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1.5 LU

Since the 1960s, forensic investigators of structural failures have primarily sought out quantifiable errors and omissions. Underlying causes of too many of these failures have gone unnoticed, thus not offering information to develop “feedback loops” to correct deficiencies and inadequacies in structural engineering practice. Consequently, unnecessary structural failures have not only continued, but have recurred.

From a broader design- and systems-based perspective, the author has examined hundreds of failures. She has identified and substantiated nine areas in which structural engineers have been making design decisions without using available, pertinent knowledge from related engineering fields and even from structural engineering. Three areas are the focus of this seminar.

Using three case studies, overviews will be given on structural engineering design decision-making in the context of history. The first one is fracture due to hydrogen embrittlement of galvanized high-strength hard steel bolts and threaded rods. The second is the February 2017 failure of the Oroville Dam Spillway. The third includes structural failures that have resulted from the (mis)use of the terms “design” and “systems thinking.” Relevant knowledge was available, but was not recognized and utilized during conceptual and schematic design.

Structural failures impose risks to society (deaths, injuries, financial loss). Recurring failures are inexcusable. As such, structural engineering as a profession is too important to society to start out with an undergraduate education under the umbrella of civil engineering (i.e., with courses irrelevant to structural engineering practice). Suggestions will be offered on where changes need to be made.

Organized by
Tuesday, 3/13
6pm to 8pm
Center for Architecture
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