Tag: forensic structural engineering

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

Structural engineering

3 Types of Failures in a Steel Structure

Steel structures are unique in both an appearance and construction aspect. Steel is an extremely strong material with many different levels of strengths and members that all have to be connected correctly in order to make a building structurally sound. Not all steel members are created equally with the same strength, so structural engineering professionals must test the strength of each member against the force put against it during construction. Not doing so can lead to structural failure, which can cause devastating consequences. Here are three of the most common types of failures in steel structures that every structural engineering company sees.

Beam Failure

Beam failure in steel structures doesn’t occur very often, but it is a legitimate concern every structural engineer has to be conscious of. This type of failure happens when a beam doesn’t flex properly or experiences something called lateral torsional buckling. Since pressure is typically not applied directly to the center of the beam during construction, twisting can occur. Failure typically happens when the beam is not braced with anything to support the twisting motion.

Tension Failure

Every structural engineer knows the risks and consequences of trying to stretch any given material too much. When designing any given member in tension, structural engineering professionals must be cautious of a possible net section rupture or block shear failure. These are two common failures directly related to tension, but typically do not occur when an experienced structural engineer works on the project.

Connection Failure

Connection failure is by far the most common type of failure in a steel structure. The connection is typically the first component to fail if the force of the load is more than anticipated. When a structural engineer designs the construction of a building, they use precise calculations to determine the strength of bolts or other connections needed. However, one minor miscalculation or a misstep in the construction process can lead to unpredicted force and failure at that particular connection. The challenge for every structural engineer is to take human error into consideration during the construction phase and design the connections to withstand a little more force than calculated.

BE Structural is here to help with your commercial or residential construction project, structural inspection, complete building renovation and anything else related to your building. We are proud to have a diverse group of structural engineering professionals so we can handle any project, no matter how large or small it is. To learn more about how our team can help you or your company, contact us today.

Structural engineering company

The Answers Behind the Miami Pedestrian Bridge Collapse

Back in March 2018, a pedestrian bridge under construction in Miami collapsed and killed six people. The project was designed to create a unique walkway to help students at Florida International University cross the highway safely. However, the unique design proved to be too difficult to accomplish and a fatal flaw in the construction process was never discovered. In the several months since the accident occurred, more answers have surfaced as structural engineering experts have been analyzing the situation and have contributed countless hours of investigative work.

What Caused The Bridge To Collapse?

Structural engineering experts have concluded that the complex structural design of the bridge left an obvious weakness at a connection point. This is most likely the reason why the bridge collapsed, since the amount of stress put on the concrete brace was too much for it to handle. As every structural engineer evaluates the situation, it’s becoming even clearer this was the problem that led to the devastating consequences.

The Bridge Was Not Structurally Sound or Logical

Prior to the pedestrian bridge collapsing, engineers noticed cracks in the concrete and became worried. Investigators believe the construction crew was working to tighten the steel rods in the support truss in order to address the cracks when the bridge collapsed. It’s possible the overtightening of the steel rods led to them snapping and causing the bridge to collapse under its own weight.

What’s being discussed at length is the design of the bridge itself. The unique design seemed like a good idea, but it’s clear it was a little too over-the-top for the structural engineering team working on it. Some of the findings by independent structural engineering firms have led to similar conclusions, which are that it’s inconclusive as to who is actually at fault. The atypical design of the bridge did not make it structurally sound, but the calculations and plans for the project did not clearly indicate what the root cause of the issue was.

The Role of Structural Engineers in The Investigation

Answers will still be coming over the course of several months or years, and structural engineering experts will be at the forefront of them. The role of a structural engineering company and its experts is to present the facts to the investigative team. As of now, it appears the structural design was the main cause for the bridge collapsing, but as further evidence is discovered by structural engineering experts, those answers could change.

BE Structural is a structural engineering company that is well-rounded in anything involved with structural engineering. We are experts in more than just traditional engineering and construction, and always think outside of the box to better serve our customers. Feel free to contact us at any time to learn more about the Miami pedestrian bridge collapse or about how our company can serve you.

Facade engineering

Structural Engineers Aim to Assist in a Zero-Waste Future

Excessive waste is a serious problem across many different industries, but it’s especially problematic in construction. It seems like no matter how much effort is put forth to reduce waste, the issue is still prevalent. Structural engineers are putting their best foot forward to create a zero-waste future, and with a continuous effort, they could be successful. From the design process to the components used and even bulk materials handling, here are ways structural engineers will have an impact on significantly reducing waste.

Detachable Building Components

Through forensic engineering investigations, results indicate a significant amount of waste can be reduced by using materials that can be detached rather than demolished. And even further in the future, the detached components could be recycled and used in other applications. Detachable components are far from being usable today, but it is something on the radar of every structural engineer.

Design For The Future

Another thing structural engineers are doing is requesting that the design teams think about the future of the building throughout the design process. Things to think about include how a building could potentially expand, be repurposed or have other functional implementation. Planning ahead in this manner could reduce the chances of having to demolish materials in order to expand or repurpose any given building.

Maintain High Performance, While Minimizing Resources

Technology is continuing to advance, whether it’s regarding facade engineering or any other component of the construction process. Structural engineers are placing an emphasis on using the latest technology to their advantage in order to use fewer resources, but still keeping performance at high levels. Many advancements in technology are designed specifically for this purpose, but they aren’t necessarily used accordingly.

Continuous Effort Will Reduce Waste

The more forensic engineering investigations that identify waste, the more structural engineers will push for a zero-waste future. We have come a long way in our efforts of reducing waste, but there is still a long way to go to eliminate it completely. When everyone involved in the construction process gets onboard with waste-reduction efforts, the better the chances are of it becoming a reality.

At BE Structural, our structural engineers and facade engineering experts constantly think about different ways to reduce waste. Through diligent and continuous efforts, we all work together and contribute to waste reduction practices. To learn more about how we are working together in our efforts to reduce waste, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.

Structural forensic engineer

Forensic Engineering Explores Steel Framing After a Fire

One of the many roles of forensic engineering services people may not be aware of is assessing steel framing following a fire in a building. Steel can withstand high temperatures, and sometimes it may even look like it was unaffected after a fire. However, even if it appears to be normal, the integrity of the steel could have been compromised. A structural forensic engineer looks at many different factors to determine the integrity and viability of steel framing following a fire. Here are some of those factors, along with some background on how fire affects steel.

How A Fire’s Temperature Impacts Steel Strength

The higher a fire’s temperature is, the more steel will be impacted. The framing could buckle and twist, as well as experience a reduction in stiffness and overall yield strength. But the unique thing about steel is it’s possible for it to regain all its properties back if the fire’s temperature does not exceed 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit for more than about 20 minutes. However, if the temperature is higher than that or it takes longer for the fire to be extinguished, then a structural forensic engineer will likely find some major issues with the integrity of the steel.

Determining Whether Steel is Usable After A Fire

If you happen to watch steel framing as a fire is taking place, the average person will deem it unusable. However, buckling and other deformations can occur in steel at relatively low temperatures. This does not mean the overall integrity of the steel framing is completely and permanently compromised, though. Each situation is unique, which is why forensic engineering practices are needed to determine exactly whether steel framing is strong enough for people to even walk into, much less use the building ever again.

How Forensic Engineers Assess Steel Framing

A structural forensic engineer will look at the external appearance of steel to determine how high the temperature of a fire got, and how long it remained at that temperature. If the steel looks a normal color and there are no other obvious deformities, then most likely the temperature was less than 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. But if the temperature exceeded that number, then the surface of the steel may appear oxidized, show signs of pitting, reduction of thickness and will have a different color. Once the structural forensic engineer determines the severity of the impact the fire had on the steel framing, he can determine whether the steel is usable as it is, if it can be used with slight modifications or if a complete replacement is needed.

BE Structural has a solid team of experts to provide many different forensic engineering services. A fire can cause an extensive amount of damage in a short period of time, so it’s important to have a structural engineer analyze the damage to deem the building safe or unsafe. To learn more about how the process works, feel free to contact us at any time.

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.

Building envelope inspection

Common Mistakes Made When Building Envelopes Fail

A building envelope is important to keep the inside of the building safe, as well as maintain the overall integrity of the building. However, when a failure is identified, action needs to be taken right away in order to prevent major issues from occurring. Not only could these issues lead to an increase in costs, but they could also create an unsafe environment. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when a building envelope fails, and what you should do instead.

Not Having A Sense of Urgency

An issue with a building envelope isn’t going to fix itself. In fact, it’s only going to get worse before it gets better until you take action to repair it. If you’re dealing with a moisture leak, air leak or other problem, having a sense of urgency to fix it will prevent long-term damage from occurring. Depending on the type of issue, it may be worth it to bring in a building envelope engineering company to evaluate the issue and determine the source of the problem.

Temporarily Fixing The Problem

It’s easy to add some sealant or tape to a leaking area. However, that’s doing nothing to actually fix the problem. Conducting a temporary fix may work for a few days or even a few months, but more times than not it will lead to bigger issues in the future. A simple building envelope inspection can help you identify exactly what went wrong so you can fix the leak or other issues properly and never have to worry about it again.

Not Identifying The Source of The Failure

Finding the source of the building envelope failure is easier said than done for most people, which is why many people don’t take the time to do it. If you find water on the inside of your building, it means there’s a problem on the outside of the building most likely. Simply putting a patch on the inside to plug the leak will force the water to go in a different direction to cause a similar problem. This is just one example of not identifying and fixing the source of the failure. Not conducting a thorough building envelope inspection in these situations is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

BE Structural wants to ensure you don’t make these common mistakes when dealing with building envelope failure. We are a building envelope engineering company with extensive experience in not only identifying issues, but recommending the best course of action and following through with taking action. If you haven’t conducted a building envelope inspection in a while, contact us today to see how we can help protect the integrity of your building.

Structural forensic engineer

3 Ways Due Diligence Can Extend the Life of a Building

Identifying and diagnosing problems with a building can help reduce the frequency of major issues and extend the life of a building. However, regular facility managers sometimes don’t have an experienced eye for identifying detailed structural issues, and aren’t provided with the technology to assist. The role of a structural forensic engineer is to conduct due diligence investigations to identify both hidden issues and issues seen by the naked eye. Here are three ways a due diligence forensic investigation can extend the life of a building by many years.

Investigating Potential Structural Deficiencies

Structural and design deficiencies are important to uncover as early as possible. Many facilities hire forensic engineering companies to look for potential issues that may lead to an unsafe environment, or potentially cause other issues down the road. Correcting structural deficiencies like foundation problems, roofing issues and building envelope failures can help save a lot of money on repairs in the future and extend the life of the building.

Identifying Patterns of Failure

Every building is different, so there’s no standard when it comes to what component of a building will fail first or most often. An experienced structural forensic engineer not only can identify an issue, but also determine the root cause of the issue with a little investigating. This is one of the main reasons why property condition assessments are recommended. Some issues require the expertise of a trained professional, whether it’s patterns of failure or just individual problems.

Use Technology Advantageously

During a full forensic investigation, experts will use different devices to detect issues in a building. The technology used can range from infrared devices that measure the amount of moisture in a structure’s wall system to x-ray imaging, electromagnetic equipment and more. Using advanced technology can help quickly identify the source of an issue. The benefits of quick identification of the source of an issue are many but most important is the ability to intervene early.  Allowing a water leak or other problem to continue for any amount of time can be dangerous and significantly decrease the life and overall serviceability of the building.

At BE Structural, we have a team of experienced professionals ready to conduct any type of forensic investigation needed on your building. Doing your due diligence will save a lot of headaches, time and money in the long run, so calling in the experts for an investigation periodically is worth it. We understand every building is unique and complex, so contact us today to see how our services can be beneficial to you now and in the future.

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.

 

Forensic structural engineering

Hurricanes Force Building Codes to Improve

Building sustainable structures to withstand the harsh elements of hurricanes is one of the major challenges we face today. One of the main goals of forensic structural engineering is to analyze damage done to structures after a hurricane, so stronger and more sustainable building processes and materials can be used in the future. The combination of hurricane damage and forensic engineering has forced building codes to improve in various ways. Improvement of building codes is important not only to protect buildings, but to also reduce safety hazards for people in the area.

Focus on Exterior Building Components

Most improvements to building codes focus on the exterior components of a building. The first thing structural forensic investigation services will look at in a hurricane-damaged structure is what went wrong with the building envelope. If the exterior of a building gets damaged during a hurricane event, then the damage will likely be present on the interior as well, which can create big issues for that particular structure and surrounding structures.

The Role of Forensic Structural Engineering in Building Code Improvement

Since the role of a structural engineer is to ensure a structure is designed properly to withstand the force of a hurricane, forensic structural engineering is critical in order to make improvements and determine probable cause of the failure. The analysis and recommendations by forensic structural engineers play a big role in the improvement of building codes. In most cases, building codes become more stringent especially wind and seismic loading conditions. For instance, a hurricane- prone coastal city may change their design criteria for new residential and commercial structures after a devastating storm wreaks havoc with deadly wind speeds reaching all time highs. The new codes will require new structures to withstand a higher wind speed than they did prior to the storm.  The same is true after earthquakes and changes in seismic loading conditions.

As Technology Advances, So Will Engineering

Not only does emerging technology help provide forensic structural engineers with the proper tools to do a thorough analysis of buildings, but it will also help construct stronger buildings. Building codes will only become more stringent as storms get worse.

Structural forensic engineer

Assessing Structural Damage After a Hurricane

Hurricanes are extremely powerful forces of nature and should never be taken lightly. Building codes are constantly becoming stronger and more defined in order to prevent structural damage to buildings as much as possible. Any time a hurricane makes landfall to an area, forensic engineering takes over to assess the structural damage. Some buildings and homes may seem like they were unharmed, while others may be completely destroyed. The role of a structural forensic engineer is to confirm probable cause or origin and to determine the extent of structural damage as a result.

What Happens in a Structural Damage Assessment

When structural damage is assessed after a hurricane, there are both big picture views and detailed views that must be taken into consideration. In the big picture, experts may take an aerial view of a particular area to see the widespread damage. In a detailed picture, a structural forensic engineer will analyze an existing structure, usually a building or home, and make an onsite assessment of their current condition after the weather event. The foundation walls, the building frame, the building roof and facade are all major structural systems that must be evaluated to determine current condition after the storm.  Once this is complete, a structural engineer will usually prepare a report documenting his or her findings while onsite and final conclusions thereafter. All components of a particular structure are assessed to better protect the buildings in the future.

The Role of Structural Engineers in Hurricane Damage Assessments

There are many challenges a structural forensic engineer faces during a hurricane damage assessment. Since the damage caused by a hurricane could be in the form of wind, rain, flooding or other flying objects, the engineer must be able to determine the sole cause of the damage to a location. Damage to a roof is caused by wind most of the time, but interior damage may be caused by water. A structural engineer must be able to assess all of the damage to know what construction methods and materials can be used in the future to prevent similar damage.

Preventing Damage in The Future

Following a hurricane structural damage assessment, forensic engineering experts will analyze their findings to determine the best ways to prevent damage in the future. The role of underground homes may play a significant role in the near or distant future, as these homes will generally be less vulnerable to hurricane damage. However, these underground homes likely won’t be prominent in the United States for several decades, so experts are constantly looking for ways to improve building codes to prevent structural damage to buildings as much as possible.

BE Structural has an experienced team of forensic structural engineers who are ready to assess structural damage after any hurricane makes landfall. We use these assessments in our own construction and renovation projects to ensure the safest and most effective materials are used. To learn more about the process of hurricane structural damage assessments or other structural concerns, contact us at any time.

BE Structural forensic structural engineering

When Buildings Fail: Examining Historical Architectural Collapses

Buildings in general are designed and built to stand for many years with the proper upkeep. However, the reality is buildings fail occasionally, and a structural forensic engineer will be needed to determine the cause of the failure. Buildings can fail for a variety of reasons, including natural disasters, design flaws, poor site conditions or construction defects, among others. Let’s take a look back at a few of the most notable architectural collapses throughout history and the world.

1. Sampoong Department Store – Seoul, South Korea, June 29, 1995

This building collapse was considered the deadliest building collapse in history until the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. More than 500 people died in the collapse and over 900 other people were injured. A forensic structural engineering company deemed the collapse to be the result of structural failure.

2. Viale Giotto Building – Foggia, Italy, November 11, 1999

The Viale Giotto building was a six-story apartment complex, which collapsed in a matter of a few seconds. The vast majority of the people in the complex at the time of the collapse survived. A structural forensic engineer on the case determined the main causes of the collapse were substandard materials used during the construction process and less-than-stellar workmanship.

3. Lotus Riverside Complex – Shanghai, China, June 27, 2009

The Lotus Riverside Complex was a 13-story apartment building that collapsed before its construction was ever completed. Many people in the case testified as an expert witness, since the collapse was a result of trying to rush the project and not using the best quality materials or labor efforts. The majority of the units available had already been sold, so there were understandably many tenants who demanded their money back after the collapse.

4. Savar Building – Bangladesh, April 24, 2013

The Savar Building was an eight-story building, which contained several businesses. Those included different shops, a bank and even apartment rooms. More than 1,100 people died in the building collapse, and more than 2,500 people were saved. When a structural forensic engineer interviewed expert witnesses, it was determined there were multiple cracks on the walls, which rendered it a structural failure.

At BE Structural, we can help provide expert witness testimony in any building structural failures similar to these historical architectural collapses. Be sure to contact us if representation is needed in an architectural failure of any magnitude.

Building Envelope Forensics

Identify leaks with the help of a structural engineering company.

A structural engineering company can help identify leaks.

When it comes to problems with building enclosures, the solution is usually never as simple as it seems. You may think a small pool of water in your office is just the result of a little leak in need of repair, but most of the time the root cause is much larger. The average person likely won’t be able to find the problem when a building envelope fails. In fact, it usually takes a structural engineering company to inspect the building to determine the true root cause. Building envelope forensics requires a basic knowledge, combined with expert investigative work, to get to the bottom of the issue.

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