BE Structural PC Articles

Building Collapse - Notre Dame

Why do we grieve for a collapsed building?

Written by Dana Pezzuti, BE Structural, PC

I’ve read a few pieces that try to put it into words.  Since the fire that claimed much of the structure of Notre Dame, it seems social media is buzzing with opinions on why we shouldn’t grieve for this building and better uses of our time and energy.

After all, what is a building but a bunch of materials stacked, framed and bolted together?

As an individual working within the architecture/engineering/construction industry, my thoughts are a bit different.

For building designers, consulting engineers, architects, masons and carpenters- a building is so much more than a bunch of inanimate objects. It is a place of shelter, a place of congregation- carefully thought out, tested and engineered.  It is a work of art that is both beautiful and functional.

Every year, every decade, every century it endures it is a testament to the expertise, craftsmanship and the newly discovered technology that was used to build it.  Every time a war, plague or storm fail to destroy it-the more the structure becomes a benchmark of human progress. 

There were no building codes in place when the cathedral of Notre Dame was constructed.  Let’s remember that.  The engineering, science and math it took to ensure stability is mind boggling considering very few people understood the principles that we embrace today.

There were not building inspectors handing out citations for shoddy work.  No stamped drawings carefully reviewed by a structural engineer and permitted.  There were only human beings putting their faith in one another and inspiring others to join their cause.  All of our modern day safety measures came about hundreds of years later and even in 2019, buildings fail and bridges collapse-And we mourn the loss of human life.

So when a 700 year old cathedral built in the Dark Age’s burns, we do grieve a little bit.  Just as we grieve if our own home or our neighbor’s home is destroyed.  Not for the loss of bricks and stone but for the people who came together, the memories they made and the children they raised under its common roof.

In the case of Notre Dame, we mourn for the carpenter who worked on the building 700 years ago.  We mourn for the architects and masons that came together to create a functional masterpiece so long ago.  Those who jumped at the chance to be a part of human advancement without question.  Those who poured their heart and soul into its creation but never saw the final result.  That is why we mourn the loss of this building.

#NotreDame  #Building Collapse               #Structural Engineering #ForensicEngineeirng

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The Different Ways a Steel Structure Can Fail

The job of every structural engineer is to ensure any given building is safe and structurally sound. This can occur during the initial design of a building or during the inspection of an existing building. When it comes to steel structures, it’s hard to imagine them failing due to the strength of the building materials themselves. However, there are several different ways steel structures can fail, and most of them can be prevented with the help of great structural engineering practices. Here are the main ways steel structures can fail.

Insufficient Strength With Connections

Almost every time you hear about a steel structure failing, it’s because of a connection issue. A structural engineer has to put in an incredible amount of thought and detail when designing the joints and connections to ensure they are strong enough. Calculating the strength of joints and connections is a tedious process, and it’s important for the structural engineer and the construction professionals to be on the same page. Any type of miscommunication in the type of bolt or other materials to use can lead to insufficient strength and possible failure.

Tension Failures

Another possible failure in steel structures is putting too much tension on any given member. It takes a significant amount of tension to create this type of failure, and most of the time it only occurs when the structural engineer makes a mistake in the design process. Tension failures are widely known as the most dangerous type of failure, so every structural engineer places a high level of importance on it in the design phase.

Too Much Weight On Beams

Beams can fail in a steel structure as well. It’s fairly simple to figure out when this type of failure will occur, since it happens when the weight on the beams exceed the weight limit they can handle. Lateral torsional buckling is the main concern for every structural engineering company, since it involves predicting where the most significant amount of weight will be placed on the beam. The strongest point of the beam is in the center of it, so buckling could occur and lead to beam failure if the weight on either end of the beam is too much for it to handle.

BE Structural is a team of structural engineering professionals that has an extensive portfolio of construction and engineering projects. Whether a steel structure undergoes minor local buckling or has experienced significant structural failure, we have an expert ready to evaluate the situation and provide the best solutions. No project is too large, small or complex for our structural engineering professionals, so don’t hesitate to contact us at any time when you need us.

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The Problems the Millennium Tower is Facing in San Francisco

When the $550 million construction for the Millennium Tower in San Francisco was announced, there were no shortage of buyers ready to spend millions of dollars to purchase living space. However, less than a decade later, those buyers have lost significant value in their investment due to various unforeseen issues to the tower.

Various structural engineering companies, as well as geotechnical companies, are evaluating the building daily to analyze the cracks, sinking and leaning that are clearly present. While the problems with the Millennium Tower are evident, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the safety of it, who is responsible for these issues and what structural engineering experts are going to do about it.

How Safe Is The Building Today?

The good news is the last time a structural engineer evaluated the building, it was deemed to be safe to live in, even if an earthquake occurred. However, the fact that the sinking of the building doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon can’t be ignored. Structural engineering experts estimate the building will continue sinking between 1.5” to 2” every year, which simply means action needs to be taken now to prevent a potential disaster in the ensuing years.

Where The Blame Lies

Initial inspections indicate the main problem being in the foundation of the Millennium Tower. The soil it’s built on consists of sand, clay and mud, and the foundation does not even extend far enough down to reach solid bedrock. There’s some controversy surrounding the City of San Francisco and why they allowed the construction and design team to not anchor the foundation low enough to reach the bedrock.

Another area of blame has to do with the construction of the transit center that was newly built adjacent to the tower. The construction company responsible for building the Millennium Tower is suggesting the company that constructed the transit center pumped too much groundwater during their project, which caused the sand under the Millennium Tower to compress, and has resulted in the sinking.

Possible Solutions To Fix The Millennium Tower

As structural engineering experts continue to discover the reasons why the Millennium Tower is experiencing these problems, they are also developing short-term and long-term solutions. One of the possible solutions includes removing some of the top floors in order to reduce the weight of the tower. The most discussed solution for the long-term is to bore micro piles on the side of the building that’s sinking in order to eventually anchor it to the bedrock underneath. Once this occurs, the high side of the building must sink to the level of the low side before the anchoring can occur. This proposed solution could take up to five years and cost several hundred million dollars, but it is the most viable solution for the long-term, as analyzed by structural engineering experts.

At BE Structural, we always monitor these types of stories and are actually involved in many of them. We are a structural engineering company with experts coming from many different backgrounds and having various levels of experience. If you have any specific questions about the problems the Millennium Tower in San Francisco is facing, or have a need for a structural engineer, contact us today.

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What Qualities Should Your Structural Engineer Have?

When you have a new construction project or are doing major renovation work, one of the first experts to call is a structural engineer. However, just like not all structural engineering companies are created equally, neither are individual structural engineers. The best ones will work with the architects, designers and other contractors you hire in order to ensure everyone is on the same page with the same vision for the project. Before you hire a structural engineer for your project, make sure they possess these qualities.

Creativity

No two buildings are exactly alike, so your structural engineer should use their knowledge, skills and expertise to design the safest and strongest building for your particular project. This includes evaluating the weather and climate and using building materials that will withstand the harshest elements. Structural engineers have to be creative in order to build a safe structure, while still fulfilling the needs and vision of the homeowner or property owner.

Extreme Attention To Detail

There are plenty of obvious reasons why a structural engineer has to be extremely detailed in the work they do. One seemingly minor mistake could lead to a fatal flaw in the design of the building. And the structural engineer needs to follow through with the other contractors who are actually building the structure to ensure everyone is on the same page and there’s a complete understanding of their thought process.

Innovative Strategic Thinking

With the technology available to every structural engineering company today, there’s no excuse for not using innovative technology to help design a building. The challenge every structural engineer faces is being able to satisfy the needs and desires of the individuals, while also adhering to safety regulations, sustainability practices and more. It requires innovative and strategic thinking to be completely well-rounded, and taking the time to find a structural engineer who possesses these qualities is well worth the effort.

Problem Solving

Problems will always arise in any project, no matter how large or small it is. Whether it’s external factors like the weather, or other unique challenges that aren’t evident immediately, a good structural engineer must be able to think quickly. The best structural engineering professionals will be able to identify problems before they occur and plan on a solution, but sometimes it’s not possible. In either situation, coming up with the best solutions possible is an important quality for structural engineers to have.

At BE Structural, we have a unique mix of structural engineering professionals that work together every day. Each of our structural engineers are well-rounded when it comes to their education, experience and background, and we are constantly in collaboration with one another to enhance our skills. We strive to be your go-to resource for any structural engineering needs, so don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of service to you.

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5 Common Structural Issues in Industrial Buildings

The manufacturing industry is arguably the most important industry in the United States. While it’s important to keep manufacturing machinery and equipment maintained in order to keep production going, it’s equally as important to maintain the industrial buildings where the work is done. If the integrity and safety of an industrial building is compromised, it could lead to the manufacturing plant being shut down until a structural engineer can come in for an evaluation. While significant events like this are not likely with preventative maintenance practices, here are five of the most common structural issues in industrial buildings seen by structural engineering companies.

Interior and Exterior Wall Damage

Both interior and exterior walls will eventually experience some damage in industrial buildings. With forklifts, operations vehicles and other heavy equipment constantly being used, it’s inevitable for some damage to occur. The main thing to do is have a structural engineer evaluate the damage and have it repaired right away if necessary. Most of the damage is cosmetic, but it’s always better to be cautious.

Damage To Columns

Depending on how severe the damage is, a damaged column could be very dangerous from a structural standpoint. It seems like every column in an industrial building is in the way for forklift operators, which means they will get dinged up occasionally. But as long as the damage is minor and doesn’t have a structural impact, then operations can continue as normal.

Inadequate Framing

Many industrial buildings are very old. During the original design of the building, the framing was likely designed to support a certain amount of stress. When structural engineering experts see an issue with framing in an industrial building, most of the time it’s because too much stress was put on it. Because of this, it’s important for managers to have the framing inspected whenever additional equipment is added that could increase the stress on it.

Poor Roof Draining System

When water stays pooled on a roof without draining properly, there’s a wide range of issues that could occur. Any structural engineering company will inspect the roof of an industrial building to ensure gutters are working properly and the best systems are in place to properly drain water from the roof.

Neglected Maintenance Practices

Accidents will happen in an industrial building with so many moving parts at any given time. However, any structural engineer will tell you major issues can be prevented by performing routine maintenance practices. These could include ensuring roof drainage systems are functioning, no rust is present on steel components, all seals and connections are in good shape and more. If there are any issues that need the expertise of a structural engineer, don’t hesitate in contacting one.

BE Structural is here to ensure all industrial buildings are in good working order so manufacturing processes can continue without interruption. Production is critical for every manufacturing plant, but so is safety. As a structural engineering company, we will evaluate every component of your building, identify any potential issues and promptly fix them. To learn more about how we can help in industrial settings, contact us at any time.

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3 Ways a Structural Engineer Can Help With Your Custom Home

When a custom home is in the works of being built, there’s an entire team of people you need to look at hiring. These people include architects, interior and exterior designers, engineers, contractors for general work and many more. Most people don’t think about contacting structural engineering companies first, but the truth is finding a good structural engineer should be a top priority. No matter how good a home looks on the outside, it’s only as good as the structural engineer who designed the plans from the foundation all the way to the top of the chimney. Here are the main ways a structural engineer is important when you’re looking to build a custom home.

Structural Safety

Every structural engineering company prioritizes safety in all aspects of the work they do. When evaluating the location of a custom home, a structural engineer will look at factors like the soil, the climate in the area, what major weather events typically occur, the seismic activity and more. Sometimes it’s simply not safe to build a home with the exact orientation the homeowner wants, which is exactly why it’s important to take the advice of structural engineering experts.

Use The Right Building Materials

While safety is the first priority when building any custom home, structural engineers also want to bring a homeowner’s vision to life as much as possible. This can include wood framing, bamboo, masonry, steel or any other materials. Many times a structural engineer will get an idea of the vision the homeowner has and then go to work designing the home based on that. If it’s simply not possible or safe to build it exactly like the homeowner desires, then they will inform them accordingly. There are many different factors that go into the building materials used for any custom home, and the best structural engineers will still make the custom home look as close to the homeowner’s vision as possible.

Efficient Designing

Most people don’t think about contacting a structural engineer when designing their home. This is typically done by an architect. However, structural engineers put together plans for the design that takes into consideration the foundation, roof, framing and overall structural integrity to be able to support the desired designs. Architects and other contractors rely on structural engineers for this information, which is why they are typically the first experts needed when designing a custom home.

BE Structural has helped build hundreds of custom homes over the years. Our unique team is comprised of experts with various backgrounds and different levels of experience, so no project is too large, too small or too complex for us. In fact, we enjoy taking on complex custom home designs since it challenges our skills. If you’re looking into the possibility of having a custom home designed, contact us today to see what steps to take and how we can help you get started.