Learning from Failures

On July 2, as a part of the Penn State Department of Architectural Engineering Centennial Celebration, I presented a seminar titled Learning From Building Failures to an audience of practitioners and AE students.  The continuing education seminar focused on studying building failures to assist in the investigation of failures as a part of forensic practice or to become a better structural engineering designer by avoiding the mistakes of others. 

Identifying Trends:  Another theme of the seminar was that of identifying trends in failures as they realte to specific building types or assemblies.  Specific examples discussed included identification of trends related to metal-plate wood trusses (ie lack of temporary or permanent bracing) and engineered metal buildings (problems related to purlin design and bracing).   Forensic analysis and review  involves keeping an open mind during the investigation  but trend information can be used to help identify the problem at hand or as a means of elimination of possible causes.

Historical Case Studies:  Case studies from historical failures are often an excellent  source of information for engineers and forensic investigators.  A good place to start the learning process is going direct to the Failures Wiki, or using the link on this site.  Failuire examples available for review range form roof collapses, or full building collapses to facade defects and waterproofing issues.

More Information:  Additional infromation on the Learning from Failures Seminar or failures education at Penn State is available by providing  a comment to this post.

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2 Responses to “Learning from Failures”

  1. bhanu
    February 25, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    i want know what full information did u give on the learning from buildings failures.

    • mkev
      February 26, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

      The session was fairly short so it basically was an overview on building failures. Our discussion included general causes of structural and architectural failures. One of the features was a quick look at a number of historical failure case studies to see what lessons had (and had not ) been learned. From this we noted the role of human or procedural errors in so many failures. We also looked at a couple of examples of failure trends so that investigators and educators can identify common problems that occur. For this part of the program, I discussed some of the common problems with metal plated wood trusses and engineered metal buildings.

      A full day seminar is being planned as a continuing and distance education class as part of a new initiative at Penn State. Dates will be announced later in the spring.

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