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Investigation, Analysis, and Remediation of Building Failures

Instructor: Alexander Newman, P.E., F.ASCE

Purpose and Background

Building structures can fail in a variety of ways. While catastrophic collapses are featured on the news, less dramatic building failures might be of interest mostly to the building owners and their insurance companies. Whether the failure is spectacular or mundane, when occurs, it is generally necessary to determine what caused it and whether it is possible to remedy the damage.

The task of failure investigation typically falls to structural engineers and other design professionals; it requires a deep understanding of how similar structures have failed in the past and where their weak points are. For this and other reasons, the skills of a successful design engineer are not necessarily the same as the skills of a successful failure investigator. Yet the subject of failure analysis is not widely taught in the engineering colleges, where the main emphasis of instruction is on design. As a result, it takes years of practice for the engineers performing failure investigations to acquire the required knowledge.

The seminar aims to shorten the learning curve by discussing the practical engineering issues involved in the investigation, analysis, and remediation of various building failures. The presentation starts with a definition of failure and explores the types of structures that tend to fail more often than others. After the main causes of failure are examined, the attendees learn about the process of investigation for both simple and complex failures. For each of the common structural systems — steel, concrete, masonry, and wood — the instructor outlines the most common causes of failure and explains how they tend to occur. The problems with anchor bolts, investigation of fire-damaged buildings, and failures of the building envelope are addressed as well.

The emphasis of this seminar is on the technical issues, not on other aspects of forensic practice such as report writing, testifying, etc., which are addressed in other ASCE presentations. The discussion is illustrated by many practical examples and case studies. The audience is encouraged to ask questions throughout the presentation, and the seminar concludes with the final Questions and Answers opportunity.

Seminar Benefits

  • Find out which structural systems tend to fail more often than others and what the practical options for remediation are.
  • Explore the process of failure investigation and analysis for various building types.
  • Discuss many actual case studies of building failures.
  • Explore the common causes of building collapses during construction.
  • Find out how to prevent failures of masonry walls in hurricanes and earthquakes.
  • Examine the intricacies of investigating failures of steel and pre-engineered metal buildings.
  • Learn how to avoid failures of various anchor systems.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, the participants will be able to explain how the process of building failure investigation proceeds and how and why various types of failure tend to occur.

Assessment of Learning Outcomes

The instructor will utilize a combination of lecture, working through the many case studies, answering questions, and refreshing the discussion through a short post-seminar exam.

Who Should Attend?

Structural and civil engineers, architects, property managers and other professionals interested in increasing their knowledge of investigating building failures.

Seminar Outline | 1.4 CEUs.

8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Day 1

  • Introduction: What is a failure?
  • Main causes of failure
  • The process of failure investigation
  • Failures of steel-framed buildings and metal building systems
  • Failures of anchor bolts
  • Failures of concrete buildings

Day 2

  • Failures of wood-framed buildings
  • Failures of masonry buildings
  • Structural investigation of fire-damaged buildings
  • Investigating failures of the building envelope
  • Conclusion, final Q&A, post-course test
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