In March 2016, a terrible accident involving a building took place in West Palm Beach. The brick of a 90-year-old apartment building crashed four stories onto a one-story law office, which caused injuries to four people. Unfortunately, many of these accidents do not end in injuries but fatalities instead. In this case, the building caused the roof of the law office to smash and cave in, due to the pressure of the bricks piling on. Because of this accident, forty firefighters had to use resources to respond to the scene and clean up the mess. These incidents typically end like this, with a giant mess and many injured people – which is why preventative measures are the best way to assure that these accidents never happen in the first place. In this case, the accident was the result of rusted metal rods that attached the old building to the structure – which is something that West Palm Beach building inspectors check most often.
Why Building Collapses Happen
Of course, over the years, many extreme building collapses have taken place that we have heard of in the news. There are many common problems that can go wrong with a building causing a collapse. Here are some of the most common reasons:
Weak Foundations: To have a foundation that isn’t going to collapse, a lot of money must be thrown into a project. This still means that building regulations must be followed when a building is being erected. Two things must be remembered when building a structure, which includes remembering the solidity of the soil and the heaviness of the building when it is complete. Even on the most solid ground, the foundation must be strong enough to hold the load.
Weak Building Materials: Most often, materials are too cheap and weak that they cannot withhold the weight of the load. Sometimes a contractor may knowingly use cheaper, weaker materials to cut costs and these accidents will happen as a result.
Worker Mistakes: Perhaps workers will mix concrete together, only to have it be insufficient to hold the load. In other situations, workers who do not have experience in building may be hired for the job and lack the ability to work on a building, saving costs for employers but not completing the job correctly.
Heavy Load: When the load inside is beyond the strength of a building, it may collapse. Maybe the foundation was once made to withstand a lot, but that could change over time as more is added into a building. In other cases, extra stories may be added, causing extra strain.
Failure to Test Strength: The strength of the building should be tested at various times within the building process. It is an enforcement of the law to actually test the building, but many will often forget this.
One thing that construction workers must keep in mind is this: structural integrity and failure. This is an aspect of engineering dealing with the ability of a structure to fully support a designed load without breaking or tearing apart. With structural integrity, a building will be able to hold together under a load without breaking because this is what it is meant to do. If structural integrity is forgotten in the realm of construction, catastrophic failure could occur, causing injuries, severe damage, death, or monetary losses. If a construction worker wants to work with structural integrity, they will consider many factors such as toughness, strength, weight, hardness, and elasticity.
Types of Collapses
There are various ways that a building may collapse, for various reasons. Not only can the type of collapse tell workers about how it can be prevented next time, but also help rescue workers who must put themselves in these dire situations to look for those who could be injured inside. Here are some of the most common types of collapse:
- V-shaped collapse: These types of collapses occur when the center support of a building is compromised and the floor or roof collapses into the shape of a V. This happens mostly due to structural weakness or an explosion. The remaining structure is typically examined closely for the potential of further collapse.
- A-frame or tent collapse: This is known as an “inverted V.” All three walls could be compromised and any surrounding building could be destroyed.
- Lean-to Collapse: This happens when only one side of the building collapses and a lean-to is formed. Depending on what is left in the building, everything must be removed to ensure that extra support and stability is present.
- Cantilever Collapse: In this type of collapse, the remaining structure is left unsupported and hanging freely in the air. This is the most dangerous type of collapse of all. Victims could be trapped on specific floors and rescue is most difficult.
- Pancake Collapse: These types of collapses are least likely to have any survivors. If a complete pancake collapse occurs, it will usually result in a large pile of debris. Operating inside any type of collapse like this proves to be extremely dangerous.
In most situations, construction collapses are entirely preventable but happen due to a design or manufacturing defect. It should never be forgotten that a building collapse can cause some of the most catastrophic injuries as well as sudden death if the collapse is bad enough. Some of the main factors that cause these terrible disasters are defective building materials, engineering or architectural defects, failure to identify flaws during routine inspections, foundation defects, improper building maintenance, not adhering to design specifications, preventable fire, and water damage.
The victim of a building collapse may be able to recover under premises liability laws. This means that if you have been injured in one of these accidents, you could be eligible for compensation from the owner of the property, the engineer in charge of the project, and many more subjects. If you were working on the building when it collapsed, you may also be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, you will need an attorney on your side who can help you fight for your rights after an injury. Call us today at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi so we can help fight beside you!