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There have been a lot of claims made about the circumstances surrounding the events of 9/11 and Building 7 in particular.

The central claim regarding Building 7, that I have heard personally, is that Building 7 fell in such a perfect fluid motion that its collapse had to be due to a controlled demolition. Furthermore since Building 7 wasn't hit by a plane directly, it is claimed that there can be no other explanation for how the building collapsed in such a seemingly controlled fashion.

Is there any evidence to support the claims that Building 7 was destroyed in a directly controlled fashion?

6
  • Honestly! Are people still going on about this? Can't they find a newer conspiracy?
    – RedSonja
    Apr 5 at 13:28
  • @RedSonja The question is from over 10 years ago.
    – Philipp
    Apr 6 at 12:02
  • Nice echo chamber in the answers: since the question is "is there any evidence to support the claims that [...]", any answer starting with a completely unambiguous "No" is simply academically disingenious, because the fact is there does exists such evidence. Apr 13 at 5:59
  • The first and foremost - and non-dismissible - evidence obviously being that it looks like a typical controlled demolition and the second most prominent piece of evidence being that no plane hit the building. Those are two pieces of evidence. The conclusion drawn from them may not be the truth but they are still pieces of evidence supporting said claim. Apr 13 at 6:08
  • @csstudent1418 - Hey, if you can an answer then post it below and let people vote on your argument. Apr 13 at 12:57

2 Answers 2

206

No.

Fires ignited by falling debris (from WTC 1) are the sole cause of the WTC 7 collapse.

Short answer:

  • Debris from the collapse of WTC 1, about 350 ft. to the south, impacted WTC 7, igniting fires on at least 10 floors.
  • Other than starting the fires, the debris impacts were not a contributing factor.
  • Fires on six of those floors grew from the time of the debris impact (10:28:22 a.m.) and lasted until the building collapsed (5:20:52 p.m.).
  • After several hours, the heat absorption ability of the fire-proofing began to fail. The building's structural steel began to soak up heat from the fires.
  • A ''seated connection'' was used for some of the girders framed to interior columns. The girder was held by four "erection bolts" (''girders'' span between columns; ''beams'' span between girders).
  • A 13.7 m (540 in.) long W33x130 beam heated uniformly to 600 °C will expand along its length by 4.5 inches.
  • In doing so it will produce a lateral force of 6.9 million pounds (30.7 million newtons).
  • The four erection bolts resisting this force had a total shear capacity of 0.180 million pounds (i.e., 2.6 percent of the possible force).
  • By the time the girders reached 164 °C the four bolts had failed (i.e., torn in two, ripped apart, cleaved in twain, etc.).
  • With the failure of the bolted connection, further thermal expansion of the floor beams pushed a 13th floor girder, between Columns 79 and 44, off its seat.
  • The flooring system on Floor 13 subsequently failed, collapsing onto the floors below, resulting in the collapse of floors 12 through 6.
  • The floor collapse left more than 150 ft. of Column 79 without lateral support.
  • Without structure transferring load laterally, Column 79 buckled and failed.
  • The transfer of load, once supported by Column 79, overwhelmed the structural capacity of the other columns. They too failed.
  • After burning for 6 hours and 52 minutes, WTC 7 suffered a fire-induced progressive collapse. The building was completely destroyed.

Long answer:

1. Erection bolts are not structural connections

In a seated connection, the beam or girder was supported by the seat, which was welded to the column. Bolts were installed that fasten the beam or girder to the seat for erection purposes These erection bolts did not carry any gravity load; rather, they were installed to insure that the beam or girder was held in place during erection. NIST found no evidence that the girders or beams in WTC 7 were welded to the seats. In a similar way. an angle or plate was bolted to the top flange to prevent the beam or girder from twisting, but there was little restraint to bending in the plane of the beam. NCSTAR 1-9 Figure 8-21 Page 349 Consider the girder that spanned between Column 79 on the interior of the building and Column 44 on the exterior. Thermal expansion of this girder would have loaded the erection bolts in shear, since (1) there were no shear studs anchoring the girder to the slab (and thereby restraining elongation), and (2) the columns were prevented from lateral movement because they were embedded in the floor slabs which had considerable in-plane stiffness. Additionally, the expansion of floor beams that framed into this girder, because the framing was asymmetrical, tended to add additional shear load to the erection bolts. The combination of these two shear loads could have failed the bolts in shear. If the erection bolts were to fail, then there would be no positive attachment preventing the girder from being pushed off the seat. Source: (NCSTAR 1-9) VOLUMES 1 and 2, page 348.

2. Thermal expansion will break stuff

The first failures observed were of the shear studs, which were produced by axial expansion of the floor beams, and which began to occur at fairly low beam temperature of 103 °C. Axial expansion of the girder then led to shear failure of the bolts at the connection to Column 79; and, at a girder temperature of 164 °C, all four erection bolts had failed, leaving that end of the girder essentially unrestrained against rotation. Continued axial expansion of the floor beams pushed the girder laterally at Column 79, as shown in Figure 8-26, in which failed shear studs and bolts were evident. When the beam temperatures had reached 300 °C, all but three shear studs in the model had failed due to axial expansion of the beams, leaving the top flanges of the beams essentially unrestrained laterally. Continued axial expansion of the girder caused it to bear against the face of Column 79, generating large axial forces that led to failure of the bolts connecting the girder to Column 44. When the girder temperature had reached 398 °C, all four erection bolts at Column 44 had failed, leaving the girder essentially unrestrained against rotation at both ends. After failure of the erection bolts in the seat at Column 44, continued axial expansion of the floor beams pushed the girder laterally, where it came to bear against the inside of the column flange. Axial compression then increased in the floor beams, and at a beam temperature of 436 °C, the northmost beam began to buckle laterally. Buckling of other floor beams followed as shown in Figure 8-27(a), leading to collapse of the floor system, and rocking of the girder off its seat at Column 79 as shown in Figure 8-27(b). The collapse process took time to occur in the LS-DYNA analysis, during which the temperatures had ramped up to their maximum values in the simulation. Source: (NCSTAR 1-9) VOLUMES 1 and 2, page 352.

3. Collapse Initiation

The simple shear connection between Column 79 and the girder that spanned the distance to the north face (to Column 44) failed on Floor 13. The connection failed due to shearing of erection bolts, caused by lateral thermal expansion of floor beams supporting the northeast floor system and, to a lesser extent, by the thermal expansion of the girder connecting Columns 79 and 44. Further thermal expansion of the floor beams pushed the girder off its seat, which led to the failure of the floor system surrounding Column 79 on Floor 13. The collapse of Floor 13 onto the floors below-some of which were already weakened by fires-triggered a cascade of floor failures in the northeast region. This, in turn, led to loss of lateral support to Column 79 in the east-west direction over nine stories (between Floors 5 and 14). The increase in unsupported length led to the buckling failure of Column 79, which was the collapse initiation event. Source: (NCSTAR 1-9) VOLUMES 1 and 2, page 611.

4. "Free fall" is a myth

To further clarify the descent of the north face, NIST recorded the downward displacement of a point near the center of the roofline from first movement until the north face was no longer visible in the video. Numerical analyses were conducted to calculate the velocity and acceleration of the roofline point from the time-dependent displacement data. The instant at which vertical motion of the roofline first occurred was determined by tracking the numerical value of the brightness of a pixel (a single element in the video image) at the roofline. This pixel became brighter as the roofline began to descend because the color of the pixel started to change from that of the building façade to the lighter color of the sky.

The approach taken by NIST is summarized in NIST NCSTAR Report 1A, Section 3.6, and detailed in NIST NCSTAR Report 1-9, Section 12.5.3.

The analyses of the video (both the estimation of the instant the roofline began to descend and the calculated velocity and acceleration of a point on the roofline) revealed three distinct stages characterizing the 5.4 seconds of collapse:

  • Stage 1 (0 to 1.75 seconds): acceleration less than that of gravity (i.e., slower than free fall).
  • Stage 2 (1.75 to 4.0 seconds): gravitational acceleration (free fall).
  • Stage 3 (4.0 to 5.4 seconds): decreased acceleration, again less than that of gravity.

:This analysis showed that the 40 percent longer descent time—compared to the 3.9 second free fall time—was due primarily to Stage 1, which corresponded to the buckling of the exterior columns in the lower stories of the north face. During Stage 2, the north face descended essentially in free fall, indicating negligible support from the structure below. This is consistent with the structural analysis model, which showed the exterior columns buckling and losing their capacity to support the loads from the structure above. In Stage 3, the acceleration decreased as the upper portion of the north face encountered increased resistance from the collapsed structure and the debris pile below. Source: Questions and Answers about the NIST WTC 7 Investigation.

NCSTAR 1-9 Figure 12-77 Page 603

Claims, assertions and questions :

Many of the claims and assertions by WTC 7 conspiracy theorists can be found at WTC 7 Draft Reports for public comment. The submission by Richard Gage of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth is a good representation of how 911 conspiracy theorists rely on a lack of evidence to somehow draw conclusions (see: argument from ignorance).

Investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology*:

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is responsible for conducting fact-finding investigations of building failures that resulted in substantial loss of life or that posed significant potential of substantial loss of life.

Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 (The results of all NIST WTC investigations can be found at : NIST and the World Trade Center)

NIST: Questions and Answers about the NIST WTC 7 Investigation

How did the fires cause WTC 7 to collapse?

The heat from the uncontrolled fires caused steel floor beams and girders to thermally expand, leading to a chain of events that caused a key structural column to fail. The failure of this structural column then initiated a fire-induced progressive collapse of the entire building.

According to the report's probable collapse sequence, heat from the uncontrolled fires caused thermal expansion of the steel beams on the lower floors of the east side of WTC 7, damaging the floor framing on multiple floors...

How hot did WTC 7's steel columns and floor beams get?

Due to the effectiveness of the spray-applied fire-resistive material (SFRM) or fireproofing, the highest steel column temperatures in WTC 7 only reached an estimated 300 degrees C (570 degrees F), and only on the east side of the building did the steel floor beams exceed 600 degrees C (1,100 degrees F). However, fire-induced buckling of floor beams and damage to connections-that caused buckling of a critical column initiating collapse-occurred at temperatures below approximately 400 degrees C where thermal expansion dominates. Above 600 degrees C (1,100 degrees F), there is significant loss of steel strength and stiffness. In the WTC 7 collapse, the loss of steel strength or stiffness was not as important as the thermal expansion of steel structures caused by heat.

Some people have said that a failure at one column should not have produced a symmetrical fall like this one. What's your answer to those assertions?

WTC 7's collapse, viewed from the exterior (most videos were taken from the north), did appear to fall almost uniformly as a single unit. This occurred because the interior failures that took place did not cause the exterior framing to fail until the final stages of the building collapse. The interior floor framing and columns collapsed downward and pulled away from the exterior frame. There were clues that internal damage was taking place, prior to the downward movement of the exterior frame, such as when the east penthouse fell downward into the building and windows broke out on the north face at the ends of the building core. The symmetric appearance of the downward fall of the WTC 7 was primarily due to the greater stiffness and strength of its exterior frame relative to the interior framing...

Graphic showing the buckling of WTC 7 Column 79 (circled area), the local failure identified as the initiating event in the building's progressive collapse

Did investigators consider the possibility that an explosion caused or contributed to the collapse of WTC 7?

Yes, this possibility was investigated carefully. NIST concluded that blast events inside the building did not occur and found no evidence supporting the existence of a blast event...

Is it possible that thermite or thermate contributed to the collapse of WTC 7?

NIST has looked at the application and use of thermite and has determined that its use to sever columns in WTC 7 on 9/11/01 was unlikely.

Thermite is a combination of aluminum powder and a metal oxide that releases a tremendous amount of heat when ignited. It is typically used to weld railroad rails together by melting a small quantity of steel and pouring the melted steel into a form between the two rails...

...Analysis of the WTC steel for the elements in thermite/thermate would not necessarily have been conclusive. The metal compounds also would have been present in the construction materials making up the WTC buildings, and sulfur is present in the gypsum wallboard used for interior partitions...

An emergency responder caught in the building between the 6th and 8th floors says he heard two loud booms. Isn't that evidence that there was an explosion?

The sound levels reported by all witnesses do not match the sound level of an explosion that would have been required to cause the collapse of the building. If the two loud booms were due to explosions that were responsible for the collapse of WTC 7, the emergency responder-located somewhere between the 6th and 8th floors in WTC 7-would not have been able to survive the near immediate collapse and provide this witness account.


*NIST is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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  • 32
    @jon_darkstar The main towers did not fail from side impact. They failed because the truss hangers for the concrete floors seperated from their perimeter supports and the floor started dropping....bang, bang, bang...all the way down. Why straight down ? Gravity.
    – Rusty
    Mar 26, 2011 at 22:34
  • 36
    @jon_darkstar I can understand you might think that. Makes perfect sense. But the towers are not big poles. They are big boxes (an inner box and an outer box) and they are mostly hollow. The floors are basically just hanging between the boxes and when one comes off its hangers it can only go down. Down the inside of the box.
    – Rusty
    Mar 26, 2011 at 23:03
  • 16
    Gentle but firm reminder: comments are not the place for discussion, use the chat for that. Thank you. :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 26, 2011 at 23:09
  • 11
    we can argue finer points of that forever, so lets not. return to the question at hand - building 7. can you propose any reasonable explanation for it that does not involve explosives? also, try to explain why the 911 Commission Report NEVER mentions building 7 in over 400 pages. Not a footnote. Nothing! @Sklivvz - sorry, read it right after Mar 26, 2011 at 23:10
  • 15
    You may want to show pictures of the SOUTH side of WTC7 prior to its collapse. Most conspiracy theorists neglect the fact that nearly 25% of the first ten floors were missing on the south side (they only, conveniently for themselves, show the north side of the building which faced away from the collapse). Check pages 59-66 of 911myths.com/WTC7_Lies.pdf Sep 17, 2011 at 3:39
18

No.

WTC7, like most modern skyscrapers, relied on the walls to brace it against storms. Formed of columns tied with I-beams("wind girders"), these walls formed a shell around the building. enter image description here The columns making up these walls in addition carried part of the building weight, along with columns located inside the building.

The collapse started when the northeast part of the building caved in, leaving the walls standing.

enter image description here

Then, the following sequence of events occurred.

  1. The shift in CG caused a southwest bending moment

  2. With the eastern part of the building unrestrained against north-south motion, the building twisted southwards about a western axis

  3. Progressively from east to west, this bent the columns till breaking. This was aided by fire and debris impact damage, from WTC1 and adjacent structure.

You can see the twist manifest itself as a kink in the North wall some time after all columns fail

enter image description here

As will be shown presently, there is little reason to believe that demolition was the cause of this sequence of events.

Why the collapse resembled a controlled demolition

When discussing the similarity of the collapse of WTC7 to a controlled demolition, 3 points are often raised.

  1. Symmetry: The building was asymmetric. The damage was asymmetric. So how does the collapse become symmetric?

  2. Speed: Building 7 fell at freefall for 8 storeys. How is it possible to completely lose support over 8 storeys due to a fire?

  3. Totality: The collapse supposedly started with the failure of just one of 81 columns. So, how does such a failure bring down the whole building?

Here I shall address these features with an explanation of their causes

Symmetry: The building collapsed from the inside out

enter image description here

  • As you can see, the penthouses fall first, from left to right. Then the strong facade falls as a sheet. So symmetry is an illusion.

Symmetry: The pre collapse damage pattern

  • The collapse of the Twin Towers damaged the southwest side of the building.

NCSTAR 1-9 page 161 NCSTAR 1-9 page 161

  • The fire-induced collapse started in the northeast.

  • Building 7 at moment of global collapse

NCSTAR 1-9 page 588 fig 12-62 With impact and fire damage [NCSTAR 1-9 page 588] ![NCSTAR 1-9 page 594 fig 12-70 With only fire damage [page 594]

Totality: Loss of lateral restraint from east wall

  • The caving of the east flooring left the remaining structure to the west without a rigid connection to the east wall. This made the building vulnerable to twisting about the west.

  • The shift in center of gravity caused by the earlier event caused a southwestward bending moment, promptly setting in motion a southward twisting. This put large bending stresses on the columns.

enter image description here

Speed: The building did not fall as a rigid object

  • The interior columns fell first

enter image description here

  • And then yanked the facade down

enter image description here

Speed: Multistorey buckling

  • The reaction force to the southward sway caused several lower floors to slide northward, completely undermining the building for multiple storeys.

enter image description here

Totality: WTC7 was "weak"

  • NIST ran a simulation without any damage other than the removal of the northeastern most interior column. The whole building collapsed.

Why the collapse did NOT resemble a controlled demolition

The noise

I don't know how to stress this enough. Go on Youtube and watch a controlled demolition. Odds are you'll hear:

  1. A series of loud, sharp and sometimes quite annoying BANGs before the building even moves

  2. A (relatively) soft and gentle roar as the building slides down

#1 was completely absent at Building 7. A vivid example of this can be seen in this video

https://youtu.be/JnLcUxV1dPo?t=126

(Ironically, this is the clip that conspiracy theorists plaster around the web)

The time delay for sound from WTC7 to arrive in this video is 2 seconds. But 7 seconds after the east side of the building implodes, we can't hear anything.

It's only after the roofline begins falling that we hear the cameramen shouting "whoa, whoa, whoa!"

The building fell over

From this angle, you can see the building clearly fall over to the south.

https://youtu.be/JnLcUxV1dPo?t=456

enter image description here

Therefore, the claim that the building fell symmetrically straight down onto it's footprint is not accurate

Moreover, look at this picture of the ruins. You can see a wall draped over everything else.

enter image description here

Collateral damage

Borough of Manhattan Community College lost it's Fiterman Hall in the collapse

enter image description here

The Verizon Building was also heavily damaged by the fall of WTC7

enter image description here

Not a very "controlled" demolition.

Other steel framed buildings that fell due to fire

The Plasco in Tehran

On 19 January 2017, the 19 storey Plasco Building pancaked following a several hours long fire.

enter image description here

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth went so far as to claim that this could also be a demolition!

Madrid Windsor Tower

This was a 32 storey building with steel walls and a concrete core

enter image description here

On 12 February 2005, a fire broke out, causing the steel portions, and the steel portions only, on the upper floors, to collapse.

enter image description here

It's possible that the collapse would have been even more destructive but an extra-strong mechanical floor at the middle of the building arrested Twin Towers style pancaking.

Appendix I: The University of Alaska Fairbanks study

Though not directly referenced in the question, this study is one of the strongest arguments used to claim that Building 7 was brought down by controlled demolition. Therefore, examination of this study is relevant to the question. The study concludes:

The principal conclusion of our study is that fire did not cause the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11, contrary to the conclusions of NIST and private engineering firms that studied the collapse. The secondary conclusion of our study is that the collapse of WTC 7 was a global failure involving the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.

But the study has fatal flaws. Some of the greater examples are touched upon below.

Treating the building like infinitely strong rubber

To see how plausible NIST's progressive collapse model was, UAF ran a simulation with the NIST damage model.

From their figures 4.8 to 4.16, which shows the results of their analysis of the NIST scenario, we learn that they used a linear static analysis. What does this mean?

A linear static analysis is an analysis where a linear relation holds between applied forces and displacements. In practice, this is applicable to structural problems where stresses remain in the linear elastic range of the used material. In a linear static analysis the model’s stiffness matrix is constant, and the solving process is relatively short

Source

That means they neglected plasticity and fracture in a simulation of something being destroyed. The result: Their building was indestructible; they needed to remove columns manually at each step to keep the collapse going, as shown by the captions to their figures.

Ignoring momentum

From the above, we can see that they used a "linear static analysis". The "static" in there is particularly damning.

Linear static analysis has two main assumptions:....

  • The loading is static.
    • Magnitude and direction do not change with time.
    • All loads are applied slowly and gradually until they reach their full magnitudes. Inertial and damping properties are ignored due to negligibly small accelerations and velocities.
    • Time variant loads that induce considerable inertial and/or damping forces may warrant dynamic analysis.

Source

By using this static model, they are ignoring all that momentum, which would play a pivotal role in a building collapse.

Here are some ways that ignoring momentum can invalidate their results

  • Failing to predict the failure of components under sudden load redistribution. For example, the load increase on adjacent connections and columns when column a column fails could be magnified by up to two times due to the momentum of the structure displacing downward.

  • Failing to predict component failure under impact loads. Momentum of falling debris can increase the force they apply several times.

The result of these errors can be seen in this video. Watch the east penthouse kink, spring back and come to a stop on the top floors of the building.

The above is not exhaustive. But it is enough to see that this "study" has no basis to conclude that "fire did not bring down WTC7".

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  • 2
    I was expecting that each of the four "points often raised" (three plus a bonus) would be explicitly addressed, but the structure of the explanation does not parallel the points, so it's a bit of work to make the connections. And I don't see any explanation of the third point, nor of the bonus point. Have I overlooked something?
    – phoog
    Aug 30, 2021 at 15:32
  • 2
    And note that momentum is a big driving force in such a collapse. The damage gets worse and worse until something gives. That will cause a shock load to everything adjacent, making it much more likely to push it past it's failure point. This causes an even bigger shock load to the next support. A static analysis is basically worthless. Apr 5 at 2:54
  • 1
    "MIT lost it's Fiterman Hall in the collapse" is incorrect; it was MCC or BMCC--Borough of Manhattan Community College that had the Fiterman Hall there.
    – prosfilaes
    Apr 5 at 17:27
  • @prosfilaes fixed, thank you
    – Abdullah
    Apr 6 at 6:34

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