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  • 1.  Speed of News of Failure

    Posted 01-06-2020 09:32 AM
    The internet has increased the speed and urgency of news of structural failure.  Whether it is a major incident, such as the Hard Rock Hotel collapse, or something on a smaller scale... news of any failure tends to travel fast.  A small scale incident can make national or international headlines in no time.  Sometimes there are underlying engineering issues and other times, there are contractor or code compliance problems at hand.  The media is generally not able to provide in depth explanation of the how and why upon the initial news.  I do not know of any indication that such collapses are occurring with greater frequency, but visibility has certainly increased, the definition of local news has expanded.

    Damaged Hard Rock hotel will be completely demolished, New Orleans officials say

    Building brick that killed NYC architect cited for damaged masonry

    2 workers injured following roof collapse at Westport construction site

    Dozens injured when floor collapses during college party

    Has the speed of media impacted the diligence on your projects?  Should the size of the project dictate the amount of attention it receives?  How should engineers react to such stories of local or national impact?

    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI

  • 2.  RE: Speed of News of Failure

    Posted 01-07-2020 08:41 AM
    Edited by Irfan Alvi 01-07-2020 12:24 PM

    You've asked good questions. 

    I've been studying structural failures throughout my career of three decades so far.  It's hard to measure the impact of these failures on the profession, but my sense is that, while media coverage of failures does generally have some impact on the profession, a failure needs to involve substantial loss of life for there to be a substantial impact on the profession (to the extent that there's a noticeable change in practices).  It seems that near-misses and failures with little or no loss of life tend to have limited impact on the profession, even if they make the headlines.

    I agree that media coverage of such failures tends to lack depth, and is sometimes biased or factually inaccurate.  The profession needs, and benefits from, thorough and unbiased investigations of failures, by qualified experts, with the forensic reports being widely disseminated, but not all major failures are investigated in this way.

    Irfan A. Alvi, P.E., M.ASCE
    President & Chief Engineer
    Alvi Associates, Inc.
    Towson, Maryland