NIST TechBeat Blue/Yellow Banner NIST logo--go to NIST home page Search NIST web space go to NIST home page go to A-Z subject index Contact NIST skip navigation

Nov. 3, 2005

  In This Issue:
bullet WTC Report Urges Action for Safer Tall Buildings

'Smart' Buildings to Guide Future First Responders

bullet Tool Tackles Translucence and Other Color Challenges
bullet Measurement and Standards Issues in Telemedicine
  Quick Links:
bullet Updated Fire Modeling Software Released
bullet Get On Board as a Baldrige Examiner

[NIST Tech Beat Search] [Credits] [NIST Tech Beat Archives] [Media Contacts] [Subscription Information]

blue divider

WTC Report Urges Action for Safer Tall Buildings

Testifying before a hearing of the House Science Committee on Oct. 26, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director William Jeffrey urged implementation of 30 specific recommendations from the agency’s completed investigation of the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeffrey called on organizations that develop building and fire safety codes, standards and practices—and the state and local agencies that adopt them—to give “immediate and serious consideration” to implementation efforts.

The final investigation report was released at the hearing and is available at

Jeffrey said that NIST believes its recommendations are realistic, appropriate and achievable within a reasonable period of time. However, he cautioned that improvements would only be realized if they are acted upon by the appropriate organizations. To facilitate this effort, NIST to date has:

  • identified specific codes, standards and practices affected by each of the 30 recommendations in the final WTC towers report;
  • reached out to the organizations responsible for making changes to expedite consideration of and action on the recommendations (for example, NIST held a major technical conference on the recommendations in September 2005 attended by more than 200 people, including representatives from all major standards and codes development organizations); and
  • awarded a contract to the non-profit National Institute of Building Sciences to turn many of the recommendations into code language suitable for submission of code change proposals to the two national model code developers, the National Fire Protection Association and the International Code Council.

The NIST recommendations released on Oct. 26 are contained within 43 separate reports (totaling some 10,000 pages) that cover specific improvements to building standards, codes and practices; changes to, or the establishment of, evacuation and emergency response procedures; and research and other appropriate actions needed to help prevent future building failures.

Based on nearly 500 comments received during the six-week public review period following the release of the draft WTC towers report on June 23, 2005, the reports—including some of the recommendations—were amended and clarified. The comments on the report also will be made available at

Media Contact:
Michael E. Newman,, (301) 975-3025



blue divider

'Smart' Buildings to Guide Future First Responders

A self-organizing wireless network developed by NIST researchers could allow first responders to track one another’s movement by collecting data from building sensors.

"Intelligent" building systems may someday allow firefighters and other first responders to better respond to emergencies by providing information such as building floor plans and real-time data from motion, heat, biochemical and other sensors and video cameras.

Illustration by: Tim McEvoy

View a high resolution version of this image.

The best response to a building emergency is a fast and informed one. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is working with the building industry as well as the public safety and information technology communities to achieve both objectives.

NIST researchers are studying how "intelligent" building systems can be used by firefighters, police and other first responders to accurately assess emergency conditions in real-time. One of the biggest problems faced by first responders is a lack of accurate information. Where is the fire within the building? How big is it? Are there flammable chemicals stored nearby?

NIST is working with industry to develop standards to allow manufacturers to create intelligent building systems that use various types of communication networks (including wireless networks) to assist first responders in assessing and mitigating emergencies. The systems would send information such as building floor plans and data from motion, heat, biochemical and other sensors and video cameras directly to fire and police dispatchers who then can communicate detailed information about the scene to first responders.

NIST recently released video presentations that demonstrate how an “Intelligent Building Response” program would work. The videos outline team efforts to create a system of interoperable data content and communications standards that would link first responders with "intelligent" building systems. Firefighters are shown using laptops to track the spread of a developing fire on a floor plan even before reaching the scene. Other real-time building sensor information includes status information concerning a specific building’s mechanical systems, elevators, lighting, security system and fire systems, the locations of building occupants, and temperature and smoke conditions.

The Intelligent Building Response research is made possible by funding from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office through NIST’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES). Public safety and building technology representatives are welcome to join the standards development effort. Information on the program and downloadable video presentations are available at

Media Contact:
John Blair,, (301) 975-4261



blue divider

Tool Tackles Translucence and Other Color Challenges

The NIST goniospectrometer measures the intensity of light reflected from the surface of a sample at 332 points. A plot of these measurements results in a different shape depending on whether the illumination comes from above (top) or at a 60-degree angle (bottom).
The NIST goniospectrometer measures the intensity of light reflected from the surface of a sample at 332 points. A plot of these measurements results in a different shape depending on whether the illumination comes from above (top) or at a 60-degree angle (bottom).
The NIST goniospectrometer measures the intensity of light reflected from the surface of a sample at 332 points. A plot of these measurements results in a different shape depending on whether the illumination comes from above (top) or at a 60-degree angle (bottom).

Credit: NIST

View a high resolution version of this image (TOP).

View a high resolution version of this image (Bottom).

Plain old colors are passé. Complex visual effects, such as pearlescence, translucence, iridescence and glitter, help sell many products, including cars, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and military hardware. A new instrument at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) makes comprehensive measurements of such appearance properties to help companies calibrate their own tools and control product quality.

Exotic surfaces and coatings may look different depending on illumination or viewing angles, subtleties that cannot be accounted for by traditional characterization methods. Many consumers are familiar with automobile paints that appear to change color with viewing direction. The new NIST device, called a goniospectrometer, automatically measures the color of light reflected from a surface as well as its dependence on the directions of illumination and observation. The device is described in a recent publication.*

NIST already offers a heavily used calibration service making less sophisticated measurements with another instrument. The new goniospectrometer will provide more complete data on the reflection of light from a color surface, and will be used for calibrating similar instruments and for research on exotic-appearing materials and coatings. NIST scientists also hope to create a database of measurements of different materials that could be used for modeling surfaces that have complex visual effects. The work is part of a NIST effort to develop accurate measurement methods for reproduction and quality control of appearance attributes, including color matching, by determining the minimum set of illumination and viewing geometries needed to accurately characterize the perceived color.

The goniospectrometer, housed in a clean room, illuminates a sample with a range of wavelengths of visible light, every 5 nanometers (nm) from 360 nm to 780 nm, i.e. from the near ultraviolet/deep blue to red/infrared. The sample and detector are rotated around three axes, allowing illumination and viewing in any direction within a hemisphere around the sample (see graphic). The intensity of the reflected beam is measured at several hundred locations on a sample surface. Based on these measurements, computer software assigns a numerical value to the color of the reflected light.

*Obein, G., Bousquet, R. and Nadal, M.E. New NIST reference goniospectrometer. Proceedings of SPIE, Optics and Photonics 2005: Optical Components and Systems Engineering and Advanced Metrology (Volumes 5866-5872, 5878-5880), July 31-Aug. 4, San Diego, Calif. Published on compact disc. September.

Media Contact:
Laura Ost,, (301) 975-4034



blue divider

Measurement and Standards Issues in Telemedicine

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in cooperation with the National Library of Medicine will host a workshop on Dec. 7, 2005, to explore the need for improved measurement technologies and standards for telemedicine imaging systems.

Telemedicine—the use of computers and information networks to allow health-care workers to interview and examine patients, and view test results and diagnostic images at a distance—is a rapidly developing field. It can greatly expand the scope and quality of health care for patients in rural locations, maximize the effectiveness of health-care professionals, and help hold down health-care costs.

As the capabilities and use of telemedicine have grown, however, a number of potential standards issues have arisen that could hamper its broader use. Interoperability of telemedicine equipment from different vendors, for example, is an issue if telemedicine services need to cross organizational boundaries. Accurate transmittal and rendering of images—including color fidelity and preservation of detail—are issues in fields as diverse as radiology, dermatology, neurology and even psychology.

The Dec. 7 workshop on Imaging Metrology for Telemedicine at The Natcher Center (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.) will bring together telemedicine practitioners, researchers and equipment suppliers to discuss the need for standards, protocols and test methods to assure that telemedicine images are accurate from acquisition to possible data compression, transmittal, storage and display. The workshop also will consider the need to develop an industry-based standards structure to assure that telemedicine systems are interoperable.

The workshop is one of a series on the U.S. Measurement System (USMS) sponsored by NIST to assess and document the nation's priority measurement and measurement-related standards needs for technological innovation, U.S. industrial competitiveness, safety and security, and quality of life. Registration information is available at

Media Contact:
Michael Baum,, (301) 975-2763



blue divider

Quick Links

Updated Fire Modeling Software Released

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released in September an updated version of a popular computer program that fire investigators, safety officials, engineers, architects and builders can use to simulate the impact of past or potential fires and smoke in a specific building environment.

The version of the software, called Consolidated Model of Fire and Smoke Transport (CFAST), until now a DOS program, works with Windows 98, NT, 2000 and XP. It also features easier-to-use software that allows users to simulate multiple fires and ventilation systems in a building.

The CFAST Version 6 package includes NIST’s Smokeview program, which visualizes with colored, three-dimensional animations the results of the CFAST simulation of a specific fire’s temperatures, various gas concentrations, and growth and movement of smoke layers across multiroom structures.

CFAST Version 6 and supporting documentation can be downloaded free at


blue divider

Get On Board as a Baldrige Examiner

Each year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recruits the best minds from business, education, health care and non-profit organizations to serve as members of the board of examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest honor for quality and performance excellence.

Examiners volunteer their time and expertise to evaluate applications for the award, go on site visits, and prepare feedback reports to applicants citing strengths and opportunities for improvement. The board consists of more than 500 members, including nine judges and about 60 senior examiners, representing many industries, companies and organizations including those from non-profit and public sectors.

Serving on the board provides an opportunity to refine analytical and consensus-building skills, network with some of the nation’s foremost experts from a wide range of organizations, and improve America’s competitive position. Amy Friedman, a surgeon at Yale University School of Medicine and a senior examiner, says, “Being a Baldrige examiner has ... helped me develop constructive, mature approaches to organizational improvements, innovations, and institutional challenges. Each year of training, application review, and teamwork has been a greater learning experience than the last.”

Further information, including an application to be an examiner, is available at or by calling (301) 975-2036. Applications are due by Jan. 8, 2006.


(Return to NIST News Page)

Editor: Gail Porter

Date created:11/03/05
Date updated: 11/03/05