Failure Case Studies in Civil Engineering: Structures, Foundations, and the Geoenvironment


Failure Case Studies in Civil Engineering
 Structures, Foundations, and the Geoenvironment

This is a special publication of the Education Committee of the American Society of
Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Technical Council on Forensic Engineering (TCFE). It was
first published in 1995 as Failures in Civil Engineering: Structural, Foundation and
Geoenvironmental Case Studies edited by Robin Shepherd and J. David Frost.
Forensic Engineering is the application of engineering principles to the
investigation of failures or other performance problems. The investigations may
involve testimony on the findings before a court of law or other judicial forum, when
required. Failures include not only catastrophic events, such as bridge and building
collapses, but also failures of facilities or components to perform as intended by the
owner, design professional, or constructor. ASCE authorized TCFE in July 1985
following a number of dramatic collapses of engineered structures, such as the
Hartford Coliseum, Kemper Arena, and the Hyatt Regency Walkways. The purpose
of TCFE is to develop practices and procedures to reduce the number of such failures,
to disseminate information on failures and their causes, to provide guidelines for
conducting failure investigations, and to provide guidelines for ethical conduct in
forensic engineering. It is the purpose of TCFE’s Education Committee to promote
the study of failure case histories in educational activities. Thus, the committee works
to promote and advance the educational objectives of colleges and universities and
act as a source of referral for educational material with forensic engineering

Design and construction of civil engineering projects presents unique
challenges. The design and construction “team” consists of owners, design
professionals, and construction professionals in a temporary association for a specific
project. The unpredictability of the exposure to natural and man-made hazards that
the facility will experience during its life necessitates that the design be based on
sound engineering judgment rather than certainty. In some industries, a series of
prototypes can be designed and built to work out the problems before the final
product is manufactured. Lessons learned from problems with the earlier prototypes
are incorporated in the final product. By the nature of most civil engineering
projects, that is not an option. Hence, it is critical that we learn from both the
successes and failures of each individual project

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