A few more factoids regarding The Pentagon
(the U.S. DoD
version). The construction project that built it was headed by Gen. Leslie Groves
, whose next assignment was to run The Manhattan Project
- the massive effort to produce the first atomic weapon
The recent attack on the Pentagon brought to light (in an unfortunate way) some additional tidbits of information. For example, the outer wall of the building is constructed using limestone slabs which were all acquired from the same quarry. For the rebuilding effort following the attacks, the same quarry will be supplying matching limestone, and the man in charge of that is a stonecutter whose first job as a teenager was building the original walls for the building.
The Pentagon was in the midst of a massive reconstruction when the attack occurred. This is one reason that there were so few casualties; of the sections that were hit, one had been cleared of personnel to allow work to begin, and the adjoining section's personnel had just begun to move back into their refurbished offices. Another was that the newly-completed areas (the first phase of the reconstruction, three years in the process, was five days from completion on 9/11/01) contained the fruits of the safety engineering done for the reconstruction. Those include blast-resistant windows, metal reinforcement for the outer support walls, modern sprinkler systems and better exit routes. The main damage to the rebuilt wedge was water damage from the sprinkler system.
Prior to the attack, the rebuilding effort had already begun to address the building's vulnerabilities to more mundane threats. The rising popularity of car bombs in the 1960s and 1970s prompted the closing of the auto concourse, which had previously allowed motor vehicles to actually enter a space underneath the outer ring. In the recent work, an annex was built to move all shipping operations out of the building, since up until that point, semi-trailers had regularly backed into the outer ring to discharge cargoes of mail, supplies and whatever. Now, there is a completely separate building which handles all package traffic to the building. Packages are opened, inspected and approved there, some several hundred feet from the main building, and are then transferred to their destinations through an automated underground tunnel to avoid tampering.
City buses, until recently, would routinely stop next to the building, coming within perhaps ten feet of the outer walls. The Khobar Towers and Oklahoma City incidents have prompted changes in traffic patterns to ensure all large vehicles remain a good distance from the building itself. In places, an earth berm is placed between traffic accessways and the building itself for added protection.
On a lighter note, the central courtyard (the building consists of several nested pentagons in order to maximize window space and provide courtyards) contains a cafe where building personnel can enjoy lunch al fresco. The name of the cafe, reflecting the 'privileged' status of the building in the nuclear targeting documents of the world, was (and may still be) the "Ground Zero Cafe."
Seniority can be roughly inferred from the placement of one's office in the building, with more senior officials enjoying exterior views and a shorter walk from entrances.
During the planning phase for the ongoing reconstruction, the first thing that planners did was to decide if, in fact, the three-plus billion dollars (and twenty years) that the reconstruction was projected to cost would be better spent building a replacement, modern facility - one which, in addition to being new, would lie somewhere other than the flight path of National Airport. The requirements for the site included the massive demands the building would place on the local water, power and sewage systems; efficient road access, fifteen thousand parking spaces, and commuter access for the twenty-five thousand plus occupants. Given those parameters, the only realistic site was Fort Belvoir, south of D.C. proper in Virginia.
The problem was that upgrading the facilities there to handle the load, as well as the projected cost of extending one of the regional Metro commuter rail lines to reach the fort, coupled with actual construction costs, would push the project's total cost far over the estimate for the Pentagon reconstruction. Lee Evey, program manager for the reconstruction effort, explained in a briefing on C-SPAN several days following the attacks that these (among others) were the reasons for undertaking the effort required to perform such a massive renovation while the military continued operations in the building.
Dubbed 'The Phoenix Project,' the post-9/11 rebuild involves the reclamation and rebuilding of over 400,000 square feet of the building, plus the repair of approximately 1.5 million additional square feet damaged by collapse, fire or water. Completion of the Phoenix Project is scheduled for September 11th, 2002 - one year after the attacks - with full occupancy on that day.
Some final dry facts and figures on the building itself:
- It is five stories tall, with each face stretching over 900 feet. The total circumference is nearly a mile.
- It is widely considered to be the largest single building in the world.
- It was originally built as a 'temporary headquarters' for the Department of Defense, intended to last perhaps fifteen years.
- The central courtyard is over five acres in size.
- It was completed (from groundbreaking to completion) in sixteen months from 1941-1942.
- Until the reconstruction, it had no passenger elevators.
- The rush nature of the original construction meant that there were no accurate and complete architectural diagrams of the building when the recent rebuild began. The process of planning and executing the rebuild was described as "archaeological architecture" by one participant.
- The building's five rings are connected by radial corridors; one at each vertex of the pentagon and one in the center of each side. The five sections of the building delineated by the vertex corridors are referred to as 'wedges,' and each is intended to be an independent entity as far as utility feeds, HVAC, etc. (not that it worked out that way in practice, naturally).
- It has over nineteen miles of corridors.
- It contains 6.5 million square feet of office space.
- It was designed so that no point in the building is more than a seven-minute walk from any other.
- C-SPAN Briefing on the Pentagon Reconstruction: Lee Evey, Program manager. October, 2001.
- Pentagon Engineers Divide and Conquer. Engineering News-record; Sept. 4th, 2000 issue.
- PBS online: Rebuilding the Pentagon (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/terrorism/jan-june02/rebuilding_1-16.html)