Figure 1: Two views of a toppled 13-storey apartment building that buried one worker in Shanghai on 27th June 09. Photo: Reuters
been carried out in the past 70years, there is no consensus onthe cause of this failure! However,several remedial measures havebeen undertaken in the past to keepthe tower serviceable till now.This article is concerned withanother unique foundation failure ofa building in China and the lessonslearnt from this rare failure.
Rare FoundationFailure in Shanghai,China
At around 5:30am on June 27,2009, an unoccupied 13-storeyblock of flat building, still underconstruction, at Lianhuanan Roadin the Minhang district of Shanghaicity toppled over and ended up lyingon its side in a muddy constructionfield (see Fig.1). One worker waskilled. The official Xinhua NewsAgency said that a 28-year-oldworker, surnamed Xiao, had goneinto the building to get his toolsand tried to jump out the windowwhen the building fell. He was fromAnhui province in eastern China.Construction work on the blockappeared to have been nearlycompleted, with windows fitted anda tiled facade. Other identical blocksin the same property developmentwere still standing nearby (seeFig.1).Initially, it was thought that a70 m section of the flood preventionwall in the nearby Dianpu Rivermight have triggered this buildingcollapse.China’s official news agency,Xinhua, reported that officials weretaking appropriate control measuresagainst nine people, including thedeveloper, construction contractorand supervisor of the project after itwas found that the company’sconstruction license had expired in2004.
Cause of Failure
The cause of the building collapsein Shanghai was due to a pressuredifference on two sides of thestructure, according to aninvestigation report released at agovernment press conference.Improper construction methods arebelieved to be the reason of thebuilding collapse in Shanghai,according to a report from theinvestigation team. The investigationteam’s report said that workers dugan underground garage on one sideof the building while on the otherside earth was heaped up to 10mhigh, which was apparently an errorin construction, according to areport on eastday.com, Shanghai’sofficial news website.There were also reports sayingthat cracks on the flood-preventionwall near the building, as well asthe special geological condition inthe water bank area, may be part ofthe reason for the collapse.However, these factors were notfound to be the basic reason ofthis accident. An official investigationhas said that the accident was dueto the construction company’signorance, rather than flaws in thedesign or building materials.However, the report stopped shortof apportioning blame, and hasbeen criticized for failing to addresskey issues.The report said the collapsewas caused by earth, excavatedalong the building on one side witha depth of 4.6 m, for an undergroundcar park, and piled up to depths ofup to 10 m on the other side of thestructure (see Fig. 2). The weight ofoverburden earth created a pressuredifferential, which led to a shift inthe soil structure, eventuallyweakening the foundations andcausing them to fail. This situationmight have been aggravated byseveral days of heavy rain leadingup to the collapse, but investigatorsdid not site this as a crucial factor.The report said the constructioncompany - Shanghai ZhongxinConstruction did not anticipate that
NBM&CW AUGUST 2009101