One way to secure buildings is to use pressurized stairways. If fire erupts in a building and employees walk into such a stairway, it will remain smoke free. They are more expensive than regular stairs and are not commonly used, but the technology is available, Konon says. In a pressurized stairway, air pressure is higher than in the rest of the building, which keeps smoke out.
Editor's Note: To interview Professor Konon, please call the Public Relations Office at (973) 596-5203 or (973) 596-3436. Konon, a professional engineer and a licensed building inspector, has an expertise in building codes and safety standards, including fire protection and construction techniques. He has taught at NJIT for 28 years and heads the civil engineering construction division.
In terms of making tunnels safer, engineers are advocating the use of crossovers between tubes. Most large tunnels, such as the Holland and the Lincoln, have multiple tubes running parallel to each other. But they are not connected with crossover paths.
Such crossovers would allow drivers -- if the tube they are driving through were attacked-- to walk a short distance in the crossover from one tube to another.
Tunnels could also be equipped with safety chambers, to which drivers could retreat in the event of a disaster. The chambers could be built every 300 yards within a tunnel.
Civil engineers are trying to improve ventilation in tunnels. Prior to 9/11, engineers focused on how to rid tunnels of carbon monoxide. The focus has since shifted to ridding tunnels of lethal gases.
Finally, Sept. 11 has changed not only the way engineers think, but also the way college students learn.
"My classes have always included the integration of structure and fire engineering," Konon says. "But since 9/11, I have given it more attention. The students are now much more interested in safety -- and for good reason. They saw the towers fall, and they know safe design is a matter of life and death."
NJIT is a public, scientific and technological research university enrolling
more than 8,800 students. The university offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to students
in 80 degree programs throughout its six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School
of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors
College and College of Computing Sciences. The division of continuing professional education offers
adults eLearning, off campus degrees and short courses. Expertise and research initiatives include
architecture and building science, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, environmental
engineering and science, information technology, manufacturing, materials, microelectronics,
multimedia, telecommunications, transportation and solar astrophysics. Yahoo! Internet
Life magazine cites NJIT as a "perennially most wired" university.