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Marrion at the Controls

Heads New York Fire Team

From left, Saw-Teen See (Les Robertson's wife and partner at Leslie E. Robertson Associates), Venkatesh Kodur, and Marrion examine steel from the World Trade Center.

Christopher Marrion '89 (M.S. FPE) leads the New York office of Arup Fire, where he manages a group of WPI fire protection engineering graduates that includes Jarrod Alston '99, David Jacoby '95 ('98 M.S. FPE), James Lord '00 ('01 M.S. FPE) and Bob Till '94 (M.S. FPE; '01 Ph.D.). On Sept. 11, they watched with horror as the Twin Towers burned only blocks away. "It was difficult not to think of the impact on the exit stairways and the occupants' ability to evacuate, as well as how the fire was affecting the load-bearing capacity of the structural elements," he says.

Marrion was chosen to represent his field and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) on the Building Performance Analysis Team (BPAT). His role included work on WTC 1, WTC 2, and the performance of various fire protection systems including egress, sprinklers and compartmentation. He spent a significant amount of time studying the collapse of WTC 7, a complex puzzle that was overshadowed by the drama of the Twin Towers. He also helped write Appendix A-- a primer on the fire engineering concepts discussed in the report.

Lessons have been learned from the tragic events of Sept. 11, says Marrion, and WPI's fire protection engineering graduates will play a significant role in the future design of buildings and their fire- and life-safety performance. He believes this includes undertaking performance-based designs to help stakeholders understand the anticipated performance of buildings when exposed to various threats, including fire, impact, explosion, and chemical or biological agents, as well as helping structural engineers understand the interaction of fire and steel.

Marrion and his colleagues have been asked to make numerous presentations to address these concerns. Others at Arup have been instrumental in forming the company's Extreme Events Mitigation Task Force, which includes Richard Custer, former associate professor of Fire Protection Engineering and former assistant director of the Center for Firesafety Studies at WPI (now technical director for Arup Fire USA), and Brian Meacham '84 ('91 M.S. FPE), who leads Arup's Risk Consulting Group in Westborough, Mass.

For Chris and his colleagues in New York, a quick glance downtown to the void left in the skyline serves as a daily reminder of the tragedy and of the opportunities they have in helping shape the future for fire engineering and building design.

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