Systems Thinking

People focus too much on materials or individual members in structure, and not enough on systems. You can’t understand modern structures – by which I mean ones that follow the cutting edge of thought since the 1880s – without thinking about them in terms of structural systems. The picture above shows the underside of a …

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A Classic Failure

At the APT conference last week, I was one of the judges in the Student Design-Build Competition run by the Preservation Engineering Technical Committee. The most important thing to say on that topic is that, as in previous years, I was greatly impressed by the effort, thought, and creativity that the students brought to the …

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The FIU Bridge Accident Report

I wrote about the FIU bridge collapse this past summer when the OSHA report came out. The more comprehensive analysis from the National Transportation Safety Board has been released, and it brought up a lot of the same issues for me. In short, regardless of the mistakes that led to the specific accident that occurred, …

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An Old Problem Exacerbated

Yesterday’s picture of the St. Paul Building (repeated above) had an interesting detail in the background. The problem of how tall a chimney should be has been around ever since people started building cities: it has to be tall enough so that smoke (and potentially burning cinders) don’t blow onto a neighbor’s roof or into …

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The most recent SCOSS and CROSS newsletter has a headline that is a slap in the face, and almost certainly a deserved one. Report number 858 is “Repeating the same mistakes” and it describes areas where engineers are literally dong that. The whole purpose of forensic investigations, from the engineers’ perspective, is to understand what …

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