The following is an excerpt.
Bullet proof windows don’t help much if the whole building comes down on you: Obvious? Sure, and one of the classic dilemmas facing the people who plan the new government headquarters in Oslo.
In the US, they put up huge buildings for the sole purpose of studying the effects of massive impacts. A rather time-consuming and costly procedure, one might think. Still, it gives valuable information about the dynamics taking place. The relationship between a solid exterior and the effects an impact has on the construction as a whole is just one example.
In Norway, other methods are chosen. A decades-long cooperation between the Norwegian Defence Estates Agency (NDEA), a growing number of industrial partners and NTNU has carried SIMLab to a world-leading position in the design of crashworthy and protective structures. When the research group was granted another eight year program, SFI CASA, The Ministry for Local Government and Modernisation decided to join as partners. Deputy director general Christian Fredrik Horst at the Department for Buildings, Security and Services explains why:
“We need an environment that can find the structural solutions for the objects we are going to build. This includes the capacity to simulate with a high level of precision how impacts affect whole structures, what fragments do to them, how resilient they are and so on. We need to be certain that they can handle an impact. Concluding afterwards that they didn’t is not an option.”
Not for sale
“Can’t you just buy this knowledge abroad?”
“That’s exactly one of the arguments for joining CASA: We have experienced more than once that this kind of competence is much more accessible if we have some competence of our own to offer in exchange. Our partnership gives us access to the international expert network CASA is part of. The value of this should not be underestimated.”
“You already cooperate closely with NDEA and the Norwegian National Security Agency, another CASA partner. Wouldn’t it work just as well getting the results from them?”
“We could and do get results from them. In fact, we rely heavily on their expertise and we specifically do not have any ambition to carry out research in this field on our own. However, we are and constantly will be challenged by our suppliers on the specifications of our orders. Statsbygg, who also belongs to our ministry, will be the formal commissioner of the government headquarters. Along with us, they will have to draw on advice from a number of expert groups, including the military and police. We have carried out overall analyses of the physical security and threat scenarios aiming at optimal solutions.
We obviously don’t want the buildings to look like fortresses. This means that we will be on constant lookout for vulnerable areas, compensatory measures and so on. This is where CASA is so valuable. They will be able to provide us with much more accurate information about what is needed than we would have had otherwise. We need to approach this from a scientific point of view.”
PhD projects coming up
“Does this also mean that you foresee a wish for concrete PhD projects aiming directly at your needs?”
“Certainly. There is a need for basic research for instance concerning what materials to use where. The results will later be useful in a lot of areas. We also expect that the increased expertise will save us a lot of money. For instance we reduce the risk of building something much more solid and expensive than necessary.
Furthermore, CASA will produce a lot of students with higher expertise and attention towards this area than would have happened otherwise. This is useful both to the ministry and to society as a whole,” Horst says.
The plan is for the headquarters to be finished in ten years’ time. Three years ago the price tag was estimated at five billion NOK upwards. Since then it has increased considerably.
A news broadcast on Norway’s state channel NRK from 2006 will sit in many people’s memory as long as they live. It opens with the following words:
“The obstructions outside the high-rise in the government headquarters aren’t exactly deterring. Anyone can place a car full of explosives in front of the government building.”
Five years later, on 22 July 2011, that is exactly what terrorist Anders Behring Breivik did.
The broadcast only aired locally in 2006. After the attack it became known to the whole nation. It contained an interview with Christian Fredrik Horst where he presented the result of a risk analysis, concluding that the street in front of the building needed to be closed off from general traffic. As we all know, nothing happened. Protests from commercial interests and the municipality of Oslo sent the plans on a journey that still hadn’t finished in 2011.
“What have we learned?”
“Above all that the unthinkable isn’t unthinkable and that the time factor is crucial. The challenges posed by varying proposals, solution procedures and so on are massive and demand cooperation on a scale nobody had foreseen.”