There was a time when the science of blast protection was poorly understood. We built petrochemical control centers out of reinforced concrete or masonry blocks because it was the best-known construction method, but it was never a good solution to the challenge of protecting the people inside. Now we have a new option, and the industry has aggressively adopted it.
Blast-resistant building design is a relatively unexplored frontier. For one thing, very little research has been done on the actual effects of blasts on various types of structures. Then there are aesthetic and psychological considerations. In addition to making a building safe, it’s important to create interior spaces that are functional and provide appropriate levels of comfort for personnel.
In 2005, my team was called in to investigate the Texas City, Texas, refinery disaster. I’ll never forget what I saw there — where wood-frame office trailers had stood, only splinters remained. Fifteen people died because they were housed in those trailers. All I could think was there has to be a better way.