An Unavoidable Failure

A small but highly visible portion of Lewes Castle collapsed suddenly on November 11. The only reason I know anything beyond what’s in the news article is the coincidence that I visited the castle with my family about three years ago. In the UK, it’s a recognized monument but not unique in its 11th-century heritage; …

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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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Failure Portrait: Extreme Rusting

There’s a lot going on that picture – wet mud in the basement and heavy-timber shoring being the most obvious – but there’s also a truly remarkable piece of weathering. The round column to the right of the timber shoring post is an old-fashioned lally column, which is to say a steel pipe filled with …

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Failure Portrait: Decay

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. That’s what wood looks like just before it falls apart completely. It’s possible to stick a pocket knife into that mess with basically no resistance. There are fancy ways that this could be repaired, most involving some kind of epoxy impregnation. The thing is, this …

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