Failure Portrait: The Weak Link

I have found that looking at abandoned buildings tells me a lot about exactly how various materials and systems fail. Without human interference – in the form of maintenance and repair – each material and system will fail at its own pace and its own way. The picture below is an abandoned factory. Like a lot …

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Failure Portrait: Crushing

Our daily work covers a number of structural materials – starting with steel, concrete, brick, and wood – and there’s a tendency to put structures in little mental boxes based on material. “Wood, therefore the loads are small” is bad logic, but it represents a lot of ordinary work. We most often see wood as floor …

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Failure Portrait: Everything

I knew before I entered this building that we would be designing a lot of repair. It turned out to be a lot of a lot. The joists are all rotted, the wall extension that’s supporting the joist nearest us is on the verge of collapse, the wall beyond is missing mortar to the point …

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Faint But Significant

See those barely-visible vertical striations? No, not those. Not the big fat white ones on the bottom of the joist. The ones you can barely see on the side of the joist. [Click to enlarge] The fat white lines I’ve boxed out in red are the remnants of the old plaster ceiling. The white lines …

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The Line of Force

As long as I’m rambling on about shoring, I’ll use this opportunity to make a point about how structure works. The picture below shows one piece of a shoring system we installed to keep the front facade, which was moving outward, from peeling off the building. The shoring system consists of horizontal steel braces that sandwich the …

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