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Re: Definition of Unstable

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A little off the exact answer to your question, within your description of the case, the helping truth may be on another trace. Underline instead, the duration from report to the fact, with opposite sign and think that:

Long ago before collapse “almost two years”our colleague was invited to give his opinion for the building. He did it with an excellent technical report, using clear terms commonly perceivable and understandable. The building was far away from being perfect or collapsing. What was the use and what was done to the building by whom and what in the meanwhile was not on his right or responsibility. Notice in addition that the soil behavior by time, almost unpredictable due to unpredictable factors (temperature and groundwater) in these cases, may be relieving or worsening the problems of a structure. Hence at this very time it would be unfair and risky to state anything different than the report, in either direction of the building situation.

So keep out of the trap of allegations!


John .kont/s

Civil Engineer

Athens Greece.

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, July 26, 2004 10:57 PM
Subject: Definition of Unstable

Once again, I find myself employed as an expert witness in the defense of a fellow structural engineer. 
A concrete tiltwall industrial building was constructed in 1976 and expanded in 1991.  Due primarily to differential heaving of expansive clay soils, the building suffered substantial distress over a period of many years.  By 1999, the distress had progressed to a point where the building owner brought in three separate structural engineers to observe the condition of the building.  All three engineers independently concluded that they observed significant structural problems and recommended further testing, repair and monitoring programs.  The owner apparently ignored these recommendations, and instead proceeded to sell the building to the tenant in 2000.  Less than a year later, the roof collapsed.  An insurance company subsequently paid a claim well in excess of $2 million, and is now subrogating against (suing) all three engineers.  The allegations principally are that the engineers:  (1) failed to include warnings about the immediate need for repairs, (2) failed to include warnings about life-safety issues, and (3) failed to report that collapse was imminent. 
Key Question:
The engineer that I am defending wrote a two-page report summarizing the observed damage and recommending specific repairs, tests, and monitoring.  Prior to a list of nine items, one key sentence reads:  "Please find listed below items that need to be completed immediately and prior to any other investigations."  In my opinion, this sentence directly refutes the first allegation.  Another key sentence reads:  "It is my opinion that the building is relatively unstable at this time with differential floor slab and wall panels movements noted."  In my opinion, this sentence indirectly refutes the third allegation because I consider an unstable building to be a building where the risk of potential collapse is imminent.  What I need to support this opinion is a good written definition of "unstable".  Preferably, I would like to be able to refer to a well-written paragraph in a widely recognized text or other reference.  Any suggestions?  
Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas