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Federal report cites design flaws in Dallas Cowboys practice facility collapse

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Federal report cites design flaws in Dallas Cowboys practice facility collapse

01:46 PM CDT on Tuesday, October 6, 2009

By BROOKS EGERTON / The Dallas Morning News

Several design flaws contributed to the May 2 collapse of the Dallas Cowboys practice facility, according to a National Institute of Standards and Technology draft report obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

The federal report also urges all owners, designers and builders of similar steel-framed, fabric-covered structures to evaluate their safety.

Canada-based Cover-All Building Systerms has said it designed the structure to withstand 90 mph winds, as required by the city of Irving's building code.

But "the wind speed at the time and location of the collapse was in the range of 55 mph to 65 mph," the federal report says.

It lists four factors that were "primary contributors to the collapse of the structure":

• Wind-load calculations were faulty, both in the original 2003 design and in 2008 reinforcements.
• The steel framing was not as strong as Cover-All calculated in 2003.
• The original design did not consider potential joint weaknesses.
• The 2008 reinforcements "had a minimal effect," and "the most critical members were not reinforced."

"Our investigation found that the facility collapsed under a wind load that a building of this type would be expected to withstand," study leader John Gross said.

Federal researchers said their analysis, unlike Cover-All's, accounted for "internal wind pressure due to the presence of wind and multiple doors."

"The NIST researchers also determined that the building's fabric could not be relied upon to provide lateral bracing (additional perpendicular support) to the frames, in contrast to what was stated in the design documents," a news release from the agency states. Also, "the expected wind resistance of the structure did not account for bending effects in some members of the frame."

Cover-All consultant Jeffrey Lawrence Galland told The Dallas Morning News in May that he recommended adding "a significant amount of steel" last year to the roof arches and wall framing. He said Cover-All and its U.S. subsidiary, Summit Structures, did most but not all of what he suggested.

Galland said Summit did the job under warranty and didn't want to pay for some work. He would not elaborate then and has declined to comment since.

Galland was engineering director of a Las Vegas company called JCI, although he had no engineering license. He now runs a consulting business in Las Vegas.

He falsified his educational credentials and served federal prison time for his role in a violent drug trafficking ring, a News investigation found.

JCI recently began operating under a different name, S2 Engineers. The company and its owner, Scott Jacobs, sought federal bankruptcy protection after the Cowboys facility collapsed.

"Scott Jacobs and JCI stand by the services rendered for Summit Structures regarding the Dallas Cowboys indoor practice facility," according to a statement they released last month. "Mr. Jacobs and JCI do not have any further comment at this time as litigation is pending."

The Cowboys hired Cover-All in mid-2003, after learning that another of the Canadian company's large tent-like structures had collapsed. That one was a six-week-old warehouse in Philadelphia that failed after a snowstorm, injuring no one.

Team officials have not said when they learned of the warehouse owners' concerns about design flaws. A Pennsylvania judge later concluded that engineering and construction errors caused the collapse.

Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple declined to comment today.

Behm and DeCamillis, the two people most seriously injured in the Irving collapse, filed lawsuits in August that accuse Cover-All and JCI of conspiring to cover up design flaws. The Cowboys have not been sued.

Another government inquiry related to the collapse remains under way: that of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. Among other things, it is examining the city of Irving's failure to maintain certified copies of the practice facility's engineering documents.

State officials have said such records should be kept for the lifetime of a building. Irving officials have disputed that.