in Minneapolis on the subject of vent-free fireplaces.
I can see how fire proofing and more stairwells could be onerous, but how expensive could glow in the dark markings for the stairwells be?
How much does building a 42-story officebuilding cost? I think the percentage of the total cost would be more informative than the absolute cost in determining whether the changes are worth it or not.