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RE: Words of Wisdom Wanted

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Title: RE: Words of Wisdom Wanted


These situations are not any fun, but they need not be fatal.  Take both a camera and a camcorder with you, and take up-close shots of absolutely everything!  On a Saturday morning in 1988, I opened the newspaper to find a story about a 250,000 s.f. electronics warehouse where three bays had collapsed during a severe thunderstorm two days earlier.  I was the structural EOR on that warehouse!  Two hours later, I was on-site with two of my colleagues, two cameras, and a camcorder.  We documented everything.

This evidence ended up to be crucial.  The partial collapse had ruptured the sprinkler system, and it had inundated the entire contents of the warehouse.  The building owner's insurance paid a $26 million claim, and then proceeded to subrogate against any and all parties that might be guilty of contributing to the collapse.  There were massive lawsuits, and the architect and contractor each eventually settled for large sums of money.  Neither I nor my firm were ever involved in the litigation.  Why not?  We had documented irrefutable evidence that there was at least 14 inches of water, or about 73 psf live load, acting on the roof prior to collapse.  Thank goodness that we were not involved in the scupper design, nor in subsequently blocking the scuppers with nearly solid steel plates.

Good luck!

Stan Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas

-----Original Message-----
From: rlewis(--nospam--at) [mailto:rlewis(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Saturday, December 04, 1999 4:27 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Words of Wisdom Wanted

I am about to visit a site which had a structural failure, with my lawyer.  I
designed a building several years ago which used a plywood box beam rigid
frame type structure.  There was a failure in April 1998 and apparently a
large portion of the roof collapsed.  We found out about the failure when we
received the first papers of a lawsuit in September 1999.  The primary
defendant is the supplier of the plywood rigid frames.

What I would like is some words of wisdom as to what "tell tale" signs to
look for at the site to try to determine the cause of the collapse.  Things
like how things fell indicate what happened, etc.  Also, any reference on
this kind of forensic engineering would be helpful.  Perhaps even questions
to ask.  I'm not sure how much our lawyer will let me talk.  Part of the
building was repaired and put back in service.  Part of it is supposed to be
untouched from the collapse 1-1/2 years ago.

Thanks for your help.