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Many of the high-profile structural failures of the 20th century date to the same narrow window of time, around the 70's and 80's. To name a few:
1968 - Hartford Coliseum1968 - Ronan Point1971 - Kansas City Hyatt Regency1973 - Bailey's Crossroads1978 - Citicorp Center1979 - Kemper Arena1987 - L'Ambience Plaza1988 - Save-On Foods Burnaby, BC
Is there something unique about this era that ties these failures together?
Christian, we do indeed learn much from failures, especially if we seek to understand them. But, I believe that the Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway failure occurred in 1981, rather than 1971. I remember reading articles in Engineering News Record about it. I was early in my career and it got my attention how easily it can be for things to slip past us if we don't draw our "free body diagrams". That was a lesson one of my professors always stressed, and it has served me well over the years. Even if you don't run the calculations, it I'll at least give you perspective. Thanks for the walk Down memory lane.
You are correct, 1981. That case was also used by my engineering professors as to the importance of FBDs. I also use it mentoring junior engineers as to the consequences of not sticking to the basics of engineering. I'm afraid however that the importance of the basics are getting lost in some schools. My most recent mentee earned an ABET accredited BSME without having to take a materials science course.There are more recent failures of note, the Champlain Towers collapse (though that was an older structure) and the FIU pedestrian bridge collapse.
Thanks and good catch. Pardon the typo on my end.I agree with Terry and Tony that free body diagrams, equilibrium, and basic mechanics are key to understanding structures, and I share your concern that graduates may be missing foundational skills. Yet, anecdotally I'm not seeing the scale of large high-profile failures in those structures designed by today's engineers. I'm open to the possibility that I have blind spots here. FIU is a noteworthy recent example, but as Tony points out, Champlain Towers South was designed and built in the early 80's.We could also attribute the Hyatt to scope gaps, limited constructability consideration, lack of internal QC, and informal communication with the contractor, but none of these seem unique to that era. If we accept that the safety of engineered structures ebbs and flows over time, we have to recognize that there are other factors at play besides one-off instances of bad practice or technical errors.
I do not think there was anything special about the era but hopefully we have learned lessons from each of these failures. for example;the Hyatt Regency - review of shop drawings are critical , and do not use eccentric connections Save-On food- steel mill certifications are only proof that the stated material properties have been achieved and can not be used to as justification on relying on higher strengths. For those consultants who know about the project, fee bidding does come with a risk. SEI has a program Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures US (CROSS-US) (cross-safety.org) modelled after the ISTRUCTE program Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK (CROSS-UK) to provide leasons for engineers to learn from
While there might be a common cause that links these failures together, I think it's also important to look at the underlying statistical process for structural failures to test for the likelihood of seeing a run of failures.