Sixteen engineers meet in London to produce design recommendations for tall buildings.
A group of 16 world renowned engineers is producing a set of design guidelines to allay fears over the safety of tall buildings.

The Safety in Tall Buildings Working Group, which includes representatives from the UK, America, Australia and Hong Kong, met for the first time this week in London.

The move is a response to safety concerns raised in the wake of collapse of the two World Trade Centre towers on 11 September.

The group, which includes Gene Corley, the American structural engineer charged with investigating the collapse of the towers, has highlighted three main areas of concern: fire resistance of structures, methods of escape, and the limitation of progressive structural collapse.

Group chairman John Roberts said a key issue for the group would be whether building regulations should link the fire resistance of tall buildings to the time taken for occupants to escape from them.

Roberts said: "To license a football ground for 80,000 spectators, people have to be able to reach a place of safety in eight minutes. There is no such specific requirement in the UK for escape times from tall buildings."

Football grounds must have escape times of eight minutes: there are no requirements for tall buildings

John Roberts, chairman, Safety in Tall Buildings Working Group

The group will also make recommendations on whether fire protection needs to be progressively increased for taller buildings. Currently, all buildings more than 30 m high are covered by the same regulations.

Research will be undertaken on the type of blaze used in the calculation of a building's resistance. Roberts said: "Whether to include the fire load of an introduced hydrocarbon-based fire [such as the fire produced by aviation fuel] should now be considered in the calculation."

Methods of escape from tall buildings will be investigated. Roberts said: "Current issues presuppose that people should not use lifts in the evacuation of buildings. We'll be looking at the possibility of evacuation using lifts."

The group will be reviewing the guidance relating to the progressive collapse of buildings. This occurs where the supports for one floor of a building collapse and trigger a domino-like collapse of the floors below. This area falls under Part A of the Building Regulations, which was under government review before 11 September.

Roberts said the group would be comparing best practice on progressive collapse from around the world and hopes to produce its recommendations in "months rather than years".