Without warning, an under-construction structure in the southern United States suffered a catastrophic collapse. The tragedy resulted in the death of several people. As a result, engineering and construction post-collapse forensics experts engaged in an 18-month investigation.
Those involved in the design and build project included the general contractor hired by the owner, a prime engineer, a consulting peer-review engineer and a prime structural design firm supported by a sub-consulting structural engineer. Although significant cracking was noticed several weeks before the failure, no one sounded the alarm or deemed the cracking worthy of corrective action.
In their findings, forensic experts found the collapse resulted from the combined failure of the general contractor, engineers and even the owner, who all failed to shut down the work once the cracking reached unacceptable levels and/or take the appropriate actions needed to secure the public safety and mitigate the risk. This was even after the general contractor requested that the engineer-of-record and design manager assess the structure’s extreme cracking. Consequently, the choice to not seriously investigate the crack or seek an independent peer review to design a rectification plan contributed directly to the tragedy. This is typically referred to within the industry as a “negligent professional design error.”
Reprinted courtesy of Mitch Cohen, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.