The investigation has been hampered by a number of issues, including:
No clear authority and the absence of an effective protocol
for how the building performance investigators should conduct
and coordinate their investigation
with the concurrent search and rescue efforts,
as well as any criminal investigation:
Early confusion over who was in charge of the site
and the lack of authority of investigators to impound pieces of steel
for examination before they were recycled
led to the loss of important pieces of evidence that were destroyed
early during the search and rescue effort.
In addition, a delay in the deployment of FEMA’s BPAT team
may have compounded the lack of access to valuable data and artifacts.
Difficulty obtaining documents essential to the investigation,
including blueprints, design drawings, and maintenance records:
The building owners, designers and insurers, prevented independent researchers
from gaining access – and delayed the BPAT team in gaining access –
to pertinent building documents largely because of liability concerns.
The documents are necessary to validate physical and photographic evidence
and to develop computer models that can explain why the buildings failed
and how similar failures might be avoided in the future.
Uncertainty as a result of the confidential nature of the BPAT study:
The confidential nature of the BPAT study may prevent the timely discovery
of potential gaps in the investigation, which may never be filled if important,
but ephemeral evidence, such as memories or home videotapes, are lost.
The confidentiality agreement that FEMA requires its BPAT members to sign
has frustrated the efforts of independent researchers
to understand the collapse, who are unsure if their work is complementary to,
or duplicative of, that of the BPAT team.
In addition, the agreement has prevented the sharing of research results
and the ordinary scientific give-and-take that otherwise allows scientists
and engineers to winnow ideas and strengthen results.
Uncertainty as to the strategy for completing the investigation
and applying the lessons learned:
The BPAT team does not plan, nor does it have sufficient funding,
to fully analyze the structural data it collected
to determine the reasons for the collapse of the WTC buildings.
(Its report is expected to rely largely on audio and video tapes of the event.)
Nor does it plan to examine other important issues,
such as building evacuation mechanisms.
Instead, FEMA has asked the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) to take over the investigation.
Yet so far, NIST has not released a detailed plan describing
how it will take over the investigation,
what types of analyses it will conduct,
how it will attempt to apply the lessons it learns to try to improve
building and fire codes, and how much funding it will require.