Clickbait Headlines

The failure of the spillway at the Oroville Dam in California was a big story last year. The spillway failure had the potential to cause an overall failure of the dam, which would have been catastrophic. Emergency measures to lower the water behind the dam and repair the spillway worked, and a disaster was averted. …

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Common Problems

The latest issue of the CROSS (Confidential Reporting on Structural-Safety) newsletter is out and I had a weird feeling of déjà vu while reading it. In the same order as within the newsletter, the topics include: Commentary on the rather grim UK government review of fire safety triggered by the horrific Grenfell Tower fire, Report …

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Safety Is An Essentially Contested Concept

That’s a view of the wreckage of the excursion steamer General Slocum, run aground in the Bronx after burning in the East River. Over 1000 people died during that incident, so I think it’s safe to say the ship was not safe. I recently came across the definition of an essentially contested concept, and I think …

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The Meaning of Failure

Trigger warning: The blog post below includes discussion of death in building failures. Definitions of structural engineering tend to be positive, as they should be. Safely and economically designing structures…that sort of thing. Engineers are, amazingly enough, human and prefer to think about success rather than failures. I’ve been working on a paper for the …

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Relating Damage To Structural Type

Some stereoscopic views of Chicago after the 1871 fire: That’s the kind of devastation that a firestorm can cause. But it’s worth noting that different types of building fail differently. Nearly every building in Chicago before the fire was either of wood-stud construction (private houses and small commercial buildings) or of masonry walls with wood …

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