Learning From Past Mistakes


September, 2018

In any industry, the best way to improve is to learn from past mistakes. The construction industry is no exception. When beginning any project, engineers and architects work together to create not only a beautiful structure, but a safe one as well. Sometimes, the mistakes that occur are only obvious in retrospect, and can’t be blamed on any one individual. This week we’re reflecting on some of the most iconic construction mishaps, and what we learned from these past mistakes.

Lotus Riverside Complex, an apartment building that fell onto its side in Shanghai China. This is one of the mistakes from the past

Lotus Riverside Complex, China

In 2009, a beautiful newly built 13-story apartment building collapsed in Shanghai. Many people were confused about the cause of the collapse, and spent weeks investigating further into the company. They found that during construction when excavating a basement parking garage, workers dumped the removed soil to the side of the building opposite the river. During heavy rain, the soil became dense and fluid, working as a river to collapse the building. Fortunately, the complex was vacant at the time. One worker was killed, and nearby residents were affected.

Through this, we learn that excess storage of natural materials must be carefully displaced during construction. If the soil had been removed and placed properly, the complex would still be standing today.

Hyatt Regency Walkway, Kansas City

The tragic Hyatt Regency Walkway collapse on July 17th, 1981 was the deadliest structural collapse in U.S. history during its time. The event occurred during a Tea Dance, in which the four layers of walkways collapsed, harming many of the guests at the party. During construction, a design flaw was identified. Contractors decided to change the design and double loaded the connection between the fourth-floor bridge and the atrium roof. They thought the adjustment was minor, but ended up drastically undermining the safety of the structures.

It’s crucial to understand that any change in structural design, no matter how small is may seem, is a major change. Taking the necessary time and consultation prior to making changes will save structural instability down the road.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Washington

During the construction of “Galloping Gertie” in 1940, contractors immediately knew something was wrong. The bridge had been engineered by one of the most esteemed bridge engineers in the world, and many people felt as though questioning the integrity of the bridge would be seen as disrespectful. Once the frame had been established, contractors saw the bridge “gallop” in the wind. Despite efforts to install buffers and conduct research on the wind power in the bridge, the structure still swayed and bounced in the wind. Despite the movement, the bridge was still opened to the public. Various attempts were made to stop the galloping, but engineers reassured onlookers that the movement was normal. The entire timeline of the collapse is documented here, and miraculously, not a single citizen or worker was harmed.

We now base much of our modern bridge engineering on this experience, and have adjusted how we use stiffening girders. Without this learning experience, many modern bridges would still be suffering similar fates.

the vadra hotel and spa, a semicircular building covered from top to bottom with reflective windows

Vdara Hotel & Spa, Las Vegas

Our final construction fail doesn’t involve any collapses or destruction. Rather, it was just a pretty embarrassing effect that architects weren’t expecting to be so severe. The beautiful Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas has a sleek curved design with 57-stories of windows, and acts as one giant magnifying glass. Due to the reflective properties, many guests have labeled the effect of the hotel as the “death ray” because if you lay or sit outside the hotel for too long, you’ll find yourself with severe sunburns. The pool area climbs up to 110 degrees fahrenheit during daylight hours, and the hotel has struggled to resolve this issue for years.

Through this embarrassing reflective fail, we have learned to take into consideration the use of materials in construction and how they interact with their surroundings. The hot Las Vegas sun doesn’t pair well with a wall of reflective glass, and it’s important to take this lesson into consideration when choosing materials for future residential or business properties.

It’s okay to make mistakes

Mistakes are bound to happen. It’s important to take the necessary steps, time, and caution through all stages of a new project in order to keep everyone safe through the process. Choosing the best company for your project is another way to ensure a successful result. The experts here at J-Tech Construction are ready to help you with your next project, so call us today to get started!

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