More feature stories by year:
Return to: 2002 Feature Stories
CLIENT: LAW COMPANIES GROUP, INC.
May 2002: The Georgia Engineer
A major financial firm, that suffered extensive damage to two of its buildings - one a headquarters facility and the other a data center - both located near 'Ground Zero' of the World Trade Center collapse, is now up and running due to the extraordinary efforts of an emergency response team from Law Engineering and Environmental Services.
The day of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Law's Albany, NY office received an urgent call from the client requesting an immediate assessment of the structural and mechanical systems and indoor air quality condition in the company's two office towers. One of the buildings is a 40 plus-story structure constructed in the 1930s. The data center, dispersed among five floors of a 20-story facility built in the early '80s, suffered collateral damage from the collapse of World Trade Center 7.
Getting to the sites was a challenge in itself. With air traffic at a standstill, emergency response team members from as far away as Dallas and Miami had to drive around the clock. According to Senior Vice President Fred Krishon, a 25-member team was on site within 15 hours of the call from the client to proceed.
"We were one of the first non-government teams to gain access to the buildings in the 'hot zone' and to perform comprehensive structural, mechanical and environmental surveys of the affected buildings," Krishon said.
Project Manager Joe Myers, who drove up from Law's Baltimore office with a team of eight, said Law worked closely with a number of local, state and federal agencies, some of which included the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, New York Department of Design and Construction, FEMA, the National Guard, and the New York Police Department.
Each building required a different project management strategy:
The client's mandate was to quickly assess, evaluate abatement criteria, develop a plan and oversee contractors on-site to deal with any potential toxic substances that may have permeated the building from outside sources. The client needed selected floors operational by Monday, Sept. 17, 9:30 a.m., when the New York Stock Exchange was slated to re-open. The Law team set to work to collect samples and evaluate the conditions.
In less than 48 hours, temporary retrofits were made to the mechanical system of the building to prevent further dust contamination from outside. The teams worked round the clock and when the opening bell rang on Monday morning, the client had six important floors ready for business - two more than originally thought was needed. By the end of the week, the entire building was cleared for reoccupancy.
Because of the proximity of the data center to the disaster scene, this project proved to be a larger challenge. The building was without electricity until Oct. 1. Scores of windows were broken and a huge dust cloud went straight into the building. Since the contents of the dust was unknown, team members were required to always wear respirators and Tyvek® suits (disposable protective clothing) when working on the job site.
One of the first tasks was the precautionary decontamination of hundreds of boxes of data disks. Water that had accumulated in the basement was removed and the affected areas cleaned. Broken windows were replaced with temporary plywood so that the building could be sealed up once again, and the dust, dirt and debris properly removed.
"We worked closely with the building's engineers to recommision all of the structure's systems," Myers said. "Our structural team provided valuable information to help begin the repair design process, and our mechanical team surveyed the building and developed a strategy to bring the systems back up without further contamination of the building or from the outside air damaging any equipment."
Myers added that the building should be ready for occupancy sometime next month.
"The scale and magnitude of this tragedy is incomprehensible, magnified even more so when you're working at Ground Zero day in and day out," Myers said. "I'm grateful that our Emergency Response Team has been able to make a valuable contribution."
Return to: 2002 Feature Stories