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Newsletter No 18 - April 2010

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Report Overview

On 1st of April 2010 the Eurocodes for structural design were introduced and whilst there is a great deal of information and guidance available on their use, concern has been expressed that there could be risks during the introductory period. Any reports on issues arising with the implementation of the Eurocodes should be sent to CROSS so that lessons learned can be passed on. The extended winter, particularly in the northern parts of the country, has resulted in a significant number of collapses due to snow loading with reports of snow depths being greater than those normally recommended for design. CROSS has received some data but would welcome more, particularly from Local Authorities who have had failures in their areas. Reports will be published in a future Newsletter and the information passed on to Regulators and those involved with standards. The Bridge Owners Forum has become involved with the programme and has passed on for publication a data base of major bridge collapses. It has nearly 400 entries, mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries, gathered from around the world and includes information on location, reason for failure, consequence in terms of lives lost, and a brief description of the event, and can be accessed on the CROSS web site (Bridge Collapses). To make the SCOSS and CROSS programmes as effective as possible reports are needed on a continuous basis - so if you have a concern, or know of an incident that involves structural safety, then please contribute. Details of how to do so are on the CROSS website as are all of the Newsletters. In addition to the confidential reporting facility there is a Feedback section which provides a forum for any subject related to structural safety and those with issues to air are encouraged to use it.

Overview of Reports in this Newsletter

160 Large panel tower blocks and fire risk

A reporter’s firm has refurbished a number of single-access tower blocks. The LPS buildings were strengthened and the flat roofs were enclosed in frames clad with curved metal sheeting. The reporter is concerned that this could negate the opportunity for helicopter rescues in the case of fire.

174 Unstable concrete blocks

A reporter from a consulting firm was called to a site where the blocks in a retaining wall were found to be expanding and falling apart. After consultation with an expert it was decided the cause was most likely to be faulty aggregate that was expanding when wet.

177 Gain in strength of mortar slower than concrete

On a four storey load-bearing masonry residential scheme, steel beams were used where the walls did not align. To support these 600mm long padstones were required but four courses of Engineering grade B bricks were substituted (not by the designer) for the original in-situ concrete padstones on cost and handling grounds.

178 Loading reinforced masonry wall

A 2.5m high retaining wall was constructed as a reinforced masonry wall incorporating reinforcement in pockets on the back. Access requirements meant that the wall was backfilled two days after construction. A week later it was noted that the wall was no longer plumb. Investigations included excavating back to the base slab which had remained horizontal and it was found that the deflection was due to creep in the bed joints of the immature wall.

180 Dreamspace fatal collapse (news)

Measuring 50m x 50m x 5m high, the size of half a football pitch, the structure was a series of inflatable cells made of very thin translucent pvc which, where glued together formed the support columns. Up to 100 adults and 25 children could walk through these ovoid cells to experience changes of light, shape and colour, with the whole scenario being enhanced by sound tracks of mood music.

186 Collapse of Large Panel System (LPS) buildings during demolition

In 2009, numerous progressive and unexpected collapses occurred during the demolition of Large Panel System (LPS) tower blocks.

190 Insufficient fees

An existing commercial building is to be converted to flats with an estimated contract value of £1.5m. The client has appointed a sole proprietor business. The main concern of the reporter is that the fees for a full investigation of existing structure, addition of an extra floor, and full design and drawing service was £4,300 i.e. about 0.3%. This is considered an order of magnitude too low with normal fees closer to 2% and ideally 3% inclusive of investigations and RC detailing.

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