18. Was there enough gravitational energy present in the WTC towers to cause the collapse of the intact floors below the impact floors? Why weren't the collapses of WTC 1 and WTC 2 arrested by the intact structure below the floors where columns first began to buckle?
Yes, there was more than enough gravitational load to cause the collapse of the floors below the level of collapse initiation in both WTC towers. The vertical capacity of the connections supporting an intact floor below the level of collapse was adequate to carry the load of 11 additional floors if the load was applied gradually and 6 additional floors if the load was applied suddenly (as was the case). Since the number of floors above the approximate floor of collapse initiation exceeded six in each WTC tower (12 floors in WTC 1 and 29 floors in WTC 2), the floors below the level of collapse initiation were unable to resist the suddenly applied gravitational load from the upper floors of the buildings.
Consider a typical floor immediately below the level of collapse initiation and conservatively assume that the floor is still supported on all columns (i.e., the columns below the intact floor did not buckle or peel off due to the failure of the columns above). Consider further the truss seat connections between the primary floor trusses and the exterior wall columns or core columns. The individual connection capacities ranged from 94,000 pounds to 395,000 pounds, with a total vertical load capacity for the connections on a typical floor of 29,000,000 pounds (see Section 5.2.4 of NIST NCSTAR 1-6C). The total floor area outside the core was approximately 31,000 square feet, and the average load on a floor under service conditions on Sept. 11, 2001, was 80 pounds per square foot. Thus, the total vertical load on a floor outside the core can be estimated by multiplying the floor area (31,000 square feet) by the gravitational load (80 pounds per square foot), which yields 2,500,000 pounds (this is a conservative load estimate since it ignores the weight contribution of the heavier mechanical floors at the top of each WTC tower). By dividing the total vertical connection capacity (29,000,000 pounds) of a floor by the total vertical load applied to the connections (2,500,000 pounds), the number of floors that can be supported by an intact floor is calculated to be a total of 12 floors or 11 additional floors.
This simplified and conservative analysis indicates that the floor connections could have carried only a maximum of about 11 additional floors if the load from these floors were applied statically. Even this number is (conservatively) high, since the load from above the collapsing floor is being applied suddenly. Since the dynamic amplification factor for a suddenly applied load is 2, an intact floor below the level of collapse initiation could not have supported more than six floors. Since the number of floors above the level where the collapse initiated exceeded six for both towers (12 for WTC 1 and 29 for WTC 2), neither tower could have arrested the progression of collapse once collapse initiated. In reality, the highest intact floor was about three (WTC 2) to six (WTC 1) floors below the level of collapse initiation. Thus, more than the 12 to 29 floors reported above actually loaded the intact floor suddenly.