A Good Idea Internationally

I’ve written several times about the CROSS (Confidential Reporting on Structural Safety) website. It allows engineers (and theoretically others) to anonymously report issues that are potentially dangerous or have led to structural failure, so that engineers everywhere may learn from those problems and their solutions. It originated in the UK, sponsored by professional and government agencies there.

Good news: CROSS-US is here. It seems to be sponsored by the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which is the obvious home for this idea in the US.

One could ask if it’s really necessary to have separate CROSSes for different countries, given that the issues at hand – at the very least, mistakes in design, mistakes in construction, and unsafe conditions created by aging and misuse of structure – are universal. The easiest answer is that separate versions of CROSS share a single database and the reports are linked on each country’s entry page, so the different entries to the database do not actually result in different systems. The answer that addresses technical concerns rather than logistical ones is that the concepts are the same everywhere but the examples will be heavily influenced by the present (building codes and enforcement regimes) and by the past (the local history of building systems, enforcement, and technological change) in each country. To use an obvious example from our practice, I would not look to the UK CROSS for reports on issues involving masonry failure on old steel-frame high-rises, while people in various large cities in the US could fill volumes with examples of dangerous conditions and worse repairs. Each country added to the system will, I suspect, broaden the overall scope in terms of the types of structures and the types of problems.

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