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Newsletter No 33 - January 2014

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Report Overview

Since the last Newsletter there have been two major collapses of shopping mall roofs: one which was under construction near Durban killed two, and the other in Latvia which killed fifty four and has resulted in the fall of the government. A major objective of CROSS is to publish concerns which might be precursors to more major failures so that they may be recognised. In the last Newsletter (No 32 October 2013) the first report was “Partial roof collapse at shopping centre” which described a collapse that occurred at night and fortunately there was nobody underneath. Had it happened during the day it could have been in the same category as Durban and Latvia. The lesson to be learned is that large numbers of people congregate underneath shopping mall roofs and they are safety critical structures deserving close attention during design, construction, and maintenance. Just before Christmas there was a partial collapse of a ceiling at a theatre in London. Several reports on failures of heavy ceilings can be found on www.structural-safety.org by entering "ceiling" into the Quick search box on any page. Our comments on this at the time were: The danger of falling ceilings is not new; there is old cinematographic legislation that was brought in because of failures with lath and plaster ceiling fixings. The Home Office document ‘Recommendations on Safety in Cinemas 1955’, and which is still relevant says: “Ceilings shall be in such a condition as not to cause a danger to persons visiting the premises”. Another precursor - and in this Newsletter there is a report about a suspended ceiling failure in an old building due to faulty installation of fixings. This Newsletter also has reports on other events that have occurred in service including the collapse of a balcony due to mis-placed rebar and a further example of RHS sections splitting when water is trapped and freezes. Several reports which have been received from concerned engineers about the possible consequences of cut price design and about responsibilities are also shown. The new Structural-Safety web site has been launched and whilst it looks much the same as before there is a new content management system running in the background. This handles published reports, as well as providing a platform for other countries to have their own schemes. The first to join is Southern Africa which encompasses the Republic of South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Their Sponsors are the Joint Structural Division, the South African Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Structural Engineers. Details are to be found by going to the International page and a warm welcome is extended to participants in these countries. The site will be further developed in the coming months. The success of the CROSS programme depends on receiving reports, and individuals and firms are encouraged to participate by sending concerns in confidence to Structural-Safety. More reports are always needed.

Overview of Reports in this Newsletter

341 Balcony collapse at block of flats

An in-situ reinforced concrete balcony collapsed at a block of flats which are believed to have been built in the 1960s.

304 Partial collapse of suspended ceiling

A section of suspended ceiling in a multi-storey building collapsed. The ceiling, which was much newer than the building, consisted of mineral fibre tiles laid into a grid system supported by galvanised wires. These were connected to eye bolts which were screwed into expansion anchors drilled into what appeared to be a plaster soffit.

314 More on freezing and galvanised hollow sections

A reporter was involved in correcting a cold formed galvanised SHS four storey balcony structure where had longitudinal splits formed in at least two of the four columns that supported the balconies.

320 Lifting an unbalanced load

This relates to the lifting of an item of plant by a tower crane during which the load toppled from the slings causing considerable damage and delay. By chance serious injury was avoided.

312 Look-alike construction equipment

A reporter wonders if the risks brought to the industry by look-alike temporary works equipment is something that had been reported to CROSS?

365 Alterations to existing buildings with no site visits

A reporter is concerned about structural engineers developing structural calculations and drawings based on the Architects’ drawings only, with no site visits.

361 Basement party walls

The client's Consulting Engineer had designed a new basement but, when queried by the Consulting Engineer for the main contractor, was unable to provide survey information for the adjoining property.

411 Quick and cheap design calculations

A building control officer says that he recently received a set of calculations which had been prepared through a website that specialises in providing calculations at a very low price. They do this by having a number of generic designs which are then adapted to the purpose.

348 Responsibilities of Local Authorities for possibly dangerous structures

A reporter, who used to be involved with building control, believes that Local Authorities have a duty to decide if a danger exists when a member of the public draws their attention to a potentially dangerous situation.

346 Viaduct survey concerns

A small four span brickwork railway viaduct has been degrading for some time and a reporter, who was not associated with the structure, noted that cracks had worsened over recent years.

358 Offshore tower failure

The top two thirds of a three part off-shore lattice mast failed due to problems with some of the connection bolts.

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