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Re: Berkeley balcony collapse leaves 6 students dead

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To your point on structural damage vs water damage, I would love to see the
statistics but I totally agree. I've probably done about 2000 forensic
investigations in my career so far, and a lot of it is related to
residential insurance claims. I doubt I have seen more than 10 real
structural failures that were caused by poor design and/or construction
specifically, which I am not counting foundation issues, or storm damage.
But I am constantly looking at water damage either from plumbing issues or
envelope-related water intrusion, which also can work inside-out due to
plumbing leaks and shower enclosure leaks (very common).

I know its anecdotal, but a coworker had a balcony over a porch with rot
damage due to poor architectural design and flashing/waterproofing issues,
I think it ended up being well over $20k to fix. Somehow she got insurance
to pay for it. The house was relatively new, I think less than 5 years old.

I recently did a forensic investigation of a medium-sized condo complex
with exterior steel-framed and concrete slab stairs, walkways and
balconies, most of which were not covered by a roof. The architectural
design in terms of the roofs, gutters, and very poor building maintenance
were to blame for the extensive corrosion throughout the complex. I had to
alert the building department as it was a serious structural safety issue,
and the entire exterior structure of stairs and walkways was quickly shored
until a replacement design could be completed. I left the project after the
shoring was completed, but I think the replacement would be at least $1.5M.
With a few roof change ( including having roofs over the exposed walkways),
gutters, and better maintenance, this all could have been avoided.

I found this quote on a couple of websites but was wasting too much time
trying to find better numbers, but I think it illustrates the point that
water damage is prolific and the economic impacts are huge. I think this is
the number the insurance companies paid out, so if they deny a claim or
there was no insurance claim to begin with, those numbers are not reflected
in the 9.1 B.

"The American Insurance Association reported that during the period 2007 to
2009, water leaks in homes resulted to property loss amounting to $9.1

I have a business colleague who does forensic engineering also, and a lot
of his work is large commercial envelope failures, sometimes the lawsuits
are for millions and drag on for long periods of time. Many times his
company is retained to make sure they repair it correctly, and he said even
with someone watching it is hard to get the workers to install stucco and
flashing correctly.

Unfortunately it will probably take insurance companies to take such bad
hits on lawsuits that they lobby legislatures for changes in codes, it is
not likely to come from engineers or building code officials. That, and on
bigger projects, as other engineers have mentioned on this subject, owners
will require more design professional oversight and better inspection to
protect their significant investments.

Andrew Kester, PE

On Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 5:25 PM, Chuck Utzman <chuckutzman(--nospam--at)> wrote: 

> I've also done a fair bit of forensic work on similar problems also. 8 or
> 9 years is plenty of time to rot out encapsulated joists. The stucco siding 
> can make things far worse.
> For years now, I have grumbled to our local Building Dept. that we should
> be looking at waterproofing (even if we spent less time reviewing,
> observing, and certifying the structural work on residential construction). 
> The building codes & local building departments have chosen to turn a blind 
> eye to waterproofing issues.
> I would wager that water damage from poor detailing, construction,
> inspection, and maintenance outweighs structural failure costs in
> California by an order of magnitude (Billions vs. Millions).
> The situations is a disgrace to the industry & the problem starts with
> inadequate Codes.
> Chuck Utzman, PE
> On 6/16/2015 1:44 PM, Andrew Kester wrote:
>> Very sad and preventable. But they said the building was fairly new and
>> it looked like it was newer architecture and just judging by the finishes, 
>> which makes it a bit more surprising.

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