You are on page 1of 22

The Failures That Changed the Perception of our Designs

Dr. Subramanian NARAYANAN

Consulting Engineer
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Dr. N. Subramanian earned his PhD from IIT, Madras in 1978 and has 40 years of professional
experience which includes teaching, research, and consultancy in India and abroad. Dr.
Subramanian has authored 25 books and more than 200 technical papers, published in international
and Indian journals and conferences. He has won the Tamil Nadu Scientist Award, the Lifetime
Achievement Award from the Indian Concrete Institute (ICI) and the ACCE(I)-Nagadi best book
award for three of his books. He also served as the past vice-president of ICI and ACCE(I).

Summary high demand for housing and lax regulations

have encouraged some builders to cut corners,
With the dwindling natural resources, it is
use substandard materials or add unauthorized
very important for engineers to avoid failures
extra floors. Let us consider some recent
of any nature and build structures which are
examples: in April 2013, 74 people were killed
safe, stable, economic, aesthetic, durable, and
and 60 people wounded when an eight-story
environment friendly. However, building and
building which was built illegally in the Mumbai
other structural failures are occurring at regular
suburb of Thane in western Maharashtra state
intervals in India. These failures, though well
caved in. It was the worst building collapse in
reported in newspapers, the reasons for these
the country in decades. The probable cause of
collapses are not well documented, even though
the collapse was that an eight-story building was
some committees are appointed in some cases
built instead of a sanctioned four-story building.
to study the failures. If the causes of failures are
Some sources cite that 80% of constructions in
well publicized, designers and builders can learn
Thane are illegal!
from the mistakes done by others and will not
repeat them in their practice. Hence an attempt Another major collapse took place on 27
is made in this paper to describe some important September 2013, at 6 a.m. IST, when a five-
failures that resulted in code clause changes or story building collapsed in the Mazagaon area of
in changes to professional practice. It is high time Mumbai city in Maharashtra killing 61 people and
that legislation is passed in India, similar to those injuring 32 others.
available in Western Countries, such that only
In a recent incident on 28th June 2014 in New
qualified and experienced engineers are allowed
Delhi, 10 people died after a dilapidated four-
to practice, so that failures are minimized.
story building collapsed to the ground. The New
Keywords: Bridge failures, Buckling, Building Delhi collapse was probably triggered by digging
Collapse, Connections, Cooling towers, of the ground in an adjacent plot for foundation
Deflection, Foundation failures, Post-tensioned work. Hours later, on the same day, one of
Steel, Progressive collapse, Wind, Earthquakes, the twin 11-story buildings under construction
Anchor bolt failures, Corrosion, Shear wall, Space collapsed on the outskirts of Chennai, Tamil
frame, Structural failures, Terrorist Attacks Nadu, as heavy rains pounded the area. This
resulted in a massive rescue effort by more than
1.0 Introduction 300 persons, which found that 61 people were
Building collapses are common in India, where killed and 27 injured. The probable causes were

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 23

that 11 stories were built using a structural design when an under-construction over-bridge of the
which was indented for 6 stories only and that a Delhi Metro collapsed in July 2009. A chimney
few columns were removed in the ground floor collapsed in September 2009 at the Balco Plant
indiscriminately! The official report of the failure in Chhattisgarhs Korba district, claiming 41
may be available only after a few months. lives and another 210 m tall newly constructed
concrete chimney at Parichha Thermal Power
Project in UPs Jhansi collapsed in May 2010.
The majority of structural failures all over the
world (whether it is collapse of the structure
or functional failure) are generally attributed
to some engineering problem, such as poor
quality of construction, weak ground conditions,
unauthorized extensions, structural alterations
and no maintenance, and rarely to design
and detailing errors (Brown and Yin 1988 and
Prabhakar, 1998). Table 1 shows the comparison
of principal causes of building failures in USA
during 1977-2000 (Wardhana and Hadipriono,
2003), which also shows that construction
deficiencies are the most frequent cause of

Table 1 Comparison of principal causes of

building failures in USA during 1977-2000a
(Wardhana and Hadipriono, 2003)
Principal Collapse Distress
1977- 1982- 1989- 1977- 1982- 1989-
1981 1988 2000 1981 1988 2000
number number number number number number
(%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%)
Design 14 (23) 5 (14) 7 (3) 12 (40) 1 (11) 1 (6)

Fig.1 One of the twin 11-storey towers at Detailing 6 (10) 5 (14) 2 (1) 5 (17) 1 (11) -
Mugalivakkam near Porur, Chennai collapsed on Con- 22 (37) 12 (32) 52 (25) 6 (20) 2 (22) 11 (65)
28th June, 2014 killing 61 people struction
Maint- 1(2) - 22 (11) 1 (3) 4 (44) 1 (6)
Such failures are common not only in structures
Material 1(2) - 3 (1) 2 (7) - -
built by private builders but also found in
External 16 (27) 11(30) 60 (29) 4 (13) - 1(6)
prestigious government projects. For example, a
Others - 4(11) 61 (29) - 1 (11) 3 (18)
footbridge that was built near the main stadium (NA)
for the Commonwealth Games collapsed in Sept. Total 60 37 207 30 9 (100) 17
2010, just 12 days before the opening ceremony, (100) (100) (100) (100) (100)
injuring 23 construction workers. When 50m aOne case unknown
section of the overhead Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro In order that these failures do not happen in
bridge, at Mumbai came crashing down in Sept. future, we need to learn from these failures. Even
2012, one person died and eight were injured. though some committees are constituted to study
This was a joint venture between Reliance the cause of some import failures in India, most
Infrastructure, Veolia Transport and the Mumbai often the committee reports are not made public.
Metropolitan Regional Development Authority Whereas, in Western countries such reports
(MMRDA). Similarly six persons, including an are made available to the public and hence
engineer, were killed and 13 others injured all concerned agencies can learn from these

24 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer

failures and will not repeat them in their projects. is a 56.4 m tall, circular, eight-story structure
In this paper some of the major failures, which made of white marble. Although intended to
changed our perception of design and detailing stand vertically, the tower began leaning to the
of structures and resulted in modification of code southeast soon after the onset of construction in
clauses are discussed. 1173 due to a poorly laid 3 m deep foundation
and weak, unstable subsoil. Prior to restoration
Foundation Failures work performed between 1990 and 2001, the
Foundations are important to any structure tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the
as the entire load acting on the structure tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees. This
is transmitted to the soil below through the means that the top of the tower is 3.9 m away
foundation only. Due to the complex nature of from the vertical plane through the tower (see
soils and their behaviour, a hybrid approach is Fig. 2).
usually adopted in foundation design in which Several attempts have been made to stabilize
soil bearing pressures are checked based on the foundation movement- details of these may
the working stress method and members of the be found in Subramanian and Muthukumar
foundation are designed using the limit states (1998) and Burland et al. (2009). After a decade
method (Subramanian, 2013). Foundation of corrective reconstruction and stabilization
failures are difficult to rectify and may endanger efforts, the tower was declared stable in 2008
the entire building. Hence it is important to and is expected to stand for at least another 200
design them conservatively. If the footing is not years.
of the required thickness, there is a danger of the
It may be of interest to note that in June 2010,
column piercing through the foundation. Several
the Capital Gate building in Abu Dhabi, UAE was
failures (both partial and total) in the past have
certified as the World's Furthest Leaning Man-
demonstrated the importance of foundation
made Tower; it has a 18-degree slope, almost
failures, especially in poor soils. We will just look
five times as that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa;
at two fascinating foundation failures here.
however this tower is deliberately engineered to
Successful foundation failure
The Tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower of 2.2 Rare Foundation Failure in China
the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa. The tower On June 27, 2009, an unoccupied 13-storey
block of flat building, still under construction,
at Lianhuanan Road in the Minhang district of
Shanghai city, China toppled over and ended
up lying on its side in a muddy construction field
(see Fig. 3). One worker was killed.

Fig. 3 Toppling of a complete structure in China

[Source: Basulto , David. "Building collapse in
Fig. 2 Tower of Pisa, considered as the first
Shanghai" 30 Jun 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 24th
foundation failure (Photo: Er. S. Srinivas)
July 2014.]

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 25

The cause of this building collapse was due to a of Bangladesh killing 1,129 and injuring 2,515
pressure difference on two sides of the structure, people (see Fig. 5). It is considered to be the
according to an investigation report. The deadliest accidental structural failure in modern
report said the collapse was caused by earth, human history.
excavated along the building on one side with a
depth of 4.6 m, for an underground car park, and
piled up to a depth of up to 10 m on the other
side of the structure. The weight of overburden
earth created a pressure differential, which led to
a shift in the soil structure, eventually weakening
the pile foundation and causing it to fail. This
situation might have been aggravated by several
days of heavy rain leading up to the collapse, but
investigators did not site this as a crucial factor.
The sequence of failure of this building is shown
in Fig. 4. More details about this failure may
be found in Subramanian (2009). This failure Fig. 5 Dhaka Savar Building Collapse (Source: http://
underlined the importance of not disturbing the
soil near a construction, even if the building is
The building contained clothing factories, a bank,
supported on piles.
apartments, and several other shops. The shops
and the bank on the lower floors immediately
closed after cracks were discovered in the
building. Warnings to avoid using the building
after cracks appeared, the day before, had been
ignored. Garment workers were ordered to return
the following day and the building collapsed
during the morning rush-hour. The main cause of
failure is probably because the upper four floors
had been built without a permit. It may also be
due to the fact the building was designed only for
shops and offices, but contained factories and
hence the structure was potentially not strong
enough to bear the weight and vibration of heavy
Fig. 4 Sequence of foundation failure of a tall machinery. The Savar building collapse led to
building in Shanghai, China
widespread discussions about the corporate
social responsibility across global supply chains.
Failure of Columns
3.2 Failures of Columns During Earthquakes
Next to foundations, the most important elements
of any structure are its columns, as the failure of Observations in several past earthquakes
a column may result in a catastrophic failure of indicated very poor performance of buildings
the whole structure. Thus, the designer should due to several reasons such as shear-critical
carefully design and detail columns and their columns, weak columns and strong beams,
footings. sudden change in stiffness, plan and vertical
irregularity, unconfined beam-column joints,
3.1 Savar building collapse weak stories (see Fig. 5). Column stiffness is
On 24 April 2013, Rana Plaza, an eight-story inversely proportional to the cube of column
commercial building, collapsed in Savar, a sub- height. Hence, columns with significantly less
district in the Greater Dhaka Area, the capital height than other columns in the same storey
will have much higher lateral stiffness, and

26 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer

consequently will attract much greater seismic The soft first story and weak story irregularities,
shear force. Brittle shear failures have been that are widely used by architects in their designs,
observed in the unsupported zones of such short were the cause of failure of columns in such
captive-columns during several earthquakes stories during earthquakes as demonstrated in
in the past. A mezzanine floor or a loft also Northridge, California (1994); Chichi, Taiwan,
results in the stiffening of some of the columns and Izmit, Turqua, in 1999; and Bhuj, India in
while leaving other columns of the same storey 2001 (see Fig. 6 & 7). Unfortunately buildings
unbraced over their full height. Based on these with such soft first storey/weak storey are still
observations, codes now specify that special being constructed in several parts of India. It is
confining reinforcement be provided over the full because the area enclosed by a soft first story
height in such columns to give them adequate is rewarding to the developer since it is neither
confinement and shear strength. Such confining considered as part of the maximum allowable
reinforcement is also stipulated when shear built-up area, nor for tax control, but is salable as
walls terminate over open storey columns in the car parking area.
ground floor.

Deficiency A: Shear-critical columns Deficiency F: Overall weak frames

Shs in a moment frame or gravity Overall deficint
frame system. system strength
and stiffness,
leding to inadeuacy
of an otherwise
r e a s o n a b l y
configured building

Deficiency B: Unconfined beam-column Joints Deficiency G: Overturning mechanisms

Shear and axial failure of Columns prone to
unconfined beam-column joints, crushing from overturning
particularly corner joints of discontinuous
concrete or masonry infill

Deficiency C: Slab-column connections Deficiency H: Severe plan irregularity

Punching of slab-column Conditions (including
connections under imposed some corner buildings)
lateral drifts. leading to large

Deficiency D: Splice and connectivity Deficiency I: Severe vertical irregularity

Inadequate splices Setbacks causing
in plastic hinge concentration of damage
regions and weak and collapse where stiffness
connectivity between and strength changes. Can
members. also be caused by change
in material or seismic-force-

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 27

Deficiency E: Weak-story mechanism Deficiency J: Pounding
Weak-column, strong-beam Collapse caused by pounding
moment frame or similar of adjacent buildings with
system prone to story different story heights and
collapse from failure of weak non-coincident floors.
columns subjected to large
lateral deformation demands.

Fig.6 Component and system-level seismic deficiencies found in pre-1980 concrete buildings (NIST GCR
10-917-7, 2010)

nominal strength calculated for the factored

axial load in the direction of the lateral force
under consideration so as to give least
column nominal design strength) along each
principal plane shall be at least 1.4 times the
sum of nominal design strength of beams
meeting at that joint in the same plane. In the
event of a beam-column joint not conforming
to above, the columns at the joint shall be
considered to be gravity columns only and
shall not be considered as part of the lateral
load resisting system.
Fig. 7 The columns on one edge of the open first
storey of this building in Bhuj collapsed bringing the Lap splices shall be provided only in the
building down on its side. central half of clear column height, and not
within a joint, or within a distance of 2d (where
Several failures of columns during earthquakes d is the effective depth of column) from face
were also due to the following reasons: (a) of the beam.
buckling of column reinforcement (due to
insufficient lateral ties), (b) insufficient transverse
Not more than 50% of area of steel bars
reinforcement in beam-column joints, (c) poor should be spliced at any one section.
anchorage of beam bars in beam-column joints, The parameters such as ratio of concrete strength
(d) provision of strong beams and weak columns, to tie strength, axial load level, unconfined
and (e) improper detailing in plastic hinge zones cover concrete thickness, and longitudinal
(see also Fig. 6). Based on these observations, reinforcement and their spacing affect the
several clauses in the codes have been changed. effectiveness of confining reinforcement in
For example, in the draft IS 13920 the following columns. Hence, Subramanian (2012) suggested
changes have been introduced: that the following equation, based on the work of
The minimum dimension of a column shall not Elwood et al. 2009, for determining the confining
be less than 20db, where db is diameter of the reinforcement in rectangular columns
largest diameter longitudinal reinforcement
Ag f c'
bar in the beam passing through or anchoring Ash = 0.3kn k p
Ac f yt

into the column at the joint, or 300 mm Where

n h + 12 0.8 Pu
kn = 0.6 + 0.4 x and k p = 0.2 (1a)
nl 20 Ag f ck
At each beam-column joint of a moment- Ag h + 12
With the following conditions: fyt 689 MPa, 1.3 and x 1. 0
resisting frame, the sum of nominal design
Ac 20

strength of columns meeting at that joint (with

28 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer

Where, Ac = area of concrete core within catastrophic collapse of a 30 story cast-in-place
perimeter transverse reinforcement, Ag= gross reinforced concrete structure. This flat-plate
area of column, Ash = total cross-sectional area structure collapsed while under construction, due
of transverse reinforcement (including cross to punching shear on the 23rd floor and resulted
hoops) with spacing s and perpendicular to in a progressive collapse (see Fig. 8).
dimension bc, bc is the cross-sectional dimension
of column core measured to the outside edges
of transverse reinforcement composing area
Ac, = specified cylinder compressive strength
of concrete, fck= specified cube compressive
strength of concrete, fyl = specified yield strength
of longitudinal reinforcement, fyt = specified yield
strength of transverse reinforcement, hx = center-
to-center horizontal spacing of cross ties or hoop
legs, n= total number of longitudinal bars, nl =
number of longitudinal bars laterally supported
by corner of hoops or by seismic hooks of Fig. 8 Progressive collapse of Skyline Plaza building
crossties that are 135 degrees; Pu = factored in Virginia, USA (Photo by Nick Carino of NIST)
load on column, and s = centre-to-centre spacing Source: Ellingwood et al. (2007)
of transverse reinforcement along column height.
In the midst of construction on March 2, 1973,
Similarly, the following confinement equation is
one apartment building and the parking garage
proposed for circular columns (Subramanian,
adjoining it collapsed. Fig. 6 shows the damage
following the collapse. The incident occurred
f ck Ag
s = 0.44k p

(2) at around 2:30 in the afternoon and resulted in

f yt Ac the death of 14 construction workers and the

injury of 34 others. It was designed as a 26 story

Where s is the volumetric ratio of transverse apartment complex with a four-story basement
reinforcement, kp is as defined earlier. Note that and a penthouse level. All floor slabs were 200
the term kn is not required for circular columns, mm thick and the floor-to-floor height was 2.75
as spirals provide effective confinement than m.
rectangular hoops.
The Center for Building Technology of the
Failure of Slabs National Bureau of Standards (now the National
Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST)
Since two-way slabs are three-dimensional investigated this collapse. A three-dimensional
elements, they may redistribute the overloads and finite element analysis was conducted on the
hence failures in slabs are not frequent, provided 22nd and 23rd floors to determine the magnitude
they are detailed properly. However, punching of forces exerted on the floor slabs and
failures in flat plates may be catastrophic and whether the slabs could properly handle those
may not give enough warning. Hence such flat forces. Upon completion of the analysis, it was
slabs should not be used in severe earthquake determined that moments in the column strips of
zones. When used in moderate zones, flat slabs the slab were not great enough to cause failure.
should be checked for punching stresses and On the other hand, the analysis showed that the
detailed properly near the vicinity of columns slab around few columns experienced shear
(Subramanian, 2013 & 2014). stress greater than the shear capacity of the
concrete slab. The improper and early removal
4.1 Collapse of Skyline Plaza, Virginia, U.S.A.
of forms supporting the 23rd floor resulted in
Skyline Plaza apartment building in Bailey's increased shear force around the columns. The
Crossroads, Virginia, U.S.A. is an example of a recently poured concrete had strength less than

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 29

the design strength of 20 MPa at the time of include 2000 Commonwealth Avenue, January
the collapse and was unable to withstand these 5, 1971: Five storey Harbour Cay Condominium
increased forces. Hence it triggered a punching collapse at Cocoa Beach, Florida, March 27,
shear collapse mechanism around a number of 1981(11 workers killed and 23 injured- The most
columns on the 23rd story. Without the support of probable cause of collapse was a combination
these columns, other columns on that story were of design and construction errors: the design
overstressed which ultimately led to the collapse did not even consider the possibility of punching
of the entire 23rd floor slab onto the floor below. shear failure); Four storey warehouse at Ontario,
The increased loading on the 22nd floor from Canada, January 4, 1978; five story Sampoong
the weight of the collapsed floors above was Department store, Seoul, Korea, June 29th 1995
sufficient to trigger a progressive collapse all (The collapse is the largest peacetime disaster
the way to the ground level. (Leyendecker and in South Korean history - 502 people died, 6
Fattal, 1977; Schellhammer et al., 2013). missing, and 937 sustained injuries); Pipers
Row Car Park, Wolverhampton, UK, 1997;
The important lessons learnt from the partial
Geneva, Switzerland,1976; Bluche, Switzerland,
collapse of Skyline Plaza are (Leyendecker and
1981; Cagliari, Italy, 2004; and parking garage
Fattal 1977):
flat slab at Gretzenbach, Switzerland, 2004
1. Redundancy within structural design is (Subramanian, 2014). In addition several flat
essential to prevent progressive collapse. plate systems failed during earthquakes.
2. Construction loads, which will govern the
4.2 The LAmbiance Plaza Collapse
design, must always be estimated and
considered in the design. L'Ambiance Plaza was planned as a sixteen-story
building, with thirteen stories of apartments and
3. Preconstruction plans of concrete casting,
three levels of parking, at Bridgeport, Connecticut,
formwork plans, removal of formwork
USA. It consisted of two offset rectangular
schedules, or reshoring program should be
towers, 19.2 m by 34 m each, connected by an
decided in consultation with the contractor.
elevator. These towers were being constructed
4. Before the removal of shoring, the concrete by the lift slab method, patented by Youtz and
strength should be ascertained. Slick in 1948. Floor and roof slabs were two-
way, unbonded, post-tensioned flat plates. On
5. Proper shoring of the currently executed
April 23, 1987, during construction, the entire
floor and the floors below should be verified,
structure suddenly collapsed, killing 28 workers
especially in flat plate systems.
and injuring many more (see Fig.9). At the time
Following this failure, the Portland Cement of the collapse, slabs 3, 4, and 5 of the east tower
Association (PCA) and the Prestressed Concrete
Institute both issued new design guides with
provisions included to prevent progressive
collapse (PCA-IS 184, 2006). The importance
of designing for construction loads as well as
normal design loads were emphasized in ACI
journals (Agarwal and Gardner, 1974).
ACI 318 code included a provision to place
rebar continuously through the slab-column
intersection at the top and bottom of the slab. If
the slab fails in punching shear, the bottom bars
act as a catenary and prevent the collapse of the
slab onto the structure below.
Fig. 9 Collapse of LAmbiance Plaza, Connecticut,
Several other failures of flat slab structures U.S.A. (Source: Ratay, 2011)
have been reported in the literature, which

30 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer

had been placed into final position, and slabs A more recent failure is that of the six-story parking
9, 10, and 11 for the west tower had just been structure at Berkman Plaza in Jacksonville,
lifted. The entire collapse took only 5 seconds! Florida, under construction on December 6,
The collapse was one of the worst disasters in 2007, where 60% of the structure collapsed
USA. This was the first serious failure of a lift- suddenly "like a stack of pancakes", killing one
slab structure, a system that had been in use for and injuring 23 others (see Fig. 10). The structure
about 40 years. consisted of cast-in-place simple reinforced
concrete columns, cast-in-place reinforced
An unusually prompt legal settlement
and post-tensioned concrete beams, and cast-
prematurely ended all investigations of the
in-place post-tensioned concrete slabs. The
collapse. Consequently, the exact cause of
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
the collapse has never been established. The
(OSHA) concluded that while the collapse was
building had a number of deficiencies; any one
due to errors made by those on the design,
of which could have triggered the collapse. The
construction, and inspection teams, the structural
report by the National Bureau of Standards
design had numerous deficiencies including one
(NBS) concluded that an overloaded steel angle
column that was barely able to support the dead
welded to a shear-head arm channel deformed,
loads of the structure. The formwork plans called
causing the jack rod and lifting nut to slip out
for the shoring and reshoring to extend all the
and caused the collapse to begin. Failure was
way to the ground. However, it was learned that
possibly due to high concrete stresses on the
the shoring and reshoring below the 3rd level had
floor slabs by the placement process, resulting
been removed shortly before the concrete on the
in cracking of the slab concrete and ending in a
6th floor was placed (
punching shear failure. Moreover, the ACI code
SouthernPanServCo.pdf). This failure along with
states that a minimum of two tendons shall be
the failures of Harbour Cay Condominium Cocoa
provided in each direction through the critical
Beach, and the Turner Agri-Civil Center Arcadia
shear section over the columns. This was not
resulted in the Florida Structural Engineers
followed in the LAmbiance Plaza structure.
Association (FSEA) proposing legislation to
While buildings constructed by the lift-slab amend Chapter 471 of the Florida Statutes to
method are stable once they are completed, recognize the discipline of structural engineering
they may be unstable during construction, if and provide for a corresponding license. An
the following measures are not taken during engineer would apply for the SE license only
construction (Martin, http://911research.wtc7. after being licensed as a PE, and after taking
net; and Cuoco, et al, 1992) and passing the NCEES 16-hour structural
Provision of temporary lateral bracing during examination.
all stages of construction.
Provision of concrete punching shear and
connections redundancies in the structure.
Provision of temporary posts, to support the
concrete slab until it is completely attached
to the column.
Provision of sway bracing (cables which keep
the stack of floors from shifting sideways).
Though this is required, it was not used in
LAmbiance Plaza
This failure resulted in temporary ban and tighter Fig.10 Collapsed Berkman Plaza, Jacksonville,
Florida (Source: Ratay, 2011)
design and construction requirements in some
states of USA on lift-slab construction (Ratay,

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 31

5.0 Progressive Collapse and Ronan in Oklahoma City, abnormal load requirements
Point Building were introduced in US Codes. Structural integrity
requirements are yet to be introduced in IS 456.
Progressive collapse provisions were introduced
in the British code as early as 1970. This was
6.0 Failure of Beams
a direct result of the Ronan Point collapse in
1968. This involved a 23-storey tower block in Though flexural failure of beams is rare, shear
Newham, East London, which suffered a partial failure of beams and failure due to improper
collapse when a gas explosion demolished a detailing have been reported in the literature. A
load bearing wall, causing the collapse of one few such failures are discussed in this section.
entire corner of the building (see Fig. 11). Four
6.1 Partial collapse of Wilkins Air Force Depot
people were killed in the incident, and seventeen
in Shelby, Ohio
were injured. (Ronan Point was repaired after
the explosion, it was demolished in 1986 for a It is interesting to note that the shear provisions
new low-rise housing development project) of the ACI code were revised after the partial
collapse of Wilkins Air Force Depot in Shelby,
Ohio, in 1955 (See Fig. 12). At the time of
collapse, there were no loads other than the
self-weight of the roof. The 914 mm deep beams
of this warehouse did not contain stirrups and
had 0.45 percent of longitudinal reinforcement
(Feld and Carper 1997). The concrete alone was
expected to carry the shear forces- and had no
shear capacity once cracked. The beams failed
at a shear stress of only about 0.5 MPa, whereas
the ACI Code (1951 version) at the time permitted
an allowable working stress of 0.62 MPa for the
M20 concrete used in the structure. Experiments
conducted at the Portland Cement Association
(PCA) on 305 mm deep model beams indicated
that the beams could resist a shear stress of
about 1.0 MPa prior to failure (Feld and Carper
1997). However, application of an axial tensile

Fig. 11 Ronan Point collapse, London, U.K. (Source:

Due to the failure of Ronan Point apartment

building, many other similar large panel system
buildings were demolished. The Building
Research Establishment, U.K., published a
series of reports in the 1980s to advise Councils
and building owners on what they should do
to check the structural stability of their blocks. Fig. 12 Shear failure of 900 mm deep beams in Air
As a result of terrorist attacks on embassies Force Warehouse, Shelby, Ohio (Photo: C.P. Seiss)
abroad, along with the Murrah Federal Building (Source: Lubell et al 2004).

32 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer

stress of about 1.4 MPa reduced the shear During the removal of shuttering of the last
capacity of the beam by 50 percent. Thus, it was bay on 26th January 1962, a sudden heavy
concluded that tensile stresses caused by the cracking sound was heard and within a few
restraint of shrinkage and thermal movements seconds the roof caved in along the ridge. The
caused the beams of Wilkins Air Force Depot to beams had cracked in the middle, and the main
fail at such low thermal shear stresses (Feld and reinforcements were pulled out. The collapsed
Carper 1997). The expansion joints locked and roof came to rest on the centering props below.
did not function as intended to relieve stresses.
This failure outlines the importance of providing
minimum shear reinforcement in beams. It has
to be noted that repeated loading will result in
failure loads which may be 50 to 70 percent of
static failure loads (ACI-ASCE committee 426,

6.2 Sleipner Offshore Platform

Sleipner A is a combined accommodations, Fig. 13 Urea drying and cooling building at Neyveli
production and processing offshore platform
Testing of concrete cubes revealed that the
at the Sleipner East gas field in the Norwegian
compressive strength of concrete was more
sector of the North Sea. It is a Condeep type
than that required according to the design. The
platform with a concrete gravity base structure
materials used, including the steel reinforcement
consisting of 24 cells and with a total base area
were of high quality, and yet the structure failed.
of 16 000 m2. Even though it was analyzed and
A close examination of the failed area disclosed
designed using sophisticated finite element
that most of the reinforcement bars were lapped
software, it resulted in catastrophic failure on
at the centre of the beam, where failure had
23rd August 1991 (resulting in an economic
occurred. Naturally, a beam with a clear span of
loss of about $700 million), due to the under-
18 m could not be reinforced without resorting
estimation of applied shear in the analysis and
to lapping, as the bars were supplied at a
over-estimation of shear strength in the design
standard length of 12 m. To use the bars more
of the tricell walls; about 15 m height of the
economically, and to avoid more than one lap,
tricell walls did not contain any stirrups. It may
all the lapping had been done in only one place,
probably be considered as the most expensive
that too at the centre. This resulted in heavy
shear failure; more details of this failure may be
congestion of bars and the bond between steel
found in Collins et al 1997.
and concrete was poor. The version of IS 456
6.3 Failure of Industrial Building at Neyveli in vogue at that time did not prohibit the lapping
of tensile reinforcement. Even the revised 1964
A single span reinforced concrete structure
code suggested only that laps should be avoided
with a span of 19 m, as shown in Fig. 13,
in maximum stressed zones as far as possible,
was constructed for a urea drying and cooling
and lapped splices in tension should not be used
building at Neyveli, Tamilnadu in January 1962.
in the case of bars greater than 36 mm diameter;
The roof beams in the end bays were reinforced
such splices should be welded (Srinivasan 1975).
with seven 38 mm diameter bars at the bottom
and seven 22 mm diameter bars plus one 16 mm 7.0 Bridge Failures
diameter bar at the top. The beams in the central
bay were reinforced with seven 38 mm diameter There are many historical examples of major
bars plus one 20 mm bar at the bottom and one bridge failures, but one of the major collapses that
38 mm diameter bars plus six 32 mm diameter made an impact on our profession is the collapse
bars at the top. The beam had a cross section of the 41-year-old U.S. 35 High way 'Silver
of 1425 mm x 600 mm and was made of M 15 Bridge' across the Ohio River at Point Pleasant,

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 33

West Virginia. It has to be noted that out of a total USA were closed or had speed limits and traffic
of 503 recorded failures, 243 bridge failures were loads imposed on them. The Silver Bridge was
related to flooding and scour (Wardhana and replaced within two years by a cantilever design
Hadipriono, 2003). In addition to scour, bridge - the type that failed at Minneapolis, recently
designers must consider lateral loads caused by (see section 7.3).
significant flooding events as per the AASHTO
LRFD Bridge Design Specifications. The lateral 7.2 Collapse of I-95 Bridge over the Mianus
loads imparted to bridge piers by ships and/or River in Connecticut
barges or lateral loads resulting from vehicle or On June 28, 1983, a highway bridge carrying
train collisions (when bridge piers are located Interstate 95 over the Mianus River in
near traffic lanes or a railroad below) must also Connecticut collapsed due to the cleavage
be considered in the design. It is because 12 fracture failure of a pin-and-hanger connection,
percent of the total number of bridge failures killing three and injuring another three persons
studied, resulted from land and marine vehicle (see Fig. 14). The ensuing investigation cited
collisions (Wardhana and Hadipriono, 2003). corrosion from water buildup due to inadequate
Here only the major failures that resulted in code drainage, and inadequate inspection as a cause.
or specification changes are discussed. The replacement span completed in 1992,
eliminated the pin-and-hanger assemblies that
7.1 Collapse of the Silver Bridge, West Virginia,
caused the collapse of the original bridge. This
collapse focused attention on fracture-critical
The Silver Bridge was a chain suspension bridges and established national inspection
structure that collapsed suddenly on December guidelines, additional inspector training and new
15, 1967 in rush-hour traffic, killing 46 people fatigue research for these types of structures.
(two of the victims were never found), injuring The FHWA added a new supplement to the
nine and sending 31 vehicles into the water. The Bridge Inspectors Training Manual 70 in 1986:
report of the Federal Highway Administration Inspection of Fracture Critical Bridge Members.
(FHWA), released after 18 months of the failure,
attributed the failure to a small crack in the
lower limb of an eyebar in the suspension chain
(formed through fretting wear at the bearing),
which grew because of internal corrosion (a
problem known as stress corrosion cracking)
leading to the failure (Petroski, 1985; Seim,
2008). As a result of the collapse, an upstream
bridge, the St. Marys Bridge, was immediately
closed to traffic and was demolished by the state
in 1971. In 1968, the U.S. Congress passed
the Federal Highway Act to establish National
Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS); and it Fig. 14 Collapse of I-95 Bridge over the Mianus
River in Connecticut (Source: Ratay, 2010)
was introduced on May 1, 1979. This standard
stipulated that each highway department should
have a bridge inspection organization capable 7.3 Other Notable Bridge failures
of performing inspections, preparing reports, One of the notable failures of a riveted steel truss
and determining ratings, in accordance with the bridge is the collapse of the Quebec Bridge,
provisions of the American Association of State Canada on August 29, 1907, during construction,
Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) killing 75 workers. The main cause of failure was
Manual for Maintenance Inspection of Bridges found to be the buckling of latticed compression
at regular intervals not exceeding two years chords even though the official report attributed
(Ratay, 2010). Many bridges throughout the the collapse to a number of other reasons (http://

34 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer
Quebec_Bridge). Additionally, member stresses
were not recalculated and checked when the
center span length was increased by 61 m
during the design phase, overstressing several
members. As the bridge was erected, ironworkers
noticed significant mid-point displacements in
some of the truss compression members, but this
was not reported to the designer. Additionally,
even though it was a major bridge design, no one
proof checked the original design (The project
Fig.15 Two different views of the I-35W Bridge
suffered a second collapse in 1916, when a failure (Source:
casting in the lifting apparatus broke, causing the
center span to fall into the water, killing thirteen major factor, coupled with weight added to
workers). the bridge over the years as well as ongoing
With the collapse of New Yorks I-90 over the construction that had more than 191 tons of
Schoharie Creek Bridge in 1987 and the deaths construction material piled over the failure area
of 10 people, attention was turned towards on the bridge on the day of the collapse. More
underwater inspections. This structure failed details of this bridge failure may be found in
due to scouring of the center pier. In 1988, the Subramanian (Feb 2008).
FHWA issued a technical advisory guide, Scour Subramanian (June 2008) provides a brief
at Bridges. In October of that same year, the report about the measures taken by engineers
NBIS was modified based upon suggestions to prevent failures similar to that of the I-35W
made in the 1987 Surface Transportation and Mississippi river bridge collapse.
Uniform Relocation Assistance Act. The national
The collapse of shoring in the construction of a
underwater inspection frequency interval was set
highway bridge built to carry Maryland Route 198
at a maximum of 60 months. Scour critical bridge
over the Baltimore-Washington Expressway, in
inspections were initiated.
1989 injured nine workers and five motorists,
Even with these guidelines several bridge and killed one. This led to the research and
failures have occurred. Most are small bridges publication of new design specifications and
that collapsed due to overloads and many might construction practices for temporary works by
not have caused great loss of life. A recent the FHWA and to the changes in the provisions
exception however was the sudden collapse for temporary works in the AASHTO Standard
on August 1, 2007 of the I-35W Bridge over the Specifications for Highway Bridges (Ratay
Mississippi River in Minnesota killing 13 people 2010). A few more bridge failures that resulted
and injuring 145 (See Fig. 15). The findings by in changes to code and standard clausess and
the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) practices may be found in Ratay (2010).
indicate under-designed gusset plates were a
7.4 Collapse of Koror - Babeldaob Bridge,
Republic of Palau, Micronesia
The importance of considering long term
deflections in the design was revealed in the
1996 collapse of the Koror-Babeldaob Bridge
(see Fig. 16). This bridge was completed in
1977, to connect the two main islands of Koror
and Babeldaob in the Republic of Palau. It
is a reinforced concrete, balanced cantilever
prestressed concrete box girder bridge with a

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 35

total length of 385.6 m, with a main span of 241 m. Bazant et al 2010 showed that the main lessons
Its two lane single cell box girder superstructure from this failure are (1) the use of a realistic
was built using cast-in-place segments and creep and shrinkage model is important (existing
a permanent mid-span hinge. After 18 years, models for creep and shrinkage prediction grossly
the deflection in the main span was found to underestimate the deflections and prestress
be excessive (the total deflection was 1.61 m loss); (2) three-dimensional finite element
compared to the calculated final sag of 0.46 m analysis is required; and (3) the differences in
to 0.58 m, measured from the design camber of drying rates among slabs of different thicknesses
-0.3 m), and the prestress loss was measured as and exposures must be taken into account. They
50%. Two independent studies were conducted also showed that the Model B3, as per 1995
and they concluded that the bridge was safe and RILEM recommendation, when modified, could
the large deflections were due to actual creep be used to estimate the long-time deflections
and the lower value of modulus of elasticity of the reliably.
concrete compared to those adopted in design.
8.0 Wind Induced Failures
It is estimated that about 80 - 85% of economic
losses due to natural disasters in the world are
caused by extreme wind and its related events
(Smith and Katz, 2013). Here only the collapse
of Tacoma Narrows Bridge and Ferrybridge
Cooling towers are considered.

8.1 The wind-induced collapse of Tacoma

Narrows Bridge
The original Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened
on July 1, 1940, and dramatically collapsed on
November 7 of the same year (See Fig. 17).
This suspension bridge spanned the Tacoma
Narrows strait between Tacoma and the Kitsap
Peninsula, in the United States and had a total
length of 1,810.2 m with a central (longest) span
of 853.4 m.

Fig. 16 The Koror-Babeldaob Bridge, Republic of

Palau, Micronesia, before and after failure (Source:
Bazant et al. 2010 & 2011)

It was decided to install additional prestressing

and eliminate the hinge at the mid-span. The
retrofit began on 17th October 1995, with the
removal of concrete overlay. But, the bridge
collapsed suddenly on 26th September 1996, 3
months after the reopening, with 2 fatalities. A
new bridge was constructed in its place and was
opened on January 11, 2002.
It wasnt until 2008 that the technical data Fig. 17 Collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge,
necessary for complete analysis were released. Washington state, 1940 (Source: Smithsonian

36 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer

The failure of the bridge occurred due to the in 1973, Bouchain, France in 1979, Fiddler's
twisting of the bridge deck in mild winds of Ferry, U.K. in 1984, and in Willow Island, West
about 64 km/h (See Fig. 17). This failure mode Virginia, USA and Port Gibson, Mississippi,
is termed as torsional vibration mode (which USA in the 1980s. These failures resulted
is different from the transversal or longitudinal in the revision of building codes all over the
vibration mode). This vibration was caused by world, to include provisions regarding improved
aeroelastic fluttering (a phenomenon in which structural support, and necessity of doing wind
aerodynamic forces on an object is coupled with tunnel tests for complicated configurations and
a structure's natural mode of vibration to produce arrangements.
rapid periodic motion).
In the Tacoma Narrows bridge, instead of the
usual deep open trusses, narrow and shallow
solid I- beams were used in the decks, which
resulted in the build-up of wind loads. This bridge
collapse boosted research in the field of bridge
aerodynamics which resulted in better designs.
After the collapse, two bridges were constructed
in the same general location. The first one, now
called the Tacoma Westbound bridge is 1822
m long -12 m longer than Galloping Gertie. The
second one, the Tacoma Eastbound Bridge,
opened in 2007.

8.2 Failure of Ferrybridge Cooling towers

Large cooling towers are susceptible to wind
damage, and several spectacular failures have
occurred in the past. One such dramatic failures Fig. 18 Three collapsed cooling towers at
is the three 115 m tall, hyperbolic cooling towers Ferrybridge, UK (Source:
failed by snap-through buckling at Ferrybridge
power station, England on 1st Nov. 1965 due
In addition to the above failures, the pedestrian
to vibrations in 137 km/h winds. The structures
steel suspension London Millennium Footbridge
were designed to withstand higher wind speeds.
over the River Thames in London, England,
But the following two factors caused the
resulted in a serviceability failure due to
collapse: The average wind speed over a one
excessive vibration. To improve the view, the
minute period was used in design; whereas,
bridge's suspension design had the supporting
the structures were susceptible to much shorter
cables below the deck level, giving a very
gusts, which were not, considered in the original
shallow profile. Construction of the bridge began
design. The designers used wind loading based
in 1998, and it was opened on 10th June 2000.
on experiments using a single isolated tower.
Londoners nicknamed the bridge the Wobbly
But, in reality, the shape and arrangement of
Bridge after they felt an unexpected and
these cooling towers, created turbulence and
uncomfortable swaying motion on the first two
vortex, on the leeward towers that collapsed. An
days after the bridge opened. After extensive
eyewitness said that the towers where moving
analysis by the engineers, the problem was
like belly dancers. Three out of the original eight
fixed by the retrofitting 37 fluid-viscous dampers
cooling towers were destroyed and the remaining
(energy dissipating) to control horizontal
five were severely damaged, as shown in Fig.
movement and 52 tuned mass dampers (inertial)
18. The failed towers were rebuilt and the others
to control vertical movement. After a period of
strengthened. Occurrences of failure of cooling
testing, the bridge was successfully re-opened
towers have also been reported in Ardeer, U.K.

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 37

on 22 February 2002. The bridge has not been from terrorism can exert on buildings, and led to
subject to significant vibration since then. This increased consideration of terrorism in structural
bridge outlined the importance of considering design of buildings. The Federal Emergency
serviceability limit state due to vibration in the Management Agency (FEMA) developed a
design of bridges. number of design guidelines for limiting or
mitigating the effects of terrorist attacks, focusing
9.0 Failures due to Terrorist Attacks primarily on explosions, but also addressing
The collapse of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building chemical, biological, and radiological attacks
in Oklahoma in 1995 and the terrorist attack on (FEMA 426, FEMA 427, FEMA 428, FEMA 430,
World Trade Center Towers in New York and and FEMA 439 A &B).
the Pentagon in Washington D.C. during 2001 9.2 Collapse of World Trade Center Towers,
resulted in renewed research in fire resistant New York
design and blast resistant design.
The twin 110 storey towers of the World Trade
9.1 Failure of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Center in New York City, USA collapsed on
in Oklahoma September 11, 2001, as a result of two commercial
On 19 April 1995, the nine-story concrete framed airliners, hijacked by terrorists, deliberately
Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma crashed into them. The impact and resulting fires
was struck by a huge car bomb causing partial caused both towers to collapse within two hours.
collapse, resulting in the deaths of 168 people. Later that day, WTC Building 7 also collapsed
The bomb, though large, caused a significantly from fires that had started when the North Tower
disproportionate collapse of the structure. The collapsed. As a result of the attacks to the towers,
bomb blew all the glass off the front of the 2,752 people died, including all 157 passengers
building and completely shattered a ground floor (including the hijackers) and crew aboard the
reinforced concrete column. At second story level two airplanes (Subramanian, 2002).
wider column spacing existed, and loads from The following changes were included in
upper story columns were transferred into fewer International Codes as a result of 9/11 attack
columns below by girders at second floor level. (
The removal of one of the lower story columns Elevators must be provided in high-rise
caused neighbouring columns to fail due to the
buildings more than 36.5 m tall so that
extra load, eventually leading to the complete
firefighters can get into and fight fires, without
collapse of the central portion of the building
having to walk up the stairs with heavy
(See Fig. 19). The bombing was one of the
first to highlight the extreme forces that blast loading
An additional stairway has to be provided for
high-rises that are more than 128 m tall;
In lieu of the additional stairway, extra
elevators may be provided that can be used to
evacuate building occupants without waiting
for assistance from emergency personnel;
A higher standard for fire resistance has to
be adopted in high-rise buildings more than
128 m tall;
More robust fire proofing has to be provided
for buildings more than 23 m tall, so that
they will not be dislodged by impacts or
Fig.19 Collapsed Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building explosions;
in Oklahoma (Source:
Shafts enclosing elevators and exit stairways

38 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer

should have impact resistant walls; published in 1992 and reapproved in 1997 and
2003 cautions about creep failure of adhesive
Self-luminous exit pathway markings should
anchors and suggests pre-testing of such
be provided in all exit stairways; and
anchors. ACI Committee 355 also developed
Radio coverage systems should be available ACI 355.2-07, Qualification of Post-Installed
within the building to allow emergency Mechanical Anchors in Concrete.
personnel to better communicate with
New Steel Erection Final Rule by the US
the people inside the building and with
Department of Labor, Office of Safety and Health
emergency staff outside the building.
Administration (OSHA), issued on January 18,
10.0 Failure of Anchor bolts 2001, effective January 18, 2002, mandated
the use of four, rather than two, anchor bolts
On July 10, 2006, about 26 tons of concrete in structural steel column base plates, as well
and associated suspension hardware fell as a minimum design load and eccentricity in
on a passenger car when it was passing the Section 1926.755(a) General requirements for
Interstate 90 connector tunnel in Boston, USA erection stability of the Construction Industry
(This tunnel is often referred to as the Big Dig), Standards. This rule was "negotiated" as a result
killing a passenger and injuring the driver. A of numerous construction accidents caused by
later investigation found hundreds of dangerous the toppling of unbraced steel columns during
adhesive anchors were holding together the tiles erection (Ratay, 2011)
on the tunnel ceilings, which had to be removed.
The National Transportation Safety Boards 11.0 Other Failures
(NTSB) investigation of that accident determined In this section we will consider other failures
that the ceiling collapse was due to the use of which prompted revision of code provisions.
an epoxy anchor adhesive with poor creep
resistance, that is, an epoxy formulation that 11.1 Collapse Due to Corrosion of Post-tensioned
was not capable of sustaining long-term loads. Steel
Over time, the epoxy deformed and fractured The Benjamin Franklin Hall, (also called Der
until several ceiling support anchors pulled out Kongresshalle or the 'pregnant oyster'), built in
and allowed a portion of the ceiling to collapse. 1957 collapsed on May 21, 1980, without any
Selection of a better adhesive could have visible deterioration prior to failure, killing one
prevented the accident. Powers Fasteners has and injuring numerous people. The 76 mm thick
increased the safety factor on its fast-setting reinforced concrete shell roof resembles an
materials by a factor of four since the Big Dig open human eye with a tension ring as the pupil
collapse. NTSB recommended federal and and the two arches at the edges representing the
state highway authorities develop standards upper and lower lids. The two arch support points
and protocols for the testing of adhesive represent the corners of the 'eye'. The thin shell
anchors used in sustained tensile load overhead roof had post-tensioning bars in ducts which had
highway applications, and consider the creep corroded partly due to poor quality of grouting,
characteristics of polymers. A mandatory tunnel and led to the collapse. The hall was rebuilt in its
inspection was also suggested. More information original style and reopened again in 1987 at the
about this failure and recommendations by NTSB 750 years jubilee of Berlin. More details of the
may be found at NTSB/HAR-07/02 (2007). This failure may be found in Subramanian, 1982.
led ACI committee 318 to work diligently on
design requirements for adhesive anchors and It has to be noted that the internally post-
include them in Appendix D of ACI 318-11. tensioned Ynys-y-Gwas Bridge in Wales
collapsed in 1985. In 1986 the bridge over the
In this connection, it is important to note that ACI Mandovi River in Goa, India collapsed after less
503.5R-92, Guide for the Selection of Polymer than 20 years in service due to corrosion of the
Adhesives with Concrete, which was first post-tensioning cables and the Malle Bridge over

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 39

the river Schelde in Belgium collapsed in 1992 the faulty connection detail that failed was never
for similar reasons. Based on these failures, shown on any drawings, and it was not even
the UK Department of Transport banned ducted designed. The high number of fatalities resulting
grouted post-tensioning in bridges in 1992. from the walkway's collapse raised the question
of whether the factor of safety required for a
11.2 Hyatt Regency walkway collapse building should be proportional to the possible
The lobby of the 40-story Hyatt Regency hotel in consequences of its collapse (Kaminetzky,
Kansa City, Missouri, USA featured a multistory 1991).
atrium, which had suspended concrete
11.3 Hartford Civil Centre roof collapse
walkways on the second, third, and fourth levels.
The Second and fourth level walkways were The Hartford Civic Centre Coliseum, Connecticut,
suspended from a set of steel tension rods of size USA, was completed in 1973. The space frame
32 mm, with the second floor walkway hanging roof structure was 7.6 m high and covered 110
directly underneath the fourth floor walkway. The m by 91 m, with clear spans of 64 to 82 m. On
walkway platform was supported on 3 cross- January 17, 1978, at 4:15 a.m. the roof crashed
beams suspended by steel rods retained by down 25.2 m into the floor, due to a large snow
nuts. The cross-beams were box beams made storm. Luckily it was empty by the time of the
from C-channels welded toe-to-toe. The original collapse, and no one was hurt. Though there
design called for three pairs of rods running from were several causes for the collapse, the main
the second floor all the way to the ceiling. On cause was the relatively minor changes in the
July 17th 1981, when a party was going on, the connections between steel components, i.e.,
4th floor walkway failed and fell on the lower the fabrication deviating from design. A few
walkway, both walkways crashing into the floor centimeters shift of the fabricated connection, cut
three stories below killing 114 people and injuring down the axial force capacity to less than tenth of
185. The separate third floor walkway was not the design value! Some angle sections found at
involved in the collapse. the wreckage were found to have failed in block
shear. Epstein and Thacker, in 1991 used finite
element analysis and found that block shear was
the mode of failure for these angles. This study
also established the difference in behaviour of
coped beams (where the load is applied to the
connection in the plane of the web, which also
is the block shear plane) and angles (where the
load is applied eccentric to the failure plane).
Fig. 20 Difference between the design and
construction of the walkway support system In addition, the Hartford Civic Centre Coliseum
roof design was extremely susceptible to torsional
The cause of the failure is found to be that the buckling of compression members which, as
contractor replaced the single vertical suspension a mode of failure, was not considered by the
rod specified by the original designer, by two computer analysis used by the designers. Had
shorter rods; one from the upper support to the the designers chosen tubular or even I sections,
first walkway, and another from the bottom beam instead of the cruciform section adopted in the
of the first walkway down to the second walkway roof members, the failure might have been
(see Fig. 20). Now the nut and washer under the averted (the four steel angles forming the
upper rod is subjected to double the design load cruciform cross-section has much smaller radius
(in addition the resulting eccentricity created a of gyration than tubes or I-sections, and hence
local bending moment), which lead to the failure. not efficient in resisting compressive loads).
Failure to communicate this detail properly to the This failure also showed that computer software
original designers and failure to check the details should be used only as a software tool, and not
were cited as the main problems for the failure; as a substitute for sound engineering experience

40 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer

and judgment (Smith and Epstein, 1980). The use of low toughness weld metal at the
beam-column connection;
11.4 Failure of Slender Shear Walls
Uncontrolled deposition rates;
Observed wall damage in recent M 8.8
earthquakes in Chile (2010) and New Zealand
The use of larger members than those
(2011), where modern building codes exist, previously tested;
exceeded expectations. In these earthquakes, Lack of control of basic material properties
structural wall damage included boundary (large variation of member strength from the
crushing, reinforcement fracture, and global prescribed values);
wall buckling. IN ACI 318-11, A single curtain of
Inadequate quality control during
web reinforcement is allowed if wall shear stress
construction; and
is less than 0.17f_c^' MPa, where f_c^' is the
cylinder compressive strength of concrete. This The tri-axial restraint existing at the center
provision is acceptable for squat walls with low of beam flanges and at the beam-column
shear stress (e.g., walls with aspect ratio less interface, which inhibits yielding.
than 1.5); however, for slender walls where
A multi-billion dollar research conducted over
buckling of boundary vertical reinforcement and
10 years resulted in the development of design
lateral instability are more likely due to significant
provisions for moment resistant frames, and
tensile yielding of reinforcement under cyclic
prescribed in AISC 341-05 (Seismic provisions
loading, two curtains should always be used.
for structural steel buildings, American Institute
This recommendation applies to both Special
of Steel Construction), which was again
Structural Walls (high ductility) and Ordinary
revised in 2010. In addition, AISC developed
Structural Walls (moderate ductility). Based on
another standard, AISC 358-05 (Pre-qualified
laboratory tests it was suggested to change the
connections for special and intermediate
value of the denominator in Eqn. 21.8 of ACI 318-
steel moment frames for seismic applications
11 from 600 to 1200 (Wallace, 2012). To ensure
including Supplement No.1), which was revised
spread of plasticity consistent with the derivation
in 2010. This Standard presents materials,
of Eqn 21.8 of ACI 318-11, walls should be
design and detailing, fabrication, and inspection
designed and detailed as tension-controlled.
requirements for a series of pre-qualified moment
Failure of Welded Beam-column connections. The AISC 358-2010 contains a
Connections number of pre-qualified connections and these
are discussed in Subramanian, 2010.
Subsequent to the January 1994 Northridge
earthquake in California and Kobe earthquake 12.0 Summary and Conclusions
in Japan in 1995, it was determined that some
damage to momentresisting frames occurred at The earliest building code is The Code of
the beam-column connections. Failures included Hammurabi circa 1760 BC. Unlike todays codes,
fractures of bottom beam flange-to-column the Code of
flange complete-joint-penetration groove welds, Hammurabi dealt more with the consequences
which propagated into the adjacent column of building failure rather than how to safely
flange and web and into the beam bottom flange. construct a building. For instance, Law #229
This failure was accompanied in some instances stated If a builder builds a house for someone,
by secondary cracking of the beam web shear and does not construct it properly, and the house
plate and failure of the beam top flange weld. The which he built falls and kills its owner then the
factors that contributed to the damage included builder shall be put to death. Modern building
the following (FEMA 2000): codes shifted from outlining the punishment for
Stress concentration at the bottom flange weld, poor construction to mandating requirements that
due to the notch effect produced by backing would make building safe and better. Todays
strips left in place; building codes are built on the experience of

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 41

the past. Hence, each new earthquake, fire, [5] BROWN, C.B., and YIN, X., "Errors
tornado, hurricane or other natural/man-made in Structural Engineering", Journal of
disaster results in improved codes for building structural Engineering, ASCE, Vol. 114,
construction. Therefore, when a structural failure No. 11, Nov. 1988, pp. 2575-2593
occurs, investigators review the adherence
of the failed structure to the governing codes,
and VIGGIANI, C., Leaning Tower of Pisa:
standards, regulations and industry practices.
Behaviour after Stabilization Operations,
If it is found that some of the clauses in these
International Journal of Geoengineering
Standards contributed to or, indeed, created the
Case Histories, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2009, pp. 156-
cause of the failure, attempts are made to review
169. (
and revise those provisions. In this paper, some
of the important collapses that resulted in revision
pdf, last accessed on 26th June 2014)
of code clauses are described. Such failures
if documented properly will be useful to the [7] COLLINS, M.P., VECCHIO, F.J., SELBY,
practicing engineers who can learn from these R.G., and GUPTA, P.R. , The Failure of an
failures and will not repeat the mistakes in their Offshore Platform, Concrete International,
designs. In addition, in Western Countries the ACI, Vol. 19, No. 8, Aug. 1997, pp. 29-35.
concept of conducting professional examinations [8] CUOCO, D., PERAZA, D., and
has been introduced to qualify Engineers for SCARANGELLO, T., "Investigation of
professional practice. Such a practice will L'Ambiance Plaza Building Collapse."
reduce the number of failures, as the practicing Journal of Performance of Constructed
Engineers will be required to constantly upgrade Facilities, ASCE, Vol. 4, No.4, Aug. 1992,
their knowledge, as more and more materials, pp. 211-231.
design and construction techniques and methods
are being introduced rapidly due to research and [9] ELLINGWOOD, B. R., SMILOWITZ, R.,
development conducted all over the world. DUSENBEERY, D.O., DUTHINH, D.,
LEW, H.S., and CARINO, N.J., Best
References: Practices for Reducing the Potential for
Progressive Collapse in Buildings, NISTIR
[1] ACI-ASCE COMMITTEE 426, Shear 7396, National Institute of Standards and
Strength of Reinforced Concrete Technology, Gaithersburg, Feb 2007, 216
Members, Proceedings, ASCE, Journal of pp.
the Structural Div., Vol. 99, No. ST6, June
1973, pp. 1091-1187. (
art008.html, Accessed 1st July 2014)
[2] AGARWAL, R.K. and Gardner, N.J., Form
and Shore Requirements for Multi-Story [10] ELWOOD, K.J., MAFFEI, J., RIEDERER,
Flat Slab Type Buildings, Proceedings, K.A., and TELLEEN, K., Improving Column
ACI Journal, Vol. 71, No.11, Nov. 1974, Confinement, Part 1: Assessment of Design
pp.559-569. Provisions, Concrete International, ACI,
Vol. 31, No.11, Nov. 2009, pp. 32-39, and
[3] BAZANT, Z.P., HUBLER, M. H. and YU, Q., Part 2: Proposed New Provisions for the
Pervasiveness of Excessive Segmental ACI 318 Building Code, Vol. 31, No.12,
Bridge Deflections: Wake-Up Call for Dec. 2009, pp.41-38.
Creep, ACI Structural Journal, Vol. 108,
No. 6, Nov.-Dec. 2011, pp. 766-774. EPSTEIN, H.I. and THACKER, B. Effect
of Bolt Stagger for Block Shear Tension
[4] BAZANT, Z.P., YU, Q., LI, G-H, KLEIN, G.J. Failures in Angles, Computers and
and KRISTEK, V., Excessive Deflections Structures, Vol.39, No.5, May 1991,
of Record-Span Prestressed Box Girder, pp.571-76.
Concrete International, ACI, Vol. 32, No. 6,
June 2010, pp.44-52. [11] FELD, J., and CARPER, K., Construction

42 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer

Failures, Second Edition, Wiley- Design of Large, Wide Beams, Concrete
Interscience, New York, 1997, 528pp. International, ACI, Vol. 26, No. 1, Jan 2004,
pp. 66-78.
[12] FEMA 426, Reference Manual to
Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks [21] MARTIN, R., L'Ambiance Plaza Collapse,
Against Buildings, Federal Emergency Bridgeport, Connecticut, April 23, 1987
Management Agency, Dec. 2003, 420 pp. (
[13] FEMA 427, Primer for Design of
Assessed on 16th July 2014
Commercial Buildings to Mitigate Terrorist
Attacks: Providing Protection to People [22] NIST GCR 10-917-7, Program Plan for
and Buildings, Federal Emergency the Development of Collapse Assessment
Management Agency, Dec. 2003,108 pp. and Mitigation Strategies for Existing
Reinforced Concrete Buildings, NEHRP
[14] FEMA 428, Primer to Design Safe School
Consultants Joint Venture, National
Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks and
Institute of Standards and Technology,
School Shootings, 2nd Edition, Federal
Gaithersburg, MD, Aug. 2010, 100 pp.
Emergency Management Agency, Jan.
2012, 317 pp [23] PCA-IS 184, Structural Integrity
Requirements for Concrete Buildings,
[15] FEMA 430, Site and Urban Design for
Portland Cement Association, Skokie,
Security- Guidance Against Potential
Illinois, 2006, 6pp.(
Terrorist Attacks, Federal Emergency
Management Agency, Dec. 2007,272 pp, [24] PETROSKI, H., To Engineer is Human:
The Role of Failure in Successful Design,
[16] FEMA 439A, Blast-Resistance Benets
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1985, 272 pp.
of Seismic Design, Phase 1 Study:
Performance Analysis of Reinforced [25] PRABHAKAR, N., "Building Collapses and
Concrete Strengthening Systems Applied Remedies", The Indian concrete Journal,
to the Murrah Federal Building Design, Vol. 72, No.8, Aug. 1998, pp.391-393.
Federal Emergency Management Agency,
[26] RATAY, R.T., Changes in Codes,
Dec. 2005,296 pp.
Standards and Practices Following
[17] FEMA P-439B, Blast-Resistant Benefits Structural Failures, Part 1: Bridges,
of Seismic Design, Phase 2 Study: Structure Magazine, ASCE, Dec.2010,
Performance Analysis of Structural pp.16-19, and Part 2: Buildings, Structure
Steel Strengthening Systems, Federal Magazine, ASCE, Apr.2011, pp.21-24
Emergency Management Agency Nov.
2010, 130 pp.
J. and BOSELA, P. A. Another Look
[18] KAMINETZKY, D., Design and at the Collapse of Skyline Plaza at
Construction Failures: Lessons from Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia, Journal of
Forensic Investigations, McGraw-Hill, New Performance of Constructed Facilities,
York, 1991, 600 pp. ASCE, Vol. 27, No. 3, June 2013, pp. 354-
Investigation of the Skyline Plaza Collapse [28] SEIM, C. "Why Bridges Have Failed
in Fairfax County, Virginia, Center for Throughout History", Civil Engineering,
Building Technology, Institute for Applied ASCE, Vol. 78, No.5, May 2008, pp: 64
Technology, National Bureau of Standards, 71, 8487.
Washington DC 20234, Report No. 94,
[29] SMITH, E. and EPSTEIN, H., Hartford
Feb. 1977, 91 pp.
Coliseum Roof Collapse: Structural
[20] LUBELL, A., SHERWOOD, T., BENTZ, Collapse and Lessons Learned, Civil
E.C. and COLLINS, M.P., Safe Shear Engineering, ASCE, April 1980, pp. 59 62.

The Bridge and Structural Engineer Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 43

[30] SMITH, A.B., and KATZ, R.W., U.S. Billion- No.2, Aug 2010, pp. 160-171.
dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Data
SUBRAMANIAN, N., Design of
Sources, Trends, Accuracy and Biases,
Confinement Reinforcement for RC
Journal of Natural Hazards, Vol. 67, No.
Columns, The Indian Concrete Journal,
2, June 2013, pp 387-410. (http://www1.
Vol. 85, No.8, Aug. 2011, pp.25-36.
and-katz-2013.pdf ) [39] SUBRAMANIAN N., Design of Reinforced
Concrete Structures, Oxford University
[31] SRINIVASAN, D., Case Study of a
Press, New Delhi, 2013, 880 pp.
Building Failure, The Indian Concrete
Journal, Vol. 49, No. 6, June 1975, pp.164- [40] SUBRAMANIAN, N., Alternative Punching
165,178. Discussions by Subramanian, Shear Reinforcement for RC Flat Slabs,
N., The Indian Concrete Journal, Vol. 50, The Indian Concrete Journal, Vol. 88, No.
No.3, Mar. 1976, pp. 69. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 33-44.
[32] SUBRAMANIAN, N., Failure of Congress [41] SUBRAMANIAN, N. and MUTHUKUMAR,
Hall, Berlin, The Indian Concrete Journal, D., Leaning Tower of Pisa - will it be
Vol.56, No.11, Nov. 1982, pp. 290-291. reopened for tourists?, Bulletin of the
Indian Concrete Institute, No.63, April-
[33] SUBRAMANIAN, N., Collapse of WTC
June 1998, pp. 13-16.
Its Impact on Skyscraper Construction,
The Indian Concrete Journal, Vol. 76, No. [42] WALLACE, J.W., Behavior, Design, and
3, Mar. 2002, pp.165-179. Modeling of Structural Walls and Coupling
Beams Lessons from Recent Laboratory
[34] SUBRAMANIAN, N., I-35W Mississippi
Tests and Earthquakes, International
River Bridge failure-Is it a Wakeup Call?,
Journal of Concrete Structures and
The Indian Concrete Journal, Vol.82, No.2,
Materials, Vol.6, No.1, March 2012, pp.3-
Feb 2008, pp.29-38.
[35] SUBRAMANIAN, N., Bridge Collapse
Averted, The Indian Concrete Journal,
Analysis of Recent Bridge Failures in the
Vol.82, No.6, June 2008, pp.33-38.
United States, Journal of Performance of
[36] SUBRAMANIAN, N., Rare Foundation Constructed Facilities, Vol. 17, No. 3, Aug.
Failure, New Building Materials & 2003 pp. 144-150.
Construction World, Vol. 16, No.2, Aug
2009, pp.100-105.
Analysis of Recent Bridge Failures in the
[37] SUBRAMANIAN, N., Pre-qualified Seismic United States, Journal of Performance
Moment Connections, New Building of Constructed Facilities, ASCE, Vol.17,
Materials & Construction World, Vol. 17, No.3, Aug. 2003, pp.144-150, 2003.

44 Volume 45 Number 4 December 2014 The Bridge and Structural Engineer