A team of researchers is studying the behaviour of 9/11 survivors as they evacuated the World Trade Center in an attempt to improve safety in skyscrapers.

The study, funded by the government, will recommend best safety designs and procedures to use in an emergency. It aims to produce better evacuation plans and revise high-rise design regulations.

The research, to be carried out at the University of Greenwich, will involve behavioural psychologists interviewing survivors from the attack.

Professor Ed Galea, who is in charge of the study, said the results would be used to press for changes in tall-building regulations, which he has described as “overly prescriptive”.

He said: “A lot of the regulations are prescriptive and not based on current knowledge of how people react in certain situations. We want to influence [regulations] with scientific data based on actual research rather than guesstimates.”

Galea said that at present engineers make assumptions on how people react in a crisis. Workers on the floors below where the planes struck the World Trade Center took much longer to evacuate than had been expected.

Regulations are not based on how people react

Professor Ed Galea

The research, which is being done in partnership with the Universities of Ulster and Liverpool, has been awarded a £1.5m grant.

The study is expected to suggest blaze-proof lifts, sky bridges linking skyscrapers, and curbs on mobile phone use during emergencies.

The results will interest developers in London, where skyscraper projects have been encouraged by mayor Ken Livingstone.