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Preventing Structural Failures through Human Intervention

Most of the structural disasters we have looked at in past blogs were caused by numerous factors, from the choice to use inferior building materials to inspection failures to design miscalculations. Regardless of the direct cause of the disaster at issue, however, many of these structural failures could have been avoided if someone working on the project would have taken the time to think about the consequences of changing a design plan at the last minute, or building on a floodplain, or using a wrong-sized screw.

Construction is driven by strict budgets and schedules, and sometimes the fact that people’s lives may be at stake if something goes wrong is not taken into account when quick decisions are made to speed along a building project. Too often, financial and liability concerns overshadow ethical concerns, leading to irresponsible, and potentially dangerous, choices.

For example, in a fatal accident involving the construction of a TV Tower in Texas, construction workers realized that hoisting equipment it was using to erect sections of the tower could not accommodate certain parts of the tower’s antennae. In turn, the company that designed the equipment refused to look over the construction company’s plans to solve the problem, which involved a temporary extension arm. The design company did not want to be held liable for any damage caused by the modified equipment.

Without consulting a professional engineer, the construction company went ahead with its plan, and happened to use defective U-bolts at the construction site. This unfortunate chain of events, marked by shortsighted decision-making made every step of the way, resulted in five deaths when the tower collapsed.

The manufacturer of the U-bolts eventually assumed full liability for the accident, settling the case in order to stay out of court. A professional engineer can help identify all liable parties in a structural failure, so that victims have the best chance of receiving maximum compensation for their damages.

Construction Defect & Design Failure Expert Witnesses

Pierre Handl, P.E. evaluates buildings and construction projects in California and nationwide to identify the cause of problems and determine whether construction and/or design errors played a role in a structure’s failure. If you need a civil engineer to assess liability and appear as an expert witness in your case, contact Engineering Expert Witnesses to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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