Category: foundation design

Structural engineering

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.

Forensic engineering firms

How a Forensic Engineer Can Help After a Water Leak

Intruding water in large amounts can be devastating to a home or office space. But even the smallest drip of water leaking every few seconds can cause a significant amount of damage as well. The longer the leak goes undetected, the more potential damage can occur. The role of forensic engineering firms is to send an expert out to find the source of the leak so it can be fixed, and then go a step further to analyze why the leak started in the first place. Both of these roles are important for different reasons, and here are the reasons why.

Forensic Engineers Detect The Source of Water Infiltration

Sometimes you may not even know you have water infiltration until you notice a warped floor, rotted wood or water spots on your ceiling. By that time, the damage is already done, but finding the source of the problem, is still paramount.  

A secondary issue arising from water infiltration is mold.  Mold can be deadly when left unchecked.   After a thorough analysis is complete, the forensic engineer is responsible for telling the story of how the water infiltrated the building envelope and what should be done to remedy the problem.  

A Failure Analysis Must Be Conducted

When you have water damage in your home or office, you should file an insurance claim as soon as possible. Most likely, the insurance company will send a forensic engineer to conduct a failure analysis to get to the bottom of the source of the leak. The analysis not only involves finding the source of the leak, but also the circumstances around the leak, how it happened and who is responsible for it.

Why 3rd Party Forensic Investigations Are Needed

A 3rd party forensic structural engineering expert may be hired by the building owner directly in cases where the owner is not satisfied with conclusions of the insurance company’s engineer.  A forensic, structural engineering firm can be hired as a 3rd party, independent expert to investigate the building and probable cause of the water infiltration.  Their deliverable  is usually a stamped, Professional Engineering Report that includes onsite findings, probable cause or what is referred to as “origin” as well as recommendations for remediation.

At BE Structural, our team of structural engineers work every day to protect homeowners and business owners from catastrophic events like water events. Whether you need our services to do an initial inspection or to investigate an ongoing issue, an expert is just a phone call away. Be sure to contact us at any time to learn more about how we can help with any structural engineering and water infiltration concerns.

Forensic engineering

Monitoring the Effects of Commercial Construction and Demolition Vibrations

With the close proximity of buildings in urban areas today, commercial construction and demolition can create significant risks to existing buildings. However, with old buildings being demolished and new ones being built every day around the world, we have to adapt and ensure vibration damage is minimized. Monitoring and analyzing the potential and current impacts of construction and demolition projects are some of the most important roles for forensic engineering experts. Here’s how the technology works and why it’s so important.

What Exactly is Vibration Monitoring?

Throughout the vibration monitoring process, seismographic equipment records ground movement created by demolition and construction activity. Every structure has a vibration threshold, so when a sensor detects a vibration above the threshold, an alert is signaled to the construction crew working on the project. These real-time alerts can actually save a building envelope from being partially damaged or, in the worst-case scenario, completely destroyed.

Nearby Structures Could Be Affected by Demolitions

Every structure can withstand different levels of vibrations. And just because a vibration can be felt in a nearby building, it doesn’t necessarily mean any amount of damage has been done. Many business owners have concerns about the structural glass design of their building, but the reality is it’s measured just like any building envelope. Experts take the building material into consideration when analyzing construction and demolition vibrations, and special care is taken if a particular building has a low tolerance for structural vibrations.

The Role of Forensic Engineering

Forensic engineering plays a large role in determining how safe it is to proceed with a construction or demolition project. It starts by conducting pre-project surveys of nearby structures to determine whether there is any existing damage and to analyze the vibration tolerance of the building. Even the smallest cracks in a foundation can increase the chances of vibration damage.

Once the construction or demolition project is complete, forensic engineers survey the surrounding structures again to compare the reports. They will analyze the data from the vibration monitoring devices and determine whether any potential damage was caused by vibrations from the project. These detailed records are critical when potentially filing a claim on damage to a building.

At BE Structural, we have a team of forensic engineering experts with years of experience in monitoring and analyzing construction and demolition projects. Our role is to ensure the safety of every nearby structure that could be affected by vibrations. For more information about what we do and how we can help with your construction or demolition-related projects, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.

Structural glass facade

Glass Facade and Its Advantages

Everywhere you look today you’ll see some sort of structural glass facade. Major improvements have been made in the facade engineering landscape to make glass one of the primary means of construction for new buildings. Not only does glass have a great visual appeal, but it now serves more functional purposes than ever before. Here are some of the main advantages a glass facade provides.

Energy Efficiency

Allowing sunlight to enter into a building can save electricity since you can use natural light instead of artificial lighting. Contrary to what may be the public perception, technological advances in glass has actually helped it regulate heating and cooling in buildings. With the strict energy requirements placed on commercial buildings today, glass will only become more valuable to meet the restrictions and also provide cost-saving benefits.

Strong Enough to Withstand Harsh Weather Elements

A structural glass facade is generally strong enough to withstand some of the harshest weather elements. Whether you live in an area with constant sun, wind or rain, the glass will retain its integrity and appearance much longer than many traditional building materials. And since glass does not rust or weather, environmental effects will not have an impact on your building facade.

Flexibility With Transparency or Translucency

Glass can be molded into virtually any shape and made either transparent or translucent. Most architecture today uses transparent glass for a building facade, but the flexibility of the material allows architects to be creative with how it is used. Transparency and translucency provide both functional and aesthetic benefits, so facade engineering experts can use it in many different applications.

Aesthetic Benefits

In addition to all of the functional benefits of a glass facade, one of the biggest advantages is how it looks. A homeowner or business owner can make a statement with their property by using glass creatively to build a magnificent structure. Glass has the unique ability to make a building look sophisticated and achieve virtually any architectural design you desire. Nothing is out of the question when it comes to incorporating glass into architecture, so use the aesthetics of glass to your advantage.

BE Structural has many years of expertise dealing with glass and all things revolving around facade engineering. If you’re looking for a way to make your home or business stand out, glass architecture is the way to do it. Don’t hesitate to contact us at any time for a consultation to see how our experts can help you design the structure you desire.

Structural glass engineering

The Impact of Glass Architecture for the Future

Glass architecture has been around for hundreds of years, and has been used primarily for certain interior and exterior applications in commercial buildings. The use of glass has evolved tremendously even within the last decade or so to the point where it’s no longer surprising to see a structural glass facade on a building. Based on recent trends, structural glass engineering will continue to evolve and have significant impacts on all areas of life and business.

Industries Using Glass Architecture

Some of the first uses of glass included cathedrals and churches. Now you see glass used in the sports industry, hospitality, retail and even public sector developments. While a glass facade still serves a functional purpose to let natural light into a building, it’s no longer the sole purpose. Glass is now being used to make a statement for many different industries and businesses.

Technology Has Improved The Role of Glass

Technological advances have allowed structural glass engineering experts to use glass in more ways than ever before. Whether it’s energy efficiency or providing a higher comfort level for occupants inside a particular building, glass serves a similar purpose as many other architectural components today. A building envelope can be greatly improved with the use of glass by providing a high level of structural integrity, energy-efficient properties and more.

Can Glass Respond To The Environment Around You?

As far as the future of structural glass engineering goes, technology is expected to evolve and expand the use of glass even more. Regulating the inside of both residential and office buildings could become much easier in the future with coatings applied to glass that responds to environmental conditions. For example, solar heat gain transmissions would be changed throughout the day depending on where the direct sunlight was hitting the building and other external weather conditions.

Also, the lightening and darkening of a glass facade depending on the amount of sunlight can increase the comfort level of occupants inside a building. This type of technology has been around for many years, but the properties of the glass have advanced to the point where it’s being used on much larger scales.

BE Structural is always on top of the latest trends and technologies when it comes to structural glass engineering. Glass plays an important role in the environment and many aspects of life today, and its role will only continue to increase in importance. Be sure to contact us to learn more about the impact of glass architecture for the future and how we can incorporate it into your home or business.

Structural forensic engineer

How Structures Survive Hurricanes

Hurricanes are some of the most powerful and destructive weather events anyone can experience. The sheer power and force of hurricanes can create devastating damage to structures if they aren’t built with the highest quality materials and precision.

The role of a structural forensic engineer is to analyze damage to structures caused by a hurricane. With this analysis, they can get a better picture of how buildings need to be constructed to protect them from these major events in the future. It’s not impossible for a structure to survive a hurricane with minimal damage, but there are key factors that must be present if there is any chance.

Building Exteriors Are The First Lines of Defense

Without a solid building exterior, a hurricane will rip right through a building. When a forensic investigation occurs following a hurricane, most engineers find that the building was constructed using poor design or materials. Since the building exterior is the first line of defense, proper materials like concrete and masonry, stucco and strong metal cladding are necessary to protect a building. If a building exterior fails, the chances of a structure surviving are minimal.

What Happens If A Building Exterior Fails


A building’s exterior, or sometimes called building envelope, not only has to be constructed with precision and detail, but it also has to be resistant to flying debris during a hurricane. Many forensic engineering studies indicate when a building façade is compromised, the pressure from the winds and rain from a hurricane will rip through and then destroy the interior of the building. Once this occurs, some minor damage can turn into a total loss quickly.

Framing and Foundation

Without a solid foundation and proper frame construction, many homes don’t stand a chance in hurricanes. A lot of emphasis gets put on a building’s exterior, and for good reason, but the foundation and framing also play a large role in whether structures survive a hurricane or not. Many forensic investigations begin with an analysis of the structure’s foundation after a hurricane. If there is damage to the foundation or frame, chances are there will be other significant damage to analyze on the building as well.

Minor Missed Details Lead To Major Disasters

When a structural forensic engineer analyzes hurricane damage, the reasons why a building survived is always clear. Even the minor details like the fasteners used to secure doors, metal or any other material are critical for increasing the chances of a structure surviving the force of a hurricane. These details may seem like they have minimal importance during the construction of a building, but a forensic investigation following hurricane damage will clearly expose the flaws and strengths.

At BE Structural our forensic structural engineers have analyzed hundreds of damaged structures as a result of a hurricane making landfall. We know exactly why a structure survived, and why some structures are destroyed completely. Be sure to contact us to learn more about how buildings can survive hurricanes, especially if you live in a hurricane zone.

 

structural engineering companies

Adding Subsurface Levels to Existing Structures

A common issue many homeowners have is they eventually run out of space. When this happens, their options include adding on to their home or moving to a larger one. But with limited space in urban areas, you may not have enough space to build out, so building down is your only option.

With underground homes becoming more popular worldwide, people are becoming more open to transforming their basement into a habitable living space. Of course, basements aren’t designed to live in, so some significant work has to be done in order to make them livable and safe.

Important Considerations of Adding Subsurface Levels

When structural engineering consultants do any work to basements, they have to take several things into consideration:

  • Structural Support – your home has to have the proper structural support down through the basement area in order to add subsurface levels. If an existing basement floor is lower than the underside of foundation walls, then the structure will not settle properly and could lead to collapsing.
  • Benching – this is the concrete bench built on top of a stable excavations slope. It’s an important process for structural engineering consultants, so be sure to learn about the process so you know your contractor is well-versed and qualified.
  • Underpinning – this is a necessary task if your basement floor is lower than the underside of your foundation wall. You have to excavate below the existing wall and add concrete to essentially extend the foundation downward.

The Role of Facade Engineering Companies

All structural engineering companies have to do a thorough analysis of your existing structure prior to doing any work. Inspections must be thorough in order to ensure safety and security of the structure prior to, during and after the building process. Always ask for the qualifications of any structural engineering companies you work with so you can feel comfortable with the service provided.

Challenges With Adding Subsurface Levels

Any time you add a subsurface level to an existing structure, you are going to run into some challenges. Some of those challenges include a shallow sewer drain, being too close to another structure and problems with the soil during the excavation process. Some of these issues can be found during the inspection phase, but others may only become known during the building process.
At BE Structural, our engineers are well-versed with adding subsurface levels to existing structures. We ensure thorough inspections are completed so there are minimal surprises during the entire building process. If you’re in the need for some extra space and want to build downward instead of upward, give us a call to see how we can help.

Custom underground homes

The Myths Surrounding Underground Homes

While underground homes are becoming more popular, there are still plenty of misconceptions about them. As with anything, the myths surrounding these earth-sheltered homes come from people not being aware of how they are designed and constructed. It’s easy to believe the most common myths, but structural engineers and architects can quickly debunk them. Here are some of the myths you’re likely to hear about custom underground homes and why they aren’t true.

Myth #1: Underground Homes Are Dark

People believe underground homes are dark because there’s no natural light source. However, most underground home plans are constructed with windows strategically placed to allow in natural light and either have domed ceilings or skylights. Domed ceilings are popular since they are co-linear, and light actually gets magnified on them rather than bouncing off like traditional ceilings.

Myth #2: Bugs Are Bad in Underground Homes

Many insects find their homes in the ground, so it’s natural to think there will be more bugs in an underground home. But the reality is bugs are generally less of a problem due to the homes being constructed mostly with concrete rather than wood. Bugs like termites aren’t usually a problem in underground homes for this reason. Other insects won’t cause more of a problem than they already do with traditional homes.

Myth #3: Underground Homes Are Damp and Cold

Possibly the most common myth about custom underground homes is they seem cold and damp, somewhat like a cave, but in fact the opposite is true. Underground homes actually retain the earth’s natural heat. There have been enough earth-sheltered homes built where structural engineers and architects know how to create the proper ventilation, drainage and waterproofing to ensure these points aren’t an issue. Most of the time this is achieved by incorporating a domed ceiling, but there are other ways to prevent cold and damp homes depending on the landscape in which the home is built.

BE Structural has a team of structural engineers to help debunk any possible myths about underground homes. While these homes have plenty of value, it’s understandable why some people are skeptical about the functionality of them. For more information on underground home plans in general, and to dispel any of the myths you’ve heard about them, be sure to email us at any time.

Underground homes

Underground Communities: Are They in the Near or Distant Future?

As the world population continues to increase, cities are more crowded than ever before. Some cities and countries are more populated than others, but it still begs the question: why can’t underground communities become the norm to create more space?

Underground homes aren’t the norm worldwide, but we are seeing more of them come up in different countries. There are many benefits to building concrete underground homes, so having complete underground communities could legitimately be a trend in the future. Underground homes and communities will likely be in our future, but the main question is how quickly will they become the norm?

Urban Crowds May Expedite Underground Living

Crowded cities are becoming a problem, especially in countries like Singapore. People have nowhere to go, traffic is terrible and they are simply running out of space to live. As the population continues to grow in the United States as well, it wouldn’t be surprising if underground homes start to become a trend in the near future. And when that happens, complete underground communities won’t be very far behind.

Once a trend starts to take off, everyone wants to follow suit, which could bode well for the future of underground communities. We won’t be seeing them a year or two from now, but with the expected population growth in the next decade being enormous, all options will be on the table.

For Some Countries, The Future of Underground Communities is Now

Singapore, China and other countries are extremely crowded because there’s not enough land to house everyone. The role of a structural engineering company is to evaluate the land and provide different options for people to live in these countries. The success of underground homes will lead to full underground communities at some point. In developing countries, this future may be closer than expected. But in developed countries, we still may be looking at several years or decades down the road before underground communities become the norm.

Underground Communities May Become Inevitable

The concept of living in concrete underground homes seems futuristic to many people. Cities are going to become more crowded every year, so what seems like a trend right now may become a necessity. Underground communities offer many benefits to the homeowners and also to the general public in an area. It will open up more urban living spaces and give homeowners a safe and secure place to live outside of the city.

BE Structural is a structural engineering company that looks at all different options when it comes to building homes and communities. While concrete underground homes may not be the norm worldwide right now, our engineers believe complete underground communities will become the norm before you know it. If you have any questions about underground homes in general, or if you are considering one for yourself, feel free to contact us at any time.

Custom underground homes

These Underground Homes Will Blow Your Mind!

Underground homes are still a new, and sometimes unheard of, concept in the United States. However, custom underground homes are becoming more popular by the day worldwide. If you’re going to invest in an underground home, you should think about all possible characteristics you would want in a home, and see if a residential structural engineer approves them from a safety standpoint. And if you don’t know what to even consider, check out these custom underground homes for inspiration.

The Hidden Lair in Switzerland

This beautiful underground home is strategically placed in the natural landscape of the rolling hills of Switzerland. It’s one of the most unique underground home plans you’ll see anywhere, and it looks like a home you would see in a fictional movie rather than in real life. You can literally walk over a hill and stumble upon this home in all of its natural glory.

Flower-Shaped Home in Bolton, U.K.

Former British football star Gary Neville had this home designed in one of the most unique ways you’ll ever see. From an aerial view, the home looks like a flower, with the petals being separate openings to let in natural light. Each petal also has different aspects and features, so the entire home has something different to look at in all areas.

Stone Home in Greece

Underground home plans in the middle of the desert may not seem like the best idea, but this one incorporates all of the best elements perfectly. It’s located between two hillsides and is constructed of thick and durable stone. The eco-friendly design allows it to use natural light, heating and cooling with the most efficiency. If you just happen to be passing through the desert and see this structure, you probably won’t even realize someone lives in it!

Grassy Roof Home in Poland

The great thing about custom underground homes is you can get as creative as you want. This home has a grass-filled roof that is only accessible for the resident via a staircase from inside the home. The roof is actually level with the ground, so from a distance, you won’t even realize there’s a home there.

When you’re considering a custom underground home, don’t be afraid to put your residential structural engineer to the test. BE Structural has the best structural engineers to ensure the safety of your underground home, no matter how creative you are with your designs. Be sure to contact us if you have a design idea for an underground home or if you want to learn more about them in general.