Causes of Structural Failure Revealed by Structural Forensic Engineering

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Buildings and other structures move numerous times, but the movements are too small to be noticed. If any structure is unable to cope up with this motion, structural defects are likely to occur. Structural failures can happen due to other reasons too, such as fire, explosion, wind or snow load. They affect the integrity, safety, and stability of the structure. It is hard to define the exact seriousness of a structural failure yourself. Structural forensic engineering can help you in this task. The engineers can analyze the structure using advanced assessment techniques and analytical tools and tell you the causes of such failures. Here are a few causes of structural failure revealed by structural forensic engineering.

  • Thermal changes

Mostly all building materials expand on heating and contract on cooling, thus changing the basic structure of the building. The internal walls do not have much impact it is the external thin walls revealed towards direct solar radiation and the roof which are subject to considerable thermal variation that is liable to bring a structural defect.

  • Designing deficiencies

The deficiencies in the designing of your structure can be revealed by structural forensic engineering. These defects arise due to the inefficiency of the plan and designs produced by an architect or engineer before building the structure. The design stage is the essential part of the life cycle of a building because most crucial decisions are made at this stage. These decisions influence all decisions made in the subsequent stage and vice versa. Many maintenance problems occur due to defects in the designing stage of the structure. Such as faulty roofing, this might result in leaks, inadequate drainage or show signs of poor structural support. Therefore, understanding the designing deficiencies is very important, if corrected before starting construction you can save a lot of efforts and money.

  • Material deficiencies

Construction material deficiency factor is the highest rated factor for structural failures. Use of inferior and inadequate building material, such as:

  • Rough framing, improper flashed windows and racked window frames resulting in water leaks.
  • Usage of deteriorating building paper
  • Using inferior drywall and other wall products in damp areas
  • Deteriorating asphalt roofing shingles, particle board, and waterproofing membrane.

Some construction parties intentionally reduce the quality of the material in order to cut down costs.

  • Construction failures

These failures are basically workmanship defects that result due to contractor’s failure to build a structure according to the construction documents. It may occur due to a professionals’ negligence or intentional effort. Constructional failures include items such as improperly installed EIFS exterior wall systems, weatherproofing system, improper plumbing, electrical and mechanical problems and so on.

  • Maintenance deficiencies

After construction, maintenance of the building is very important to let it survive for multiple years. When the owner fails to maintain a structure properly it is called maintenance deficiency. One example to explain this is not maintaining an exterior sealant may cause it to break down and let water in.

With the following steps a forensic structural engineer can help you reveal the above-stated causes:

  • Definition of investigation objective
  • Collection of background information and documents
  • Site visit, sample collection
  • Formulation of investigation plan and project team
  • framing initial failure hypotheses
  • Structural analysis and labs testing
  • Final conclusion
  • Report