Tag: structural forensic engineer

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.

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.

Building envelope consultants

Building Envelopes Cause a Rise in Energy

Saving energy is important in more ways than one. However, you could be wasting a significant amount of energy every day and not even know it. Even a minor leak in your building envelope can cause air from the inside to escape, or air from the outside to enter. This causes your HVAC system to run more often than it should, leading to wasted energy and higher costs. You can do inspections on your own, but it’s also well worth the investment to hire a facade engineering company to do a thorough inspection periodically as well.

Building Envelope Failure Leads to Higher Energy Costs

One of the main ways to lower your energy costs is to ensure your HVAC system is running as efficiently as it can. Having a leaky building envelope is one way to guarantee your system is working harder than it needs to. The source of the air infiltration can be virtually anywhere. The challenge is not only plugging up the air leak, but also determining what caused the leak to begin with so the problem can be addressed permanently instead of temporarily.

How to Inspect Your Building Envelope

The most likely areas for air leakage are around doors, windows and other cracks, seams and joints. Examine the integrity of these areas and see if you can identify anything out of the ordinary. In many cases, you can put your hand close to the area and feel if there’s a draft coming from the outside. But in more difficult situations, calling a facade engineering company to conduct an inspection for you can ensure you’ll identify the right issue and fix it to perfection.

Don’t Hesitate to Contact A Professional

When you’re dealing with building envelope failure, one of the best things you can do is hire building envelope consultants to do an inspection. In fact, scheduling these professionals to come out to your building frequently will not only help identify and fix the issues quickly, but also prevent issues from occurring in the first place. The cost of hiring professionals is minimal when you compare it to the potential wasted money on your energy bills as a result of a leaky building.

BE Structural is comprised of a team of building envelope consultants ready to help you do a thorough inspection of your building. Energy costs are rising for various reasons, so having a secure building creates more energy efficiency and cost savings. Be sure to reach out to us to see how our professional inspections can help you save energy, time and money.

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.

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 engineering services

The Various Ways Forensic Engineering Works

Forensic engineering comes in many different forms. Forensic engineering services are most often needed in order to determine why a building or structure failed. However, they can also be used in electrical engineering cases, power plant explosions and other types of investigations. A structural forensic engineer will never see the same case twice in their career, so there are many different ways they have to work in order to get to the root of the issue to determine fault.

Bridge Collapses

When a bridge collapses or starts deteriorating, you can guarantee expert witness services will be on the scene very shortly afterward. It’s important for these experts to get to the scene as soon as possible to look for any signs or clues of why the bridge failed. The failure could have been the result of a natural disaster that compromised the integrity of the bridge, or it could have been because of a design or construction malfunction from prior years.

Commercial Building Failures

Commercial buildings are investigated in a similar way as bridge collapses. However, with more people potentially in a commercial building at the time it could collapse, it’s even more important for forensic engineering services to find the cause.

A structural forensic engineer can be used in court to explain their expert opinion and what they saw when they visited the scene. Many times, their expert witness services can help solve a case and determine who is at fault. Unfortunately, injury, property damage and death and occur at the scene of commercial building failures. That’s why the importance of a structural forensic engineer is unmatched.

Forensic Engineers Get to the Root of the Problem

The main objective of any structural forensic engineer is to determine exactly what happened to cause the building or structure to collapse. Their job isn’t to convict anyone of wrongdoing. Instead, they present the facts as they see them. Many times, they have to re-create the entire story from the time the building was built until the time it collapsed. That’s exactly how they are able to solve a potential mystery.

At BE Structural, we have a team of structural forensic engineers ready to investigate any building or structural failure. We’ve provided expert witness services for these types of cases for many years, so feel free to contact us if you’re in the need of any of our quality services.

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.

Forensic Engineering: Crane Collapse on the Tappan Zee Bridge

expert forensic witness

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Tappan Zee Bridge in New York is one of the busiest, since it connects the city’s northern suburbs. It’s estimated that around 138,000 cars travel on the bridge every day. It is currently undergoing construction, which is scheduled for completion in 2018. However, the completion date may be set back slightly after the recent collapse of one of the cranes being used for the bridge’s construction.

The crane supposedly malfunctioned and fell on the bridge, which caused the lanes to be shut down for hours. Fortunately, only minor injuries were sustained, including one construction worker, but the investigation into what caused the malfunction is just beginning.

More info