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Structural engineer's mistake could take down firm

Beware of design standards!

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#1 FLBuff PE

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Posted 22 November 2011 - 03:42 PM

My company is involved in the 'fix' of this school in Meeker, Colorado. The town is located in NW Colorado. The first story appeared in the Sunday Denver Post, and the second story is in this morning's paper.

http://www.denverpos...op_section_news

http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19387865

This guy will likely lose his license, and face disciplinary action. And this firm, which my company has worked on several projects with, may not survive. Their reputation has been ruined, and they will likely face multiple lawsuits. Just a reminder of the importance our engineering judgements, no matter how 'small', have on our lives, our company's viability, and the lives of the public.

#2 willsee

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 02:35 PM

The company hired him without verifying he even had a license? From reading the articles sounds like this was more than just the structural engineer's fault.

We just finished redesign of a school that had a concrete failure the first time around.
http://www.aggregate...ol-closure.aspx

#3 snickerd3

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 02:38 PM

Looks like the state needs to share in the blame...they got rid of the person but still should share responsibility.

#4 kevo_55

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 03:14 PM

Intresting read.

Maybe I review too much work done by others but I am finding that many engineers don't know how to detail up an adequate load path or use codes appropriately these days.

I could also just be bitter too. ;)
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#5 FLBuff PE

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 06:16 PM

Yea, the state whiffed on this as well. They should have caught that the seismic load assumed was for a barn or storage shed, not a school. It's lucky that the wind loads up in that area (which can be fairly significant) didn't cause the building to come down, causing a MAJOR disaster. I'm glad that it was "just" a wall moving that caused the review.

#6 Archimedes

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Posted 25 November 2011 - 02:58 AM

My company is involved in the 'fix' of this school in Meeker, Colorado. The town is located in NW Colorado. The first story appeared in the Sunday Denver Post, and the second story is in this morning's paper.

http://www.denverpos...op_section_news

http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19387865

This guy will likely lose his license, and face disciplinary action. And this firm, which my company has worked on several projects with, may not survive. Their reputation has been ruined, and they will likely face multiple lawsuits. Just a reminder of the importance our engineering judgements, no matter how 'small', have on our lives, our company's viability, and the lives of the public.



WOW! As a structural engineer myself that scares the crap out of me! I worry all the time, that I've overlooked something, didnt' understand the behavior of some key member as I thought I did, or don't realize I'm missing some common code requirement.

#7 IlPadrino

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Posted 25 November 2011 - 04:16 PM

For me, it's not about whether or not somebody made a mistake, but rather, what their actions were after the mistake was discovered. I guess we'll see how it all plays out on this one. Keep us informed Buff. I'd like to see where this goes.


I disagree completely! Mistakes that threaten life-safety are what it's all about. Nothing you do after you discover a mistake that hurts people (or could hurt people) mitigates the mistake. Buildings are extremely complex - which is why designers should check and double-check the critical parts. I see all too often that people stamping drawings have little "expertise" but instead rely on someone else to make sure it's done right. One small example: a sheet detailing the roof drain leaders was stamped by an HVAC guy. When a problem was found with the capacity of one leader, the engineer that stamped the sheet admitted he had no knowledge of code requirements for roof drain leaders.

#8 STEEL MAN

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Posted 25 November 2011 - 05:46 PM

reminds me of my project in California, I did the calcs and a licensed structural engineer in Cali state checked it and the Buidling Official checked it too, before the construction happens, everybody should agree on the calcs and design before construction if not, everyone in the loop is liable. Not only one guy is responsible.

#9 IlPadrino

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Posted 25 November 2011 - 08:28 PM

(read 59 Story Crisis if you never have)


That's a good story... but I wonder what ever happened to the person(s) that accepted Bethlehem Steel's proposal to use bolted joints.

#10 EnvEngineer

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 10:46 PM

I think we are seeing price driven engineering, I see quite a few projects that may not go through the needed review due to lack of budget. This can be faulted all arround. Are we going to low bid ourselves out of business?
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#11 FLBuff PE

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 03:00 PM

And the hits to the reputation just keep on coming:

http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19429559

This one is not as serious as the Meeker debacle, but still another chink in the armor.

#12 FLBuff PE

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 03:11 PM

There was another school board meeting in Meeker last night.

http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19437764

The soils were given the incorrect seismic classification, in addition to the incorrect structural codes being used.

#13 kevo_55

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 03:53 PM

This is the reason why we needed a 16 hour SE exam.

Howell was already ripped a new one and now it sure looks like his former company will get theirs too.

#14 FLBuff PE

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 07:33 PM

So we got our report done yesterday, and it was presented at the school board meeting last night.

http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19534666

#15 Andrew Siegrist

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 11:16 PM

Thanks for posting all these links FLBuff. I feel bad for the structural engineer, you would think maybe if he had more of a staff to help him maybe someone at the firm would have caught the building code error.

#16 Mempho

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 04:12 PM

Ouch.

#17 FLBuff PE

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 06:16 PM

And the hits just keep on coming:

http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19589917

Structural calculations made by the same engineer as on the Meeker school; the engineer got fired by the firm shortly after the first story.

#18 Andrew Siegrist

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 09:24 PM

Found this engineer's linkedin profile: http://www.linkedin....well/18/645/6b7

Guess he owns his own company too? Notice his profile reflects he no longer works at neenan.

#19 YMZ PE

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Posted 25 December 2011 - 05:50 AM

In California, licensed engineers do the plan checks. Is this uncommon in other parts of the country? Not that the structural engineer doesn't need to ensure her calculations are correct, but it makes me feel safer in general knowing that all of our buildings go through rigorous oversight before and during construction.

#20 Dexman PE PMP

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 03:51 PM

Saw this in the paper this morning:

http://www.denverpos...ews/ci_19823514

Structural issues of varying degrees of seriousness have been identified in every Neenan Co. school project that has received money through a state grant program meant to make school buildings safer.
"Corrective actions" are being carried out at each of the 15 school buildings at various stages of completion in eight districts across Colorado, officials said Wednesday at a meeting of the board that oversees the Building Excellent Schools Today program.



#21 treyjay

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 04:32 PM

Yea, the state whiffed on this as well. They should have caught that the seismic load assumed was for a barn or storage shed, not a school. It's lucky that the wind loads up in that area (which can be fairly significant) didn't cause the building to come down, causing a MAJOR disaster. I'm glad that it was "just" a wall moving that caused the review.



Seems that the Colorado Board is now wanting to know why all the folks who "knew" there was a problem didn't report it.....

http://www.denverpos...7042?source=pkg

#22 Exception Collection

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 11:24 PM

Yeesh. Yeah, people screw up, but this is the kind of screwup I just can't wrap my head around.

I do take exception to the concept that it was "designed like a barn" - I do my best to make sure my barns (and houses, storage sheds, schools, bridges, office and retail buildings etc) have a continuous load path, and I'm sure everyone else here does as well. It was just designed to the seismic requirements of a barn, which is something slightly different but important (from the viewpoint of an Engineer).

Of course, I also think blame should be passed around - sure, the SE's the one that is ultimately responsible for his design, but I take exception to the idea that having a stamp means you are exempt from mistakes - I've had reviewers question my engineering before, and while nine times out of ten I had it right to begin with they do catch mistakes (or post-engineering changes, like "we'll just add a concrete floor, we don't have to tell the Engineer.") every once in a while. Of course, my father was a plan reviewer, so he kind of instilled in me the idea that everyone - *everyone* - screws up once in a while.




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