The 20 Cases - Cases involving ethical issues in Civil Engineering Profession

September 3, 2017 | Author: Mayolites | Category: Engineer, Construction Bidding, Employment, Manila, Sensor
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Engineering ethics is the field of applied ethics and system of moral principles that apply to the practice of engineeri...


Technological University of the Philippines College of Engineering

Department of Civil Engineering

CE 522

CE Laws, Contracts, Specification & Ethics

THE 20 CASES A Compilation of Ethical Issues in Civil Engineering Profession

Submitted by: Fesalbon, Mayson R. BSCE 5A

Submitted to: Engr. Teodinis Petalcorin – Garcia

December 17, 2014

THE 20 CASES A Compilation of Ethical Issues in Civil Engineering Profession

Mayson R. Fesalbon Technological University of the Philippines – Manila

INTRODUCTION Engineering ethics is the field of applied ethics and system of moral principles that apply to the practice of engineering. The field examines and sets the obligations by engineers to society, to their clients, and to the profession. The compilation consists of 20 cases of ethical issues in the field of Civil Engineering. Issues like breach of contract, misconduct, insufficient design, corruption and many more are some of the main issues.

In the local scenes, 10 cases were introduced by means of news articles obtained from the internet. Some of these issues are the controversial Makati City Hall Building II, Torre de Manila and Ozone Disco. On the other hand, another 10 cases were introduced in the international scene. Some of which are the Rana Plaza Building, Hyatt Regency Hotel Wlakway and Ronan

Point. Also, a copy of the Code of Ethics for Civil Engineers from the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineering (PICE) is included.

CODE OF ETHICS FOR CIVIL ENGINEERS It shall be considered unprofessional and inconsistent with honorable and dignified bearing for any registered Civil Engineer: To act for his clients* in professional matters otherwise than as a faithful agent or trustee, or to accept any remuneration other than his stated charges for services rendered to his clients. To attempt to injure falsely or maliciously, directly or indirectly, the professional reputation, prospects, or business of another Engineer. To attempt to supplant another Engineer after definite steps have been taken toward his employment.

To compete with another Engineer for employment on the basis of his professional charges, by reducing his usual charges and in his manner attempting to underbid after being informed of the charges named by another. To review the work of another Engineer for the same client, except with the knowledge or consent of such Engineer, or unless the connection of such Engineer with the work has been terminated.

To advertise in self-laudatory language, or in any other manner derogatory to the dignity of the Profession. To use the advantages of a salaried position to compete unfairly with Engineers in private practice. To act in any manner or engage in any practice which will tend to bring discredit on the honor or dignity of the Engineering Profession.

Adopted in September 2001 as part of the Manual of Professional Practice for Civil Engineers Published by the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.



Civil engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor and dignity of the civil engineering profession by: 1. Using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare and the environment; 2. Being honest and impartial and serving with fidelity the public, their employers/employees and clients; 3. Striving to increase the competence and prestige of the civil engineering profession; and 4. Supporting the disciplines.






Adopted in September 2001 as part of the Manual of Professional Practice for Civil Engineers Published by the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.





Civil Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their duties.


Civil Engineers shall perform services only in areas of their competence.


Civil Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.


Civil Engineers shall act in professional matters for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees, and shall avoid conflicts of interest.


Civil Engineers shall build their professional reputation on the merit of their services and shall not compete unfairly with others.


Civil Engineers shall act in such a manner as to uphold and enhance the honor, integrity, and dignity of the civil engineering profession.

Adopted in September 2001 as part of the Manual of Professional Practice for Civil Engineers Published by the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction Code of Ethics for Civil Engineers I.


Local Cases Makati City Hall Building II


Torre De Manila


Manila River Green Residences


Irrigation Projects of NIA


Parañaque Premier Medical Center


Two Serendra


Palawan Infrastructure Projects


The Eton Residences


9 Cebu City Barangays Road & Bridge Projects


Ozone Disco


International Cases Rana Plaza Building


Sampoong Superstore


Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway


2000 Commonwealth


Ronan Point


Autoroute 19 Dela Concorde Overpass


Minneapolis I-35W Bridge


Tacoma Narrows Bridge


Quebec Bridge


Stava Dam


LOCAL CASES CE Laws, Contracts, Specifications & Ethics




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Contrary to what bid documents show, one contractor denies participating in the 2007 bidding for Phase 1 of the controversial Makati City Hall parking building. MANILA, Philippines – On December 28, 2007, a Friday, the bids and awards secretariat of the Makati City government was on overtime mode. It was the last working day for the year, and the secretariat was under time pressure to finish all the scheduled bidding activities for projects that were to be undertaken the following year. Covering 16 projects, more than P1.3 billion ($29.5 million) of funds was at stake, including Phase approved budget contract (ABC), it was easily the biggest project in the line-up.


1 of the controversial Makati City Hall parking building. In fact, with a P400 million ($9 million)

Documents show that 3 contractors supposedly submitted their bids for the parking building project – Hilmarc’s Construction Inc, ITP Construction Inc, and J Bros Construction. These 3 firms also supposedly participated in another project where bids were also opened that day: Phase 1 of the P100 million ($2.27 million), 10-story Makati Science High School. For the City Hall parking building, Hilmarc’s price tag of P386, 998,154.20 ($8.79 million) was considered the lowest bid and was awarded the contract. Before the day ended, it secured its second project, beating its competitors for the Makati Science High School with a bid of P99,631,205.15 ($2.26 million). Thus, in less than 24 hours, Hilmarc’s Construction cornered almost half a billion pesos worth of projects from the Makati City government. This was just the beginning. The firm, which is one of the top 10 contractors nationwide based on cumulative cost of contracts from 2009 to 2014, would also bag Phases 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Makati parking building for a total contract price of P2.276 billion ($51.7 million) for the entire parking project. Hilmarc’s Construction also cornered Phases 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Makati Science High School for a combined price tag of P1.33 billion ($30 million). For the 2 projects alone, Hilmarc’s Construction secured almost P3.5 billion ($79 million) worth of projects from the Makati City government alone. These were supposed to have been won fair and square, on the merits of competitive bidding. But there are red flags that raise questions about the integrity of the process – foremost of which was the outright denial of one bidder that it was among those who participated in the bidding. Collusion among bidders Documents from the Senate Blue Ribbon committee showed that Hilmarc’s Construction was able to outbid ITP and J Bros Construction for the Makati parking building and the Makati Science High School with the slimmest of margins. Table 1: Bids for the Makati parking building (Phase 1) CONTRACTOR Hilmarc's Construction

BID Php 386,998,154.20

J Bros Construction


ITP Construction


Based on the above, Hilmarc’s Construction beat J Bros Construction for the Makati parking building by a


mere P317, 000 ($7,204) difference in the bids.

Table 2: Bids for the Makati Science High School (Phase 1) CONTRACTOR


Hilmarc’s Construction

Php 99,631,205.15

ITP Construction


J Bros Construction


In the case of the Makati Science High School, Hilmarc’s Construction pulled the rug from under ITP Construction by a margin of only P114,000 ($2,590). An expert on the Procurement Law, who studied the procurement practices of local government units in 20 provinces, said that while close bidding happens, “it is usually a red flag that a collusion could be happening.” In a particular project for instance, the favored bidder seeks out other bidders “to simulate a semblance of competitive bidding,” the source explained. This favored bidder takes care of everything – from preparing all the required documents to the fees needed for the bidding process. In some cases, as part of the arrangement, the "winning" bidder taps the complicit bidders as subcontractors for the project. “On paper, everything appears to be above board. That’s why collusion between or among the bidders is hard to pinpoint,” the source said. Winner by default? Former Makati BAC vice chair Mario Hechanova, during a Senate hearing, said bid fixing is “usual practice” in Makati. Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, in defending the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building, argued that the city government even saved P200 million in implementing the project. He said the estimated cost of the project amounted to P2.4 billion but the total cost amounted to only P2.2 billion. Documents show that the Makati parking building (from Phase 1 to 5) has a total estimated cost of P2.55 billion. On the other hand, total project cost awarded to Hilmarc’s Construction amounted to P2.276 billion. Table 3: Makati parking building BUDGET




Phase 1

P400 million

P386.998 million


Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 2

P500 million

P499.357 million


Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 3

P600 million

P599.395 million


Jejomar “Junjun” Binay

Phase 4

P650 million

P649.275 million


Jejomar “Junjun" Binay

Phase 5

*P400 million

P141.649 million


Jejomar “Junjun” Binay


P2.550 billion

P2.276 billion


*(Amount includes appropriations for furniture and fixtures for the Makati City Hall parking building)

The documents show that for the succeeding phases of the Makati parking building, only Hilmarc’s Construction participated in the invitation to bid, resulting in its being declared as having the lowest calculated bid. Its submitted bid also hewed closely to the approved budget for the contract or ABC, which indicates that the alleged bidding was rigged, lawyer Renato Bondal, in a phone interview said. Bondal, a losing Makati mayoral candidate and a former ally and family friend of the Binays, has filed a plunder complaint against the Vice President and his son, Makati Mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay, before the Ombudsman. At least in Phases 2, 3 and 4, Hilmarc’s submitted bids were only lower by less than P1 million compared to the project’s ABC. The expert on procurement law said that one potential indicator that bidding was rigged is the proximity of the bid to the ABC. “Contractors will try to maximize profits by placing their bid close to the ABC.” Bondal pointed out that the practice of awarding contracts which almost approximated the ABC had been observed in other projects of the Makati City government. The Makati Science High School contract could be another example. The company was also the sole bidder for the succeeding phases of the Makati Science High School, winning by default. However, Phase 3 of the project amounting to P149.5 million was awarded on a silver platter. Hilmarc's Construction cornered the contract through negotiation with the Makati City government in 2009. “Considering that the contractor’s past performance was highly commendable, the (BAC) board unanimously accepted the offer of P149,505 million, which is lower than the agency (city of Makati) estimate of P149.990 million,” the minutes of the negotiation for Phase 3 showed. Table 4: Makati Science High School BUDGET




Phase 1

P100 million

P 99.631 million


Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 2

P175 million

P174.508 million


Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 3

P149.99 million

P149.504 million


Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 4

P394.140 million


Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr

Phase 5

P349.920 million


Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr

Phase 6

P165.264 million


Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr

P1.33 billion



From the above, it can be seen that Hilmarc’s bids for Phases 1 and 2 were almost similar to the Makati parking building where the variance of the bid to the ABC is less than P1 million. No participation Perhaps the clearest indicator that the bidding for the Makati parking building was a sweetheart deal was the confirmation from J Bros Construction that it did not participate in the 2007 bidding for the Phase 1. In a letter submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon Thursday, J Bros Construction chief operating officer Alejandro Tengco denied that the company has ever implemented any project with the Makati City government since it was established in 1999. “Neither have I nor J Bros Construction ever given any form of consent, whether expressly or tacitly, for any person or entity to use the firm’s name, license…in any manner so as to participate or feign participation in the conduct of any or all public biddings undertaken by the LGU of Makati City for its infrastructure projects, including the Makati City Hall Parking Building,” Tengco said. In the first place Tengco said that at the time of the bidding for the controversial parking building, J Bros was not yet qualified to participate since it had not undertaken any project of similar magnitude as required under the Procurement Law. J Bros Human Resource head Florence Sibal, in a separate interview, also denied that the company participated in the bid for the Makati Science High School. For his part, ITP Construction president Antonio Cruz refused to be interviewed when Rappler sought his side. Favored contractor? Based on available data, the Makati City government is a regular client of Hilmarc’s Construction. From 1999 to 2004, data showed it cornered projects amounting to P2 billion. Data scraped from the Philippine Government Procurement Electronic System (PhilGEPS) showed that from 2009 to 2014, the company bagged some P4.5 billion worth of 12 contracts from government agencies and LGUs. Of these, 7 were from the Makati LGU, with a total amount of P3.919 billion. The Makati contracts include the P1.929 billion Emergency Hospital (Ospital ng Makati). Two months before it cornered the Emergency Hospital project in October 2012, Hilmarc’s sister company, Building Beaver Corporation, bagged a P94- million contract for the construction of an Ospital ng Makati parking building. Hilmarc’s Construction and Building Beaver Construction have identical addresses. Reference Manuel, W. (2014, September 14). Red flags in ‘overpriced’ Makati infra projects. Rappler.


Retrieved from



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The construction of Torre de Manila has been hit for violating Manila City zoning laws. MANILA, Philippines – Senator Pia Cayetano did not mince words in reacting to the allegation of DMCI Homes that photos taken by media of the controversial Torre de Manila were photoshopped. "It is unfortunate that instead of answering the issues head on, DMCI has chosen to trivialize mounting public protests against Torre de Manila by claiming that all photographs showing its condo tower photobombing the Rizal Monument were manipulated or merely Photoshopped,” she said in a September 17 statement.


DMCI Homes had earlier publicized a statement saying “to grab public attention,” some parties had taken the “unethical approach of virtually juxtaposing pictures of our project right behind the monument.” Cayetano took it personally, saying DMCI’s allegations undermine the integrity of the Senate inquiry she has called to look into the company’s possible violations in constructing the tower. "DMCI's attitude towards this issue insults the intelligence of any self-respecting Filipino. It questions the reputation of professional photographers and media establishments that have posted photos and aired video footages of their photobombing tower,” she said. The senator stood by the integrity of her staff and media photographers who documented the ocular inspection she had conducted on August 27. Photos of the inspection have been used in recent articles about the Senate inquiry on the 49-storey condominium. Adjusting to DMCI Homes She also derided suggestions of DMCI Homes that if one were to stand at a certain angle from the Rizal Shrine, Torre de Manila would be hidden from sight, thereby allaying concerns that it would ruin the view and the monument’s visual dominance. “It now wants all Filipinos, foreign tourists, dignitaries and practically coming generations from here on to adopt its preferred 'view' of the Rizal Monument, which until late last year, has stood there, proud and unchallenged for 100 years. How convenient!” During a September 18 press conference, she made a counter-suggestion. “Why don’t they just put an arc near the Shrine so we can tell people to just stay there if they want an unobstructed view?” To set matters straight, Cayetano said she would once again invite DMCI Homes to attend a hearing set to take place the following week. She said she would also invite company representatives to join her in an ocular inspection of the Rizal Monument to show her how the landmark may be viewed without the tower. It is similar to the challenge posed by cultural activist Carlos Celdran who dared DMCI Homes executives to take a “selfie” at the Shrine to prove the tower did not ruin the view.


Possible demolition Aside from its impact on the Rizal Shrine, a National Historical Landmark, the construction of Torre de Manila has been hit for violating Manila City zoning laws. Its floor-to-area ratio far exceeds the limit set for its location, thereby burdening utilities and vehicle capacity of the area. But DMCI Homes has reiterated that it had all the necessary permits to begin construction, all of which were obtained during the term of then Manila mayor Alfredo Lim. After two Senate hearings, Cayetano said she believed that the company was a “builder in bad faith” because it had proceeded with construction despite opposition from the Manila City Council and allegations that the permits were hastily issued. As of August 20, Torre de Manila was already 19 floors high. The Knights of Rizal have filed a petition with the Supreme Court for the demolition of the condominium. Cayetano also confirmed that the demolition of the building or an imposed height limit may be part of the recommendations she will make at the end of her Senate inquiry.

Reference Ranada P. (2014, September 18).Pia Cayetano to DMCI: Don’t insult Filipinos. Rappler. Retrieved from




Photograph by Pia Cayetano’s media team

CDC Holdings, Inc., the developer of the planned Manila Green Residences located along Pedro Gil between Santa Villas and OB Montessori, started yet another condominium construction project in the historical Santa Ana town without undergoing the Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA). This information was stated in a letter from National Museum director Jeremy Barns to Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada stated.


The letter, dated November 27, 2013, said that the location of the 31-storey condominium was in proximity of a significant archaeological areas. It also noted that the area of the project covered the Histo-Cultural Heritage Overlay Zone. Hence, Barns said an AIA must be performed before the city government can issue a building permit by virtue of Republic Act 10066, or The National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, Section 30. The AIA is an important step in determining if an area is an important archaeological site before excavation or land-moving is performed. However, the developer pushed through with the project since the permit was issued before the AIA, De Leon explained. The permit only had a note saying, "subject to AIA." Moreover, its zoning permit had a different street address, she added. Although the Santa Ana Heritage Tourism Association (SAHTA) tried to stop the excavation, with the blessing of the national agencies and the help of the police, CDC Holdings continued the work saying a building permit was already issued, De Leon said. A team of experts inspected the site on January 2014. The team found pieces of pottery and other artifacts, which were already damaged. CDC Holdings, Inc. was also invited to the Thursday public hearing led by senator Pia Cayetano at the Rizal Park Visitors' Center in Manila, but no representative showed up. Heritage zone The residents of Santa Ana, Manila, led by SAHTA president Sylvia Lichauco-de Leon, presented the challenges the town is facing as a heritage district during the Thursday hearing. According to De Leon, a portion of Santa Ana was declared a heritage zone by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) on May 12, 2014. Prior to this, the government of Manila classified the town as a Histo-Cultural Heritage Overlay Zone by virtue of City Ordinance No. 8244 on September 22, 2011. Following the recent declaration, the Manila City Council, led by councilor Priscilla Marie Abante, also stated in a resolution issued August 14, 2014 that there must be strict compliance with national agency-issued guidelines in dealing with the Santa Ana Histo-Cultural Heritage Overlay



Santa Ana's heritage zone is composed of historic houses and structures from the Spanish and American colonial periods, including the Santa Ana Church complex and Plaza Hugo. Moreover, the town is known to be an archaeological area. Once an area has been recognized as a heritage site, it is protected by NHCP. Therefore, any construction should adhere to the guidelines given by the national agency.

Reference Macas, T. (2014, September 26).Santa Ana, Manila residents cry for help to protect the heritage district. GMA News Online. Retrieved from




CARAGA, 2014

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In June 2013, President Aquino scolded NIA for irrigating only 65% of its target coverage. A year later, investigations reveal corruption of alarming proportions. MANILA, Philippines – Corruption cases were filed with the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday afternoon, August 18, against at least 53 persons for their alleged involvement in multi-millionpeso anomalous projects of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Caraga since 2012. At the top of the list are Modesto Membreve, former NIA Caraga regional manager; Dexter Patrocinio, who took Membreve's post in October 2012; Encarnacion Soriano, current NIA Caraga regional manager; and Gardinel Jimenez, owner of Dungan Constructors and Development Corporation (DCDC).


Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) filed some 30 bound documents as evidence. The 53 persons are accused of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3091) and the Government Procurement Reform Act (RA 9184), said Police Superintendent Rudy Lacadin of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). The case filed on Monday pertains to alleged corrupt dealings involving 3 NIA-funded projects in Caraga. They are MAP Irrigation Project Packages 2, 3, 7 worth a total of P53,682,027 (US$1.2 million*). But the MAP Irrigation Project (MAP IP) has a total of 7 packages worth P119,816,309 ($2.7 million). Cases for anomalies spotted in the 4 remaining packages will be filed soon, possibly within the week, said Lacadin. MAP IP was meant to build canals and other irrigation works in the remote villages of Mat-i, Ambacon and Pinana-anof in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte. The non-implementation of these irrigation projects ultimately affects the more than 240,000 farmers in Caraga, 37,300 of whom are rice farmers dependent on good irrigation, according to Department of Agriculture (DA) statistics. The 'anomalous' irrigation projects The 7 MAP IP packages were bid out and awarded to contractors in 2012 while Modesto Membreve was NIA Caraga Regional Manager. At least 5 of these were proven by the special investigation to have been put under the control of Gardinel Jimenez of DCDC, known to contractors as "James" or "Jim." But on paper, these packages were awarded to 5 different contractors from Region 3 (Central Luzon): two from Nueva Ecija, two from Pampanga, and one from Bulacan. DCDC itself is based in Pampanga but with an office in Butuan City. 5 MAP IP Packages allegedly awarded to DCDC dummies: MAP IP Package



LMG Construction (Nueva Ecija)


Deadline for Completion

% of Project



accdg to NIA Caraga

Nov 13,





Duration in Incomplete Status Since Deadline as of March 15, 2014 1 year, 3 months (suspended)





Package 2

WIRO Construction (Nueva Ecija)


MCB Zamora



Package 4



PALMEA Construction




MG Salazar





Nov 12,




Oct 24,




Nov 12,




Nov 10,





1 year, 3 months


1 year, 3 months


1 year, 3 months


1 year, 3 months


But onsite inspection by investigators of the 5 canal works in April showed a gross discrepancy between the reported progress and the actual status of the projects. For instance, Package 3, awarded on paper to MCB Zamora Construction of Pampanga, involved the construction of a 1,300-meter concrete hollow block canal which would connect villages of Las Nieves to a dam site in the upper region of Agusan del Sur. But the April inspection found the actual length of the constructed canal to be only 520 meters, far from the 91% completion status reported by NIA Caraga a month ago. Yet 91% of the P14.44 million ($328,500) funds for the project (P13.15 million or $299,000) had already been released. Contractors 'never visited' the sites The investigation revealed that the 5 contractors awarded the MAP IP packages were mere dummies of DCDC run by Gardinel Jimenez and his wife Corazon. Two sub-contractors hired to finish 3 of the packages admitted they were hired, not by the contractors on paper, but by James Jimenez of DCDC. A check with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that "Dungan Constructors and Trading Corporation" was registered in June 2005, with office address in San Fernando, Pampanga. The contractors from Nueva Ecija (LMG Construction and WIRO Construction) also revealed that they never even participated in the bidding for MAP IP packages. But they allowed the Jimenez couple to use their license as contractors in exchange for payment. According to sources, they told investigators they never even visited the project sites. Aside from NIA Caraga projects they allegedly controlled through dummy contractors, the Jimenez couple was officially awarded 10 projects. The 10 other projects – in total costing P74,380,474 ($1.7 million) – were allegedly not


inspected. Seven remained unfinished 4 to 9 months past their deadlines.

Rigged bids But the 17 anomalous projects may just be scratching the surface. NIA employees claimed that the bidding of at least 195 projects were rigged upon the orders of Membreve, who was then NIA Regional Manager. An Audit Observation Memorandum dated October 2012 reported "irregularities" in 123 contracts entered into by NIA Caraga under Membreve worth P1.29 billion ($29.3 million). The contracts were not submitted to COA for review, violating COA rules requiring contracts and other required documents to be submitted within 5 days from the execution of the contract. Awarding of contracts to companies outside the province was also rampant during Membreve's time, a violation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Government Procurement Act, which says companies whose principal office is in the same province should be given an equal chance to bid for infrastructure projects. But 120, or 80% of the 163 winning contractors in 2012 do not have main offices in Caraga. 'Honest human error' A November 2012 Audit Observation Memorandum reported that NIA funds totaling P6.4 million ($145,600) paid to two contractors in June 2012 were not properly documented. Disbursement vouchers submitted by NIA Caraga to COA lacked required documents like statement of work accomplished, inspection report and pictures of the project site before and during construction. The memorandum also noted there was "an attempt to conceal the deficiencies" of the disbursement vouchers. The two contractors – John Arne Construction and Virlo Construction – refunded the P6.4 million in September, 3 months after they received the checks. A month after, Membreve explained to COA that his office had mistakenly paid the contractors. He blamed "honest human error" by his staff and the voluminous transactions in his office. But COA asked, "If indeed it was an error, how come it took them 3 months to correct that human error?" Another audit team report noted: "The said monies were returned because of COA's findings. What if COA's findings were not divulged?"

Reference Ranada, P. (2014, Aug 18). EXCLUSIVE: Corruption cases filed vs. irrigation officials. Rappler. Retrieved from




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“We are urging the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure that both the project owner and contractors of the hospital construction project are made to face the consequences of their negligence.” – GERARD SENO MANILA, Philippies - A labor group on Monday called on the Department of Labor and Employment to hold liable the project owner and contractors for an accident at a construction site in Parañaque City last week, where one worker was killed and eight more were hurt.


The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines also condemned the grave negligence of those involved in the hospital construction project. "We are urging the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure that both the project owner and contractors of the hospital construction project are made to face the consequences of their negligence," ALU-TUCP executive vice president Gerard Seno said. A construction worker was killed and eight others were wounded when an improvised scaffolding collapsed at the Parañaque Premier Medical Center in Barangay San Dionisio. Seno said project owners and contractors appeared to have ignored indications that the scaffold materials they are using are sub-standard after a similar mishap in the work site happened days before the incident. "Under existing rules and regulations, both the owners and the contractors are equally liable not only for the death and the injuries sustained by the other workers but also for not enrolling the workers to SSS, Philhealth and other benefits as revealed by workers interviewed by media. The DOLE also needs to check if workers received lawful wages," Seno added. He said that the incident revives the labor group's urgent call for government to approve the government-labor-management tripartite collaboration in revising current state standards and regulations governing the use of scaffoldings.

Reference Carcamo, D. (2013, October 7). Hold owner, contractor liable for P’que mishap. Philstar. Retrieved from





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As the probe on the cause of the Two Serendra blast continues, residents raise concerns about gas detectors and lack of safety procedures during emergencies. MANILA, Philippines - Whether or not the deadly explosion at Unit 501B in a posh enclave in Taguig was caused by a gas leak, a bomb, or another source, residents are still concerned about what they perceive to be lapses in safety protocol days after the May 31 blast. Serendra residents told Rappler that electrical supply was cut off from some Two Serendra buildings on the day of the blast, including building B where the explosion took place on Friday. electric outlets.


The power interruption consequently turned off the units' gas detectors, which were attached to

That day, a scheduled annual preventive maintenance of electric facilities cut off electricity from 8 am-5 pm, according to a Serendra circular. During the maintenance, the building provided emergency power from the property's generator. One resident, who was cooking and using the gas stove before the electricity was cut off, told Rappler the gas-lit burner on his stove continued to work despite the electricity interruption. This confirmed that gas continued to flow. This, despite the gas detector (which detects leaks and comes with a shut-off valve that automatically stops the flow of gas when the sensors beep) not working, said the resident. Serendra's maintenance office, however, said that while detectors are not plugged into an uninterrupted power source (UPS), they should have continued to work. They should be powered by the generator during preventive maintenance, because they require only low voltage. But the resident insisted not a single outlet or appliance was working in his apartment during that time, and expressed concern about the detector and safety valve not being connected to a UPS – a must, he said, so they would continue to work despite any power interruption. Serendra uses a centralized, piped-in Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) system, rather than individual gas sources in units. The investigation into the cause of the blast that killed 3 and injured 5 is ongoing, although Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the likelihood it was a bomb that triggered the blast is getting slimmer. Gas has been turned off in all buildings as the probe continues. Residents' responsibility Rappler also learned that since the gas detectors are located inside the units, residents have control over them, whether or not they are plugged. Residents said the detectors are sensitive – they beep even when they detect chemicals from insecticide or cleaners. Once they beep, residents are asked to call maintenance to check if there's a leak, and to reset the detector. At least one resident told Rappler that rather than calling maintenance, he resets the detector himself when it beeps, because insecticide often sets off the sensor. Maintenance is only alerted


about a possible gas leak if residents, whose detectors start to beep, call their attention.

While the gas detectors are effective in sensing chemicals, they should be watched too by residents. In Serendra, however, it is not unlikely that residents leave their units for months at a time – like the owner of Unit 501B. George Cayton, the listed owner of the unit, is said to have bought the apartment only to have a place to stay in when he is in Manila. Cayton and his family are based in California. For unit owners like Cayton, who do not live in their Serendra apartments or are away for an extended amount of time, Serendra expects them to ask maintenance to turn their gas off, through a service valve controlled by maintenance and attached to the meter. This way, when a gas leak occurs while the resident is gone, the shut-off valve attached to the gas detector can stop the gas flow itself once the sensors beep. Serendra's requirement to install gas detectors when purchasing a stove is their main safety measure against gas leaks. Despite a beeping gas detector, however, maintenance men are not allowed to enter the unit unless called by the resident. It is assumed that residents keep the detectors plugged when they are away from their unit. Lack of information Units in Serendra are also often leased out by real owners, contributing to occupants' lack of knowledge on what to do in the event of gas leaks. Cayton's unit, for instance, was being rented for 9 days by a family friend, Angelito San Juan, at the time of the blast. Cayton's family lawyer, Raymond Fortun, told Rappler that the unit was still awaiting clearance for leasing, after renovations were made from April to May. Despite this, Serendra accepted the written request of the Cayton family to allow San Juan to use the unit temporarily. Robin Leonard, a lessee in Building A of Two Serendra for over a year, told Rappler he was unaware of whether the unit he is renting has a gas detector or not. He said he never noticed it before, and is unsure whether his unit even has one installed. While he was briefed on the location of fire exits, he said he was not informed of the safety protocol, if any, in the event of gas leaks. Leonard is one of those whose apartment was damaged in the blast, and who has been relocated to Seda Hotel by Ayala Land Inc (ALI), developer of Two Serendra, while the probe is ongoing.


Evacuation woes But besides these concerns, another Serendra resident, who lives in a unit in the same building where the blast took place, identified yet another problem. She said she was disappointed about the lack of assistance from management immediately after the incident. "There were no marshals or emergency committee that came to guide us to safety. We were completely alone and clueless on where to go. It made us more afraid and unsafe," said the resident. She and her young daughter fled their badly damaged unit barefoot. "As we arrived at the garden, no one approached us to ask if we were okay or hurt. We were on our own not knowing what to do," she added. Leonard, whose doors to the unit were jammed by the blast's impact, said he was stuck inside his apartment after the explosion. The phone line was cut off as well. He said help came about 15-20 minutes later, after he notified his house help, who was outside of the unit when the blast happened. Leonard expressed relief there was no fire or other effects of the blast, which could have endangered him. He said he knew of about 3 other units that had their door locks jammed as well. Tony Aquino, the president of ALI, also defended Serendra's use of a centralized gas system. In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, he said this universal and environment-friendly system "is being used by many companies here and abroad without any consequences."

Reference Gutierrez, W. (2013, June 5). Blast highlights Serendra flaws. Rappler. Retrieved from




Photograph by Bishop Pedro Arigo

COA only recommended the filing of administrative charges and unspecified criminal cases against mostly engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) district office. No local official has been recommended for prosecution. MANILA, Philippines – How much, do you think, does the construction of a road that looks like “mashed potato” cost? A total of P20 million, if we will go by the documents showing how a special fund released to then Palawan Rep Abraham Kahlil Mitra (2nd district) was spent. If this is not enough of an overpricing for what's practically a dirt road, there were 21 of these roads, according to state auditors. This means that more than 80% of the P520-M Malampaya fund that Mitra received in 2008 were spent



This prompted a Palawan-based people's organization to call for plunder charges to be filed against Mitra, who is now governor of the province and an ally of President Benigno Aquino III in the Liberal Party. However, the Commission on Audit (COA), in a recent report, only recommended the filing of administrative charges and unspecified criminal cases against mostly engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) district office. No local official has been recommended for prosecution. Kilusan Love Malampaya (KLM), which presented the COA findings in a press briefing on Tuesday, October 23, said COA's recommendations were insufficient. The COA report cited only the lack of invitation for bidding for the projects and deficiencies in the quality of materials and finished projects, among others. But KLM partner Michaella Ortega said, “We have documents that were not included in the COA report,” and which could point to alleged overpricing. KLM also presented documents and photos to show classrooms that Mitra's Malampaya fund allegedly built at P1 million each. There were 100 of these classrooms, the organization said. Ortega said the parties involved – like Mitra and former Gov. Joel Reyes – should be made liable for plunder.

PURING-BULILUYAN, PALAWAN – A road that costs P20-M. Photograph by Bishop Pedro Arigo

“'Pag tiningnan mo 'yung kalsada, mukhang mashed potato,” the young Ortega noted. (If you look at the roads, they look like mashed potatoes.) “It doesn't take a genius. You don't even have to


be an accountant, you don't even have to be an engineer. You can just be a normal person with

common sense, and you can see, something is wrong. The money was not put here,” she explained. The KLM partner is the daughter of the late broadcaster Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega, who was killed in 2010 allegedly due to his radio commentaries on how Reyes, his brother, and Mitra had misused the local governments' share in the Malampaya funds. She now chairs the Justice for Doc Gerry Ortega Movement. Hunted by the Interpol, Reyes and his brother, former Coron mayor Mario Reyes are now fugitives and evading arrest for allegedly masterminding Ortega's killing. The Malampaya natural gas production off the island-province of Palawan, which started in 2001, was initially seen to earn up to US$10 billion in two decades. While the Constitution and the Local Government Code are clear that 40% of the proceeds should be released by the national government to the host local governments, Malacañang under President Gloria MacapagalArroyo withheld it. In a case that reached the Supreme Court, the Palace argued that the site of the operations is not within the municipal waters of Palawan, and therefore national territory, so the LGUs are not entitled to a share in the proceeds. Pending the resolution of the case, Reyes and other local officials entered into an interim agreement with the Palace so that even a small percentage of their share would be released to them as "special assistance." The KLM questioned that interim agreement before the SC. The agreement expired in 2010. Mitra, newly elected governor by then, was reported to have asked President Aquino to consider another interim agreement. Mitra has denied involvement in any anomaly. “Ang pondo po ay na-implement po ng Department of Public Works and Highways. At kung ano man 'yung pamamaraan at findings ng COA, I think dapat pong masagot 'yan at dapat ma-correct,” Mitra said in an interview aired on ABS-CBN on Monday evening, October 22. 'Unexplained' costs Ortega, however, is adamant the case is more anomalous than it seems.


“It's not just an administrative oversight. Ang paniniwala natin diyan ay talagang merong ibinulsa. Talagang merong nawawala. Meron talagang unexplained,” Ortega told Rappler. (We believe that money was actually stolen. Money was gone. There was something unexplained.)

(LEFT) LINAO BRIDGE. A P20-M bridge in Culandanun-Panalingaan crossroad. (RIGHT) CULANDANUM-PANALINGAAN CROSS ROAD. A P20-M improvement project. Photograph by Bishop Pedro Arigo

One “anomaly,” according to Ortega, is the lack of project documents that contain the breakdown of costs. She said available documents only state that each road costs P20 million, without details like materials to be used and the project's extent. The KLM, through Ortega, thus urged the Ombudsman to bring to court the parties involved – over the recent report and, especially, a previous report that covers 1999 to 2003. “We're asking the Ombudsman to file those cases already. That has been a long time ago,” she said. She added the COA should reinvestigate the projects given additional documents that did not make it to the recent audit. She also urged the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate the Malampaya funds, which she noted is a bigger case than the P366-M plunder suit filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and others. Arroyo, too Lawyer Harry Roque, who has helped KLM in its advocacy, said Mrs Arroyo should be held liable, too. In 2007, Mrs. Arroyo issued the executive order that authorized the release of half of the 40% disputed government share in the Malampaya project. In 2008, Roque and other power of the purse.


parties questioned the constitutionality of Mrs. Arroyo's order, saying it infringes on Congress'

For Bishop Pedro Arigo, apostolic vicar of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and the bottom line is the people affected by the alleged Malampaya fund misuse. “"Kung nagamit lamang nang maayos itong perang ito – it's a big amount, P3.1 billion – eh 'di sana'y 'yung laging sinasabi ni President Noy, merong better life na na-e-enjoy ang ating mga kababayan,” Arigo explained. (If this money was used properly – it's a big amount, P3.1 billion – then our countrymen would experience a better life as President Noy would say.) “Milyun-milyon ang kinuha, tapos wala man lang ma-explain,” Ortega added. “Tapos napakalantaran, napakagarapal, samantalang ang daming mga Palaweñong naghihirap.” (They got millions, yet they left everything unexplained... And it's so brazen, so shameless, while a lot of Palaweños wallow in poverty.) Since 2010, COA had been conducting an audit of the Malampaya funds covering a full decade, but no report has been released yet. It wasn't clear during the KLM press conference if the COA report covering only the second district of Palawan was part of a longer report.

Reference Esmael II, P. (2012, October 23). Plunder in ‘mashed potato’ Palawan roads?. Rappler. Retrieved from




Photograph by

The investigation into the causes of the accident revealed a scandalous disregard for the safety of the workers on the part of Eton Property Group and its subcontractors. An electric gondola used on the exterior of a high-rise construction in the Makati business district of the capital Manila collapsed on January 27. It fell 21 stories and landed on protruding metal rods. Ten construction workers died; one survived but is now in the hospital with numerous fractures and injuries. The tragic death of these workers was completely avoidable. The accident reveals the appalling working conditions of the construction industry in the Philippines. The accident occurred at Eton Property Group’s luxury condominium construction, Eton Residences. Eton Residences is a 39-story complex scheduled for completion this year. The workers had been installing glass windows on the 32nd floor. News reports vary, but the suspended electric lift had a maximum carrying capacity of five or six people. There were 11 men crowded into the gondola. At shortly after 11 am, the ropes on which the gondola were suspended gave way and it collapsed, falling 21 stories and landing on a safety net that was perforated at numerous points by twisted metal bars. The investigation into the causes of the accident revealed a scandalous disregard for the safety of harnesses or lifelines provided for employees. Workers were not supplied any protective


the workers on the part of Eton Property Group and its subcontractors. There were no safety

equipment. A photograph of the mangled body of a worker being removed from the wreckage of the gondola showed that he was wearing tsinelas, a pair of cheap rubber flip-flops, not work boots. The lift that collapsed had no official operator; any worker was allowed to raise or lower the gondola. The job site had no permit to be operating a gondola at all. All of these practices are violations of the safety standards of the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Eton Property Group’s construction sites, however, are not inspected by DOLE. Under the Labor Standards Enforcement Framework, the policy of the Philippine government is that any corporation which employs more than 200 workers should voluntarily selfregulate its own safety standards. DOLE inspectors only investigate companies that employ less than 200 workers. Large capitalist firms are entirely unregulated. The workers had no employment records with the construction firm. This is because they were all contractual laborers. Not treated as permanent employees by their employer, they received no social security or medical benefits. As contractual laborers they were prevented from forming a union. They were paid a daily rate of 260 pesos ($US5.75). The country’s minimum wage is 404 pesos ($US9). According to a statement issued by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, 1.8 million workers are employed in the construction industry. Of these, 100,000 are considered permanent employees and 1.79 million are contractual. They share similar circumstances to those who died in the gondola accident. They are paid less than the minimum wage and receive no benefits. Job site safety standards are non-existent. Construction work is characterized by a flagrant disregard for the value of human life. The workers often live on the job site, their makeshift plywood shelters standing in stark contrast to the towering glass and aluminum structures which they have built. Eton Property Group responded to the public outrage over the accident by blaming its construction subcontractor, CE Construction. CE Construction, in turn, blamed its subcontractor, Arlo Glass and Aluminum. Arlo Glass and Aluminum blamed its labor subcontractor EM Piñon. Not one of these groups has accepted any responsibility for the death of 10 workers. When questioned about the appalling conditions, the CEO of Arlo Glass callously and curtly responded, “We did not hire them, they came to us.” All of these companies are complicit in the exploitation and death of their workers. The workers died because the enforcement of even minimal safety standards would have hampered their


employers’ rapacious pursuit of profit. Accountability cannot be subcontracted.

The Philippine government of President Benigno Aquino III has done essentially nothing in response to this tragedy. Flags flew at half-mast in the Makati business district, in part in response to a recent bus bombing and in part to the construction tragedy. Politicians bandied words on the Senate floor. Senator Jinggoy Estrada, son of former president Joseph Estrada, called for swift justice to be administered. He made his speech a day after he personally ordered the eviction of thousands of squatters from land on which he wished to build a mall and the new San Juan city hall. Forty people were injured in the ensuing violence. The chief investigator of the Eton Residences accident has said that criminal cases will be filed against those responsible. It is unclear from any government statement whether anyone will be held accountable. A scapegoat will no doubt be found, but it is certain that the Philippine government, which is complicit in the mistreatment and death of these workers, will not see fit to prosecute Eton Property Group or any other of the very wealthy investors who are responsible for this tragedy. Eton Property Group is owned by Lucio Tan. Forbes magazine lists Tan as the second wealthiest Filipino. He was a crony capitalist during Ferdinand Marcos’s presidency and profited hugely from the largesse bestowed upon allies by the corrupt dictator. He owns a number of banks, Philippines Airlines, a tobacco company, a major beer brewery, and the largest unlisted real estate firm in Hong Kong. Eton Property Group owns luxury condominiums, low-end high-rise housing, business process outsourcing centers, and several malls. It also own residential and commercial towers in Hong Kong and China. Eton Property Group invested $US3 billion in the construction of luxury apartment blocks in Shanghai and Beijing over the past year, adding on to its existing $US6 billion investments in China. The construction work done by Eton Property Group in the Philippines is contributing to a real estate bubble. High-rise condominiums are being constructed in Metro Manila at a staggering rate. Some are lower-end housing, which is purchased on debt at predatory lending rates by families supported by remittances from overseas workers. These condominiums are being sold by employees who work on commission in every mall—they thrust fliers promising ‘the good life’ into the hands of passers-by. Other real estate projects cater to the very rich. Eton Residences, where the 10 workers died, is located between the business district and the ostentatious Greenbelt malls and is being sold to the Philippine elite and to wealthy foreigners.


The speculative construction of condominiums and malls has resulted in recently completed projects standing nearly empty. Many units are purchased as investments, in the expectation that real estate values will continue to appreciate. The trend of rising real estate values in a market soon to be flooded with completed skyscrapers and sprawling commercial complexes cannot continue. This bubble must soon burst. The classic Tagalog novella written by the former construction worker Edgardo M. Reyes, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (In the Claws of Light), captured the condition of these workers aptly, when he described them at the foot of a skyscraper, their own creation, “lugmok, lupaypay, sugatan, duguan, nagtingala sa kanyang kataasan” / “prostrate, collapsed, wounded, bloody, faces turned upwards to its height.” The current real estate bubble in the Philippines has been built upon the backs of the working class, and at times, over their dead bodies.

Reference Santolan, J. (2011, February 1). Ten worker die in construction accident in the Philippines. World Socialist Website. Retrieved from




Photograph by

At least nine southern Cebu City barangays were found to have used substandard materials in their infrastructure projects. Engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) central office which inspected the projects recommended corrections made. The projects include road concreting in the mountain barangays of Babag, Sudlon I and II, Sinsin, Bonbon, Toong, Pamutan; river bank protection, concreting and drainage system rehabilitation in barangay Kalunasan; construction of covered court in barangay Suba and the drainage system project in Inayawan.

Construction in 2009. The firm bagged the contracts for 72 projects in 16 barangays. In their


These barangay projects were among the P156 million worth of projects awarded to E.M. Arante

inspection report, the DPWH engineers said they found cracks in the road projects in Babag, Sudlon I and II, Sinsin, Bonbon and Toong.

The road project near the Maomawan cemetery in Babag lacked asphalt sealant which caused the weakening of its joints. Major and minor scaling were also found on various parts of the road. Engineers said that earth was used on the shoulders of the concrete pavement in Bonbon proper instead of the aggregate base course specified in the contract. The road project in sitio Gila-gila had poor worksmanship while the booming on its surface was excessive. Substandard boulders were also found in the riverbank embankment in barangay Kalunasan instead of hard and durable stones while a single twisted wire was used as mesh to secure its gabion structures. The required grouted riprap could not also be found above the gabion structure. The DPWH inspection team recommended the removal and replacement of substandard materials to make these projects conform to DPWH standards. “Require the concerned contractor, at his own expense, to institute repair works on the structures with defects and deficiencies,” DPWH engineers said in their report. The DPWH team submitted their Oct. 6 inspection report to DPWH Undersecretary Raul Asis, a copy of which was furnished to Cebu South District Rep. Tomas Rep. Osmena. The DPWH engineers cited the admission of engineer Raul Buscato of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) that no tests (were) conducted on the in-placed materials for all the projects which resulted in lack of quality control. Lack of supervision during the implementation of the projects was evident, since only one engineer from the ABC was available to supervise all the projects of the barangays, the report said. They DPWH asked the city government to assign more engineers and laboratory technicians to check the quality of the projects implemented by winning contractors and to establish a quality control program to make sure the city is not shortchanged. Osmena, the city mayor when the projects were implemented, had authorized the release of aid to barangays for the implementation of infrastructure projects in 2009 under the Community Micro Assistance Program. But shortly after the May election, reports reached Osmena that some of the projects were substandard, raising suspicions that someone made money from the projects.


Under the micro assistance program, barangays are given funds by the City Hall and allowed to

bid out their infrastructure projects while the engineering office of the ABC supervises their implementation. Osmena requested the DPWH central office to evaluate and assess the projects in question. The DPWH team included Engrs. Teodulfo Añonuevo, Lino Reynera and Teodoro Viyar Jr. of the Quality Assurance Unit and the Bureau of Research and Standards of the DPWH central office. They were in Cebu City from Sept. 13 to 17 to inspect the barangay projects. With the release of the DPWH findings, Osmena said the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit (COA) now have the needed evidence to investigate the matter. Osmena said that sending those involved and found guilty to jail is a good deterrent against irregularities in the future. Osmena said he smells a conspiracy from the conception of the projects all the way up to their implementation.

Reference Bongcac, D. C. (2010, October 24). DPWH finds projects of 9 brgys. ‘Substandard’. Inquirer. Retrieved from




Photograph by

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on Thursday found seven former officials of the Quezon City engineer's office and two private individuals guilty of graft in connection with the deadly fire at the Ozone Disco Club on March 19, 1996, 18 years after the tragedy claimed 162 lives. They were sentenced to six to 10 years in jail. Convicted of graft and corrupt practices are: City Engineer Alfredo Macapugay

Former City Engineer Renato Rivera Jr.

Building Inspector Edgardo Reyes

Chief, Enforcement and Inspection Division, Francisco Itliong

Chief, Processing Division, Feliciano Sagana

Engineer Petronillo De Llamas

Building Inspector Rolando Mamaid


Private respondents Hermilo Ocampo and Ramon Ng, members of the board of directors and stockholders of Westwood Entertainment Co. Inc. which managed the Ozone disco, were also found guilty of similar charges. In a decision penned by Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, the court said that the officials had been remiss in approving the building permit of the disco bar. Despite having faults in the design and defects in the electrical and safety systems, the authorities still issued two building permits and a certificate of occupancy to the disco, a report on 24 Oras that aired on Thursday said. "There can never be a slapdash approval of a building permit and certificate of occupancy. To shrink from this duty will certainly run at risk all safety standards contemplated by the National Building Code," the decision said. According to the report, the fire broke out from an overloaded circuit from the disc jockey's booth. The victims, who were mostly celebrating their graduation, were trapped inside Ozone Disco because there were no emergency exits. Everyone ran to the entrance door, which opened inward instead of the other way. Quezon City Administrator Aldrin Cuña said Macapugay, Sagana, and Itliong had already retired, Mamaid was on a medical leave, Rivera was in the private sector, and Reyes had transferred to the Manila City Hall. De Llamas wasn't at his office when a team from GMA News dropped by. The team was also trying to contact Ocampo and Ng for comment but they had yet to respond. Those convited were given 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration. The Sandiganbayan in 2007 acquitted Macapugay of criminal liability in the same case. The Sandiganbayan Third Division at that time said the court was unconvinced about the culpability of Macapugay, whose office was mandated at the time of the inferno to ensure the enforcement of building safety regulations.


The Sandiganbayan ruled then that prosecutors failed to prove that Macapugay was guilty of

reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and multiple physical injuries for alleged negligence in verifying the safety of the plans and facilities of the Ozone Disco. Stricter rules The city administrator said that even before the Sandiganbayan released its decision, Quezon City had already imposed stricter rules in issuing building permits. Issuing the permits was now the task of the Office of the Building Official, instead of the Office of the City Engineer as before. Cuña also said that city officials regularly inspected buildings to make sure rules and regulations were being followed. "Lahat naman ng nakatayong buildings dito sa Quezon City must submit for annual inspection. That is also required by the National Building Code to make sure they are structurally safe, (and) they comply with the provisions ng ating Fire Code of the Philippines," Cuña said.

Reference Chiu, P. D. (2014, November 20). Ex-QC execs face up to 10 years in prison for Ozone Disco tragedy. GMA News Online. Retrieved from


INTERNATIONAL CASES CE Laws, Contracts, Specifications & Ethics



Photograph by A.M. AHAD, AP, National Geographic

The substandard construction methods that are suspected of triggering the deadly collapse of an eight-story building in Bangladesh on are a common problem in developing countries, where construction materials can be expensive and building inspections infrequent, experts say. The catastrophic collapse happened around 9 a.m. local time in an industrial suburb of the Bangladesh capital city of Dhaka. Ranza Plaza housed four garment factories, as well as some shops and a bank. More than 150 people are confirmed dead, and more than a thousand injured.


Many are still trapped in the rubble, buried beneath broken concrete slabs and twisted steel rods.

Scenes from the disaster show rescue workers and volunteers digging through the rubble by hand and clinging to makeshift ropes made from knotted, colorful strips of fabric as they search for survivors. Officials have blamed the collapse on shoddy construction methods. The upper four floors of the plaza, for example, were reportedly constructed without permits, and a crack was seen on the building exterior a day before the collapse. "The building was not built in compliance with the [safety] rules and regulations," Bangladesh Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir told CNN. "Stern legal actions will be taken against the people who built the structure defying the codes or laws." Uneven Footing The exact cause of the collapse has not yet been determined, but Henri Gavin, a civil and environmental engineer at Duke University, speculated that the building's foundation was substandard. "It could be that one edge of the building was on much softer soil than the other, so that part of the building settled down a little bit more," Gavin explained. "That could easily lead to an instability that would precipitate a collapse." Another possibility is that weight on the top factory floors— where the crack was spotted—was unevenly distributed. "If this building had very large open spaces the way a lot of factories do, and if the floors had long spans without lots of [reinforcing] columns ... then the building could start to lift one way or the other" if heavy equipment was not spaced evenly throughout the floors, Gavin said. When designing a building, engineers are supposed to consider different combinations of how loads are placed in the structure. "The intention is to require the engineer to consider as many cases as possible," Gavin said. Such modeling is easy to do—if one has the right computer and software. In developing countries such as Bangladesh, however, calculating different load distributions can be a time-consuming process, and as a result might be skipped. Construction Problems Poor building design is only one part of the problem, however. The best building design in the world is for naught if a construction firm doesn't follow the plans precisely. That may have been the case with Ranza Plaza, which appears to have been built largely out of concrete. Concrete buildings require large amounts of reinforcing steel, called rebar, to prevent excessive cracking. Depending on the country, steel can be costly. said Dan Jansen, a civil engineer at California Polytechnic State University."In the U.S., steel is not


"In developing countries, steel is relatively expensive in comparison to the labor and concrete,"

that huge a factor. It's easy to add more steel to make [the building] more ductile and stronger, and so we do it here." But in developing countries, less steel is often used than is recommended because of the cost. "Reducing or changing the reinforcing steel without the building official's approval is never acceptable whether you're in a developing country or the U.S.," Jansen said. From looking at photos of the collapse, Jansen said he suspects not enough rebar was used in the building's construction. "The way it collapsed, and the fact that so much of it came down, suggests there was a lack of redundancy," he said. "The amount of reinforcing steel used didn't allow it to transfer the load from one section to another, and that's why so much of it came down." In addition to possibly being under-reinforced, the concrete mix may not have had enough cement, said Gavin of Duke University. "Many of the casualties from the 1999 Kocaeli earthquake in Turkey were in medium-rise concrete apartment buildings," he added. "Investigations following this earthquake revealed that the concrete had more sand and less cement than required by typical design standards." A Fatal Crack? Whether it was the rebar or the cement that was insufficient, a crack was indeed spotted on Rana Plaza's seventh floor by workers on Tuesday, a day before it collapsed. Upon hearing the news, managers at the factories supposedly told workers not to report to work on Wednesday, but later reversed the order, according to CNN. But a crack in a concrete building by itself is not necessarily a cause for alarm, said Ben Fischetti, a senior engineer at the California-based engineering firm Penfield & Smith. "There's a saying: There are two kinds of concrete, there's cracked concrete and concrete that hasn't cracked yet," Fischetti said. "Concrete cracks ... but generally cracks are not a cause for concern unless you can see it moving over time or it seems to be excessive." In the U.S., building codes set a minimum standard for the use of rebar in the construction of concrete buildings as a means of creating structural redundancy and controlling failure mechanisms. "The number one thing that structural engineers in the U.S. are trying to avoid is sudden, catastrophic failure. We design structures to fail, but they must fail in a controlled manner," Fischetti said. "Concrete structures that include an adequate amount of rebar are more likely to yield in a ductile behavior, rather than folding like a deck of cards." If Ranza Plaza lacked redundancy because it was built with insufficient rebar, then the building would have been a disaster waiting to happen. "When concrete without reinforcing steel cracks, you better run," Fischetti said. If the crack was big enough, it could have been enough to precipitate the overall collapse of the building, experts strong for the lower story to withstand, and the entire structure collapsed."


say. "It could be that the top floor fell on the floor beneath," Gavin said, "and that impact was too

From photos of the scene, it also appears as if sections of the plaza were still under construction when the disaster happened. Some floors lacked walls, for example, and exposed columns with protruding rebar are visible on the upper levels. "It looks like the building was partially built and used," Jansen said. "Occupying a building under construction is just a recipe for disaster."

Illustration from Progress

Reference National Geographic News, 2013




Photograph from

The collapse of the Sampoong Superstore in Seoul, South Korea, represents an example of a structural collapse attributed in large part to corruption. The late 1980s were an exciting time in Seoul and the rest of South Korea. In 1988, Seoul hosted the summer Olympic Games. The games gave South Korea an opportunity to show off its technological advances, and the nation took full advantage.

The Sampoong department store opened in December 1989. It was a nine-story building with south) connected by an atrium lobby. By the mid-1990s the store's sales amounted to more than


four basement floors and five above grade. The building was laid out in two wings (north and

half a million U.S. dollars a day. Unfortunately, the store had been built on a landfill site that was poorly suited to such a large structure. Woosung Construction built the foundation and basement and then passed the project on to Sampoong's in-house contractors. Woosung had apparently resisted some proposed changes to the building plans, such as the addition of the fifth floor.

Sampoong made significant changes to the structure. The most important was the conversion of the original use as an office block to that of a department store. Other changes included changing the upper floor from a roller-skating rink to a traditional Korean restaurant. Stricter standards had to be met for fire, air conditioning, and evacuation. Although the structure apparently met all building code requirements, the revised design was radically different from the original.

The Building Was Put Into Service "For five and a half years business thrived. In June 1995 the store passed a regular safety inspection. But within days there were signs something was seriously wrong: cracks spidering up the walls in the restaurant area; water pouring through crevices in the ceiling. On June 29 structural engineers were called in to examine the building. They declared it unsafe. Company executives who met that afternoon decided otherwise. They ordered the cracks on the fifth floor to be filled and instructed employees to move merchandise to the basement storage area."

Some employees heard rumors of the structural damage and impending collapse but remained in their departments to work. At 6:00 p.m. on June 29, the center of the building collapsed, similar to a controlled implosion, in about 10 s. The five-story north wing, about 91 m (300 ft) long, fell into the basement, leaving only the façade standing.

Customers were concentrated in the basement and in the fifth-floor restaurant. The customers and employees had no time to run. Some survivors were found in the wreckage, and one was brought out 17 days after the collapse. The overall death toll was 498.

The Result of the Investigation The final report was delivered by the Seoul District Prosecutors Office, entitled The Final White Book of Finding Out the Real Truth of the Collapse of the Sampoong Department Store. The public warning others was disturbing. The report on the collapse, as well as earlier structural and


was outraged. In particular, the news that the senior executives had fled the building without

construction failures, suggested a widespread pattern of corruption in the country's construction business. A government survey of high-rise structures found 14% were unsafe and needed to be rebuilt, 84% required repairs, and only 2% met standards. Joon Lee, the chairman of Sampoong, and his son Han-Sang Lee, were convicted and sent to prison for 10 1/2- and 7-year terms, respectively. Twelve local building officials were found guilty of taking bribes of as much as $17,000 (U.S. equivalent) for approving changes and providing a provisional use certificate.

Photograph from National Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art, Korea

The cause of the Sampoong collapse, then, was not a technical issue as much as outright fraud. The Korean construction industry, protected by government regulation from outside competition, had become complacent. Bribes were used to get around the usual government checks and balances that serve to protect public safety. Reference Wearne P. (2000). Collapse: When Buildings Fall Down, TV Books, L.L.C.




Photograph by Christopher Naum

On July 17, 1981, a pair of walkways in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City collapsed, killing 114 people and injuring over 200. Design and Construction In July of 1980, the Hyatt Regency opened to the public after four years of design and construction. A 40-story tower, an atrium, and a function block, housing all of the hotel’s services, combined to form this impressive building. Three walkways suspended from the atrium’s ceiling by six 32-mmdiameter tension rods each spanned the 37-m distance between the tower and the function block. The 2nd floor walkway, directly below the 4th floor walkway, was suspended from the beams of 1997).


the 4th floor walkway, while the 3rd and 4th floor walkways hung from the ceiling (Feld and Carper,

The erection of this hotel, however, was not as picture perfect as the final product. During construction, the atrium roof collapsed as a result of inadequate movement in the expansion joint and improper installation of a steel-to-steel concrete connection. Concerned about the building’s structural integrity, the owner hired another engineering firm to investigate the collapse and check the roof design. The consulting structural engineering company also rechecked all of the connections and found nothing to cause alarm. Construction resumed and the hotel opened a little less than 2 years later (Roddis, 1993). Collapse On the evening of July 17, 1981, between 1500 and 2000 people inundated the atrium floor and the suspended walkways to see a local radio station’s dance competition (Feld and Carper, 1997). At 7:05, a loud crack echoed throughout the building and the 2nd and 4th floor walkways crashed to the ground killing 114 people and injuring over 200 others. It was the worst structural failure in the history of the United States (Levy and Salvadori, 1992). Causes of Failure Upon investigation, the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) discovered that the cause of this collapse was quite simple: the rod hanger pulled through the box beam causing the connection supporting the 4th floor walkway to fail. Because of lack of redundancy, this failure caused the collapse of both of the walkways.

(a) rd




(a) 3 floor beam, (b) 4 floor beam, (c) Hanger rod, washer, and supporting nut Photographs taken by Lowery, Lee

Originally, the 2nd and 4th floor walkways were to be suspended from the same rod and held in place by nuts. The preliminary design sketches contained a note specifying a strength of 413 MPa notes in the absence of a specification on the drawing, the contractor used hanger rods with only


for the hanger rods which was omitted on the final structural drawings. Following the general

248 MPa of strength. This original design, however, was highly impractical because it called for a nut 6.1 meters up the hanger rod and did not use sleeve nuts. The contractor modified this detail to use 2 hanger rods instead of one (as shown in fig-2) and the engineer approved the design change without checking it. This design change doubled the stress exerted on the nut under the fourth floor beam. Now this nut supported the weight of 2 walkways instead of just one (Roddis, 1993). Analysis of these two details revealed that the original design of the rod hanger connection would have supported 90 kN, only 60% of the 151 kN required by the Kansas City building code. Even if the details had not been modified the rod hanger connection would have violated building standards. As-built, however, the connection only supported 30% of the minimum load which explains why the walkways collapsed well below maximum load (Feld and Carper, 1997). Legal Repercussions While Kansas City did not convict the Hyatt Regency engineers of criminal negligence due to lack of evidence, the Missouri Board of Architects, Professional Engineers, and Land Surveyors was not as timid. It convicted the engineer of record and the project engineer of gross negligence, misconduct, and unprofessional conduct in the practice of engineering. Both of their Missouri professional engineering licenses were revoked, and they lost membership to ASCE. Also the billions of dollars in damages awarded in civil cases brought by the victims and their families dwarfed the half million dollar cost of the building (Roddis, 1993). Technical Concerns Neither the original nor the as-built design for the hanger rod satisfied the Kansas City building code making the connection failure inevitable. If, however, the building design had contained more redundancy this failure may not have resulted in the complete collapse of the walkway. Kaminetzky (1991) suggests two much stronger design alternatives for the connectors. The toeto-toe channels used in the Hyatt Regency provided for weak welding which allowed the nut to pull through the channel/box beam assembly initiating the collapse. A back-to-back channel design using web stiffeners when necessary (fig-3) or the use of bearing crossplates in conjunction with the toe-to-toe channels (fig-4) would have made the connection much stronger making it much more difficult for the nut to pull through (Kaminetzky, 1991).

Procedural Concerns The Hyatt Regency walkway collapse highlighted the lack of established procedures for design 1993). The legal repercussions experienced by the Hyatt engineers established the engineer of


changes as well as the confusion over who is responsible for the integrity of shop details (Roddis,

record's responsibility for the structural integrity of the entire building including the shop details. It is important for all parties to fully understand and accept their responsibilities in each project (Feld and Carper, 1992). Certain procedural changes could help prevent similar collapses. 

The engineer of record should design and detail all nonstandard connections.

All new designs should be thoroughly checked.

All of the contractor's modifications to design details should require written approval from the engineer of record (Kaminetzky, 1991).

Ethical Concerns During the trial the detailer, architect, fabricator, and technician all testified that during construction they had contacted the project engineer regarding the structural integrity of the connection detail. Each time he assured them that the connection was sound claiming to have checked the detail when in reality he had never performed any calculations for this design at all. Neglecting to check the safety and load capacity of a crucial hanger even once shows his complete disregard for the public welfare (Rubin and Banick, 1987). Ethical engineers should check and recheck their work in order to be able to properly assure the public of a building's structural integrity (Delatte, 1997). Also, the high number of fatalities resulting from the walkway's collapse raises the questions of whether the factor of safety required for a building should be proportional to the possible consequences of it collapse (Kaminetzky, 1991). References Delatte, Norbert (1997). "Failure Case Studies and Ethics in Engineering Mechanics Courses." Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, July 1997. Feld, Jacob and Carper, Kenneth, Construction Failure (1997), 2nd Ed., John Wiley & Sons, New York, N.Y. Kaminetzky, Dov, Design and Construction Failures: Lessons from Forensic Investigations (1991). McGraw-Hill, New York, N.Y. Levy, Matthys and Salvadori, Mario (1992), Why Buildings Fall Down: How Structures Fail. W. W. Norton, New York, N.Y. Roddis, W.M. (1993). "Structural Failures and Engineering Ethics." Journal of Structural Engineering, May 1993. Rubin, Robert and Lisa Banick (1987). "The Hyatt Regency Decision: One View." Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, August 1987.




Photograph by

Punching shear failure is believed to have triggered the collapse of two thirds of the 16-story concrete building during construction. But an investigation proved that there were many flaws in the design of the apartment building. Design and Construction The high-rise apartment building was made of cast-in-place reinforced concrete flat slab construction with a central elevator shaft. This style of construction is popular for multi-story buildings because it requires a minimal slab thickness and reduces the overall height of the with a mechanical room above a five-foot crawl space on the roof. The structure also had two


building (Feld and Carper, 1997). 2000 Commonwealth Ave. was designed to be sixteen stories

levels of underground parking. A swimming pool, ancillary spaces and one apartment were located on the first floor and one hundred thirty two apartments were on the second through sixteenth floors. Originally these apartments were to be rented, but the owners later decided to market them as condominiums.

Construction began on the site late in the fall of 1969. Excavation had been partially started a few years earlier. Most of the work was subcontracted to area specialists. Only one representative from the General Contractor was on site during construction. At the time of collapse, construction was nearing completion. Brickwork was completed up to the sixteenth floor and the building was mostly enclosed from the second to fifteenth floors. Plumbing, heating and ventilating systems were being installed throughout various parts of the building. Work on interior apartment walls had also started on the lower floors. A temporary construction elevator was located at the south edge of the building to aid in transporting equipment to the different floors. It is estimated that one hundred men were working in or around the building at the time of failure (Granger et al., 1971). Collapse After interviewing many eyewitnesses, the mayor’s investigating commission concluded that the failure took place in three phases. Phase 1: Punching Shear Failure in the Main Roof at Column E5 At about ten in the morning, concrete was being placed in the mechanical room floor slab, wall, wall beams, and brackets. Placement started at the west edge and proceeded east. Later in the afternoon, at about three o’clock, most of the workers went down to the south side roof for a coffee break. Only two concrete finishers, Mr. Daniel Niro and Mr. Joseph Oliva, remained on the pouring level near line 4-1/2. Shortly after the coffee break, the two men felt a drop in the mechanical room floor of about one inch at first and then another two or three inches a few seconds later. The labor foreman, Mr. Anthony Paolini, was directing the crane carrying the next bucket of concrete. He instructed the operator to "hold the bucket" and went down to the sixteenth floor by way of a ladder in the east stairway. That is when the punching shear was noticed around column E5. The carpenter foreman, Mr. Antonio M. Fantasia, was also in the area and immediately yelled a warning to the men working on the sixteenth floor and roof of a possible roof collapse. The slab had dropped five or six inches around the column and there was a crack in the bottom of the slab extending from column E5 toward column D8. Column E5 is located directly below where the concrete was being placed for the mechanical room floor slab on the east side


of the building as shown in the following figure (Granger et al., 1971).

Phase 2: Collapse of the Roof Slab After hearing Mr. Fantasia’s warning, most of the workers in the area of column E5 managed to run to an east balcony and stay there until after the roof slab collapse. Eyewitness testimony concluded that the collapse happened fairly quickly. The roof slab began to sag in the shape of a belly and reinforcing steel started sticking out from the mechanical room floor slab. Soon everything started to shake and the east half of the roof slab collapsed onto the sixteenth floor. Then it stopped, giving the workers a chance to run down the stairs to the ground. At the time of failure, the Structural Subcontractor was placing reinforcing steel for the stairs on the fourteenth and fifteenth floors on the east side of the building. So when the workers were making their way from the roof and floors above, most of them crossed over to the west side of the building when they reached the fifteenth floor. (Granger et al., 1971) Phase 3: General Collapse After the roof collapsed, the roof settled and most of the stranded workers could be rescued using the crane and construction elevator. However, about twenty minutes after the roof failed, the east side of the structure began to collapse. A resident of 1959 Commonwealth Ave. described the collapse as a domino effect (or progressive collapse). The weight of the collapsed roof caused the sixteenth floor to collapse onto the fifteenth floor, which then collapsed on the fourteenth floor, and so on to the ground (Litle, 1972). At first the different floors were distinguishable, but later dust and debris made it difficult to discriminate between the various floors. When the dust finally settled, two thirds of the building had collapsed. The east side and areas on either side of the elevator shaft were gone. Four workers were killed during the collapse and thirty workers suffered injuries (Granger et al., 1971). Causes of Failure A week after the collapse, Engineering News Record reported that there were three possible causes of structural failure under investigation: formwork for the penthouse floor slab collapsed onto the roof, a heavy piece of equipment fell from a crane and started the progressive collapse, or concrete placed during previous cold days had failed (NR, February 4, 1971). However, after an extensive investigation, the mayor's commission concluded that there were many design and construction flaws that attributed to the collapse. The committee determined that punching shear failure at column E5 triggered the initial collapse. This type of failure is caused by unbalanced moments transferred between the column and flat-plate (Megally & Ghali, 2000) and was a result the design were shoring and concrete strength. Inadequate shoring under the roof slab on the


of non-conformities to the design documents. The major areas that construction did not follow

east side of the building made it impossible for the roof to hold the freshly placed concrete for the mechanical room floor slab, construction equipment and two boilers that were stored on that side of the building. Also, the concrete strength of the roof slab was well below three thousand pounds per square inch as specified in the design. However, there were many other factors, design and procedural, that contributed to the collapse (Granger et al., 1971). Design Concerns The design concerns that contributed to the collapse include insufficient length and placement of rebar and various structural design deficiencies. All of the reinforcing steel used was designed to be billet steel, however, a large amount of rail steel was found in columns and slabs on the lower floors. The major difference between rail and billet steel (as described in the Commission’s report) is the ultimate elongation. The average ultimate elongation for rail steel used on the project was just over ten and a half inches as opposed to a little over fifteen and a quarter inches for the billet steel. This variance would affect how the floor slabs reacted to tension forces. Also, the steel was delivered by the supplier in bundles with marks on the steel indicating what the steel was intended for. However, some of the marks used were the same as the marks on the design plans, yet meant something different. For example, the supplier gave marks for number four bars at the south edge of the slab which were identical to marks given on the Engineer’s placing drawings for top slab bars over column E5 (Granger et al.,1971). There were also design errors in the reinforcement. Some of the bars did not extend long enough into the columns as required by code and placement of bars in some of the slabs was not sufficient to meet the American Concrete Institute’s (ACI) code at the time. There was also inadequate design around columns. ACI requires that at least twenty five percent of the negative slab reinforcement in each column strip pass over the column within a distance of "d" on either side of the column face (Granger et al., 1971). This requirement was not fulfilled. Procedural Concerns There were many procedural concerns in the construction of 2000 Commonwealth Ave. Nearly every step of construction was flawed (Kaminetzky, 1991). Some of the major concerns include: lack of proper building permit and field inspection, premature removal of formwork, and lack of construction control. The investigating committee determined that if the construction had had a proper building permit and followed codes, then the failure could have been avoided. Since there were numerous problems that all aided to the collapse, deciding whom to hold responsible for the collapse


became a difficult feat. Ownership changed hands many times and most jobs were subcontracted.

Some of the transactions that took place with Boston’s Building Department are listed in the table below (Granger et al., 1971). There was confusion surrounding the project from the start.

Construction did not follow the Structural Engineer’s specifications for shoring or formwork. Before removal of shores and forms, the concrete must first reach seventy percent of its designated twenty-eight day strength. It was the commission’s opinion that despite seven-day cylinder tests that said otherwise, the average strength of the concrete in the roof slab was only nineteen hundred pounds per square inch after at least forty-seven days, not the required twentyone hundred pounds per square inch for removal or the specified three thousand pounds per square inch required after twenty eight days. There was no inspection or cylinder testing done for the east side of the building, so removal of formwork was based on values obtained from the west side of the building. Furthermore, adequate shoring under the roof slab below the freshly place mechanical room floor slab was not used (Granger et al., 1971).

Finally, there was very little construction control on the site. There was no architectural or engineering inspection of the project and the inspection done by the city of Boston was inadequate. The design plans specifically stated that certain aspects of the project needed to be approved by an architect, yet no architect or engineer was consulted. The Affidavit Engineer and Licensed Builder were also nowhere to be found. Instead, construction was based on arrangements made by the subcontractors. As mentioned before, there was only one representative from the General Contractor and this man was not a licensed builder. He did not direct, supervise or inspect any of the work done by the subcontractors (Granger et al., 1971).

References Feld, J., and Carper, K. (1997). Construction Failure. 2nd Ed., John Wiley & Sons, New York, N. Y. Granger, R. O., Peirce, J. W., Protze, H. G., Tobin, J. J., and Lally, F. J. (1997), The Building Collapse at 2000 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts, on January 25, 1971, Report of the Mayor’s Investigating Commission, The City of Boston, Massachusetts. Kaminetzky, D. (1991). Design and Construction Failures: Lessons from Forensic Investigations. McGraw-Hill, New York, N. Y.




Photograph from Daily Telegraph

In the early morning hours of May 16, 1968, the occupant of apartment 90 on the 18th floor of the Ronan Point apartment tower lit a match for her stove to brew her morning cup of tea. The resulting gas explosion, due to a leak, knocked her unconscious.

Design and Construction The Ronan Point Apartment Tower was constructed using the Larsen-Neilsen system. This system was developed in Denmark in 1948. The Larsen-Nielson system was “…composed of factory-built, precast concrete components designed to minimize on-site construction work. Walls, floors and stairways are all precast. All units, installed one-story high, are load bearing (System, 1968).” This building technique encompassed the patterns for the panels and joints, the method of panel assembly, and the methods of production of the panels.


Collapse The collapse was initiated by a gas-stove leak on the eighteenth floor in apartment ninety. The resident struck a match to light the stove to make a cup of tea, and was knocked unconscious by the resulting explosion. The force of the explosion knocked out the opposite corner walls of the apartment. These walls were the sole support for the walls directly above. This created a chain reaction in which floor nineteen collapsed, then floor twenty and so on, propagating upward. Causes of Failure A substandard brass nut had been used to connect the hose to the stove. The nut had a thinner flange than the standard, and also had an unusual degree of chamfer. A replicate of this nut was made and tested to determine how much force was required to break it in tension. It was concluded that a force of 15.6 kN (3,500 pounds) would break the connection. It was also concluded that the hose connecting the stove to the gas would have failed before the nut at a force of 1.6 kN (360 pounds). The nut was assumed to have been previously fractured by overtightening during installation, causing it to break, allowing gas to leak into the apartment (Griffiths et al., 1968).

The Building Research Station and Imperial College of London performed an extensive battery of tests to discover how much internal force Ronan Point could withstand. The results indicated that the walls could have been displaced by a pressure of only 19.3 kPa (2.8 psi) (Levy 1992). It was estimated that the kitchen and living room walls were moved at a pressure of only 1.7 kPa (0.25 psi), while the exterior wall was moved at a gas pressure of 21 kPa (3 psi) (Griffiths et al., 1968).

Ultimately, the collapse of Ronan Point was due to its lack of structural redundancy. It had no failsafe mechanisms, and no alternative load paths for the upper floors should a lower level give way. Without any type of structural frame, the upper floors had no support, and fell onto floor seventeen. The panels forming floor seventeen could not support the sudden loading caused by the upper five floors that fell on it. Consequently, they gave way, and the process continued until it reached the ground level.

Ethical Aspects


Substandard workmanship had been detected in the initial inquiry of the collapse. Even though it was determined to be a negligible factor in the corner collapsing, this information was hidden from the public. Was it a question of ethics or politics? By the time the inquiry’s findings were published in 1968, many large panel concrete buildings had been completed. This was the

government’s method of keeping its promise of housing the numbers of people living in slums, after the war had demolished a quarter of the homes in England. The government did not want to consider demolishing these buildings. At least six Larsen-Nielson system buildings had been completed by this time. There was not enough money to strengthen them. So the question is, ‘did the government endanger the lives of the residents of these facilities by taking only minimal action to strengthen the buildings?’ Webb was very active in taking measures to inform the public of the possible hazards associated with these types of buildings. He made officials aware of possible dangers that could lead to another progressive collapse such as high winds, or a building fire. He was a strong advocate of demolishing these “death traps.” References Bignell, Victor; Peters, Jeoff; Pym, Christopher. (1977). Catastrophic Failures. Open University Press, Milton Keynes, New York. Britain. (1970). “Britain tightens building standards, moves to stern ‘progressive collapse.’” Engineering News-Record. April 16, 1970, 12. Feld, Jacob and Carper, Kenneth (1997). Construction Failure. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., USA. Fuller, Robert (1975). “Industrialized concrete Construction for HUD.” Industrialization in Concrete Building Construction. American Concrete Institute, Detroit, Michigan USA. Griffiths, Hugh; Pugsley, A. G.; Saunders, Owen, (1968). Report of the Inquiry into the Collapse of Flats at Ronan Point, Canning Town. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London. Hendry, Arnold, W. (1979). “Summary of Research and Design Philosophy for Bearing Wall Structures.” Journal of the American Concrete Institute. 76(33), 723-737. Levy, Matthys and Salvadori, Mario, (1992). Why Buildings Fall Down. W.W. Norton and Company, New York, New York. Ross, Steven (1984). Construction Disasters: Design Failures, Causes, and Prevention. An Engineering News-Record Book. McGraw-Hill Book Company, USA. Shepherd, Robin and Frost, J. David (1995). Failures in Civil Engineering, Structural, Foundation and Geoenvironmental Case Studies. American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, New York. Systems. (1968). “Systems Built Apartments Collapse.” Engineering News-Record. May 23, 1968, 23. Wearne, Phillip (2000). Collapse: When Buildings Fall Down. TV Books, L.L.C., USA.




Photograph from

The de la Concorde Overpass over Autoroute 19 in Laval, Quebec, collapsed on September 30, 2006, killing five and injuring six. The Government of Quebec convened a commission to investigate. Design and Construction The bridge was an unusual side-by-side prestressed box girder configuration designed and built between 1968 and 1971. The ends of the girders rested on cast-in-place concrete cantilevers extending out from the abutments. The bridge was an unusual structure, difficult to inspect, and no more bridges of this type were built in Canada after 1972.

mechanisms. The joints were difficult to seal and maintain, and allowed water and de-icing


The cantilever supports also doubled as expansion joints, and had very complex load transfer

chemicals to collect at the cantilever supports. Substantial repair work undertaken in 1992 might have caused some damage that later led to the bridge collapse. The cantilever supports relied on a complex reinforcement detail to transfer bearing forces into the top bars through stirrups. However, the tops stirrups were placed slightly below the top reinforcement, leaving a horizontal plane of weakness. Causes of Collapse The investigating commission cited as primary physical causes the improper detailing of reinforcement (the top bars were not anchored), improper installation of reinforcement, and low quality concrete. The concrete specification was confusing and appeared to allow the use of weaker and less durable concrete. At the time of the collapse, the concrete strength was a bit higher than the specified 27.6 MPa (4,000 psi), but a higher strength would have been expected after 36 years. The air content and de-icer scaling resistance of the concrete were also poor. The commission also cited the contributing physical causes of lack of shear reinforcement in the thick cantilever slabs, lack of waterproofing of the cantilever concrete, and possible damage caused during the 1992 repair work. Just prior to the collapse, puddles of water and chunks of falling concrete were observed. Some drivers also noticed bumps at the expansion joints when crossing the overpass. The concrete cantilever peeled off just below the top layer of reinforcement, and the prestressed box girders fell onto Autoroute 19 and two passing cars. Three cars and a motorcycle fell with the overpass.

References Commission of Inquiry (2007). Report of the Commision of Inquiry into the Collapse of a Portion of the de la Concorde Overpass, Transcontinental Metrolitho.




Photograph from

On August 1, 2007, an eight-lane, three-span section of the I-35W Bridge across the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis collapsed at approximately 6:00 p.m. It was crowded with rush hour traffic. The bridge was the main north-south route through the city. Figure 6-11 shows the bridge before the collapse. Eyewitness reports suggested that a span at the south end collapsed first and that the failure propagated across the bridge to the other two spans in turn. Much of the wreckage remained above the water, but about 50 vehicles with their occupants went Figure 6-12 shows the wreckage of the collapsed bridge.


into the river. At the time, repairs were being made to the bridge deck, guardrails, and lights.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) immediately began an investigation, as with most bridge collapses. The investigation team arrived the day after the collapse. At first glance, this collapse seemed to share some parallels with the Point Pleasant Bridge collapse of 1967 and the Mianus River Bridge failure of 1983. As with the Point Pleasant Bridge, the Minneapolis Bridge was 40 years old and collapsed during rush hour with many vehicles on the span. In fact, the Minneapolis Bridge was completed just a few months before the Point Pleasant Bridge failure. Both the Point Pleasant and the Minneapolis I-35W Bridge had three spans that all fell together. As of summer 2008, the cause of the I-35W Bridge collapse remains under investigation, and the final reports have yet to be written. However, considerable work has been done, and a critical design flaw that may well have been the cause of the collapse has been identified. The U10 and L11 gusset plates were only about 13 mm (1/2 in.) thick when they should have been 25 mm (1 in.) thick. At the time of the collapse, the contractor working on the bridge had stockpiled aggregates and heavy construction equipment on the site. Careful reconstruction of the traffic and other loading by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and others has found that the U10 and L11 gusset plates were considerably overstressed at the time of the collapse (Holt and Hartmann 2008). References Delatte, Norber J. Beyond Failure: Forensic Case Studies for Civil Engineers. ASCE Press




Photograph from

On August 1, 2007, an eight-lane, three-span section of the I-35W Bridge across the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis collapsed at approximately 6:00 p.m. It was crowded with rush hour traffic. Design and Construction Even though it was the third longest bridge in the world, Tacoma Narrows was much narrower, lighter, and more flexible than any other bridge of its time. With a 39-ft wide and 8-ft deep concrete deck, it accommodated two lanes of traffic quite comfortably while maintaining a sleek appearance. This appearance was so important to the bridge’s designer, Leon Moisseiff, that he the Golden Gate and George Washington bridges. Tacoma Narrows light appearance, however, was no illusion. Its dead load was 1/10 of that of any other major suspension bridge. These unique


designed it without the use of stiffening trusses, leaving Tacoma Narrows with 1/3 the stiffness of

characteristics coupled with its low dampening ability caused large vertical oscillations in even the most moderate of winds. This soon earned it the nickname, "Galloping Gertie," and attracted thrill seekers from all over (Feld and Carper, 1997). While these undulations could be quite unnerving to motorists, no one questioned the structural integrity of the bridge. Leon Moisseiff was a highly qualified and well-respected engineer. Not only had he been the consulting engineer for the Golden Gate, Bronx-Whitestone, and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges, but he had also developed the methods used to calculate forces acting on suspension bridges (Levy and Salvadori, 1992). Even though the Tacoma Narrows Bridge adhered to all of the safety standards and its oscillations were not considered a threat, Prof. F. B. Farquharson began researching ways to reduce its motion at the University of Washington. By studying how different winds affected a highly accurate model of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and testing new devices on it, Farquharson was able to propose helpful modifications to the bridge. After proving successful on the model, 1 9/16 -in. steel cables attached a point on each side span to 50-yd concrete anchors in the ground. Unfortunately these cables snapped a few weeks later proving to be an ineffective solution (Ross, 1984). They, however, were reinstalled in a matter of days. In addition to these cables, center stays and inclined cables, which connected the main cables to the stiffening girder, were installed. Finally, an untuned dynamic damper, similar to the one that had proved quite successful in curtailing the torsional vibrations of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, failed immediately after its installation in the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It was discovered that the leather used in this device was destroyed during the sandblasting of the steel girders before they were painted rendering it useless (Levy and Salvadori, 1992). Farquharson also discovered that proper streamlining would almost completely stop the bridges disturbing movements. The bridge collapsed before this knowledge could be applied (Ross, 1984). Collapse At 7:30 A.M. on November 7, 1940, Kenneth Arkin, the chairman of the Washington State Toll Bridge Authority, arrived at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. While the wind was not extraordinary, the bridge was undulating noticeably and the stays on the west side of the bridge which had broken loose were flapping in the wind. Just before 10:00 A.M. after measuring the wind speed to be 42 mph, Arkin closed the bridge to all traffic due to its alarming movement, 38 oscillations/minute with an amplitude of 3 ft (Levy and Salvadori, 1992). Suddenly, the north center stay broke and the bridge began twisting violently in two parts. The bridge rotated more than 45° causing the edges of the deck to have vertical movements of 28 ft and at times exceed the acceleration of gravity (Ross, 1984). Two cars were on the bridge when this wild movement began: one with Leonard Coatsworth, a newspaper reporter, and his cocker spaniel and the other with couple of minutes later the stiffening girders in the middle of the bridge buckled initiating the


Arthur Hagen and Judy Jacox. All three people crawled to safety (Levy and Salvadori, 1992). A

collapse. Then the suspender cables broke and large sections of the main span dropped progressively, from the center outward, into the river below. The weight of the sagging side spans pulled the towers 12 ft towards them and the ruined bridge finally came to a rest (Feld and Carper, 1997). The bridge’s only fatality was Coatsworth’s cocker spaniel. Due to the fact that Prof. Farquharson was present that day studying the bridge, its collapse is well documented, photographed, and recorded on film (Levy and Salvadori, 1992). Causes of Failure The Federal Works Agency (FWA) investigated the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and found the following: 

The bridge was well designed and well built. While it could safely resist all static forces, the wind caused extreme undulations which caused the bridge’s failure.

No one realized that Tacoma’s exceptional flexibility coupled with its inability to absorb dynamic forces would make the wild oscillations which destroyed it possible.

Vertical oscillations were caused by the force of the wind and caused no structural damage.

The failure of cable band on the north end, which was connected to the center ties, probably started the twisting motion of the bridge. The twisting motion caused high stresses throughout the bridge, which lead to the failure of the suspenders and collapse of the main span.

A suspension bridge was the most practical choice for the site.

The supervision of and workmanship on the bridge was exceptional.

Rigidity against static forces and rigidity against dynamic forces cannot be determined using the same methods.

Efforts were made to control the amplitude of the bridge’s oscillation.

Subsequent studies and experiments are needed to determine the aerodynamic forces which act on suspension bridges.

Procedural Concerns The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse highlighted the importance of failure case studies in engineering education. Between 1818 and 1889, the wind destroyed or seriously damaged ten suspension bridges (Petroski, 1994). Most of these bridges, like Tacoma Narrows, had small width to span ratios, ranging anywhere from 1/72 to 1/59. They also experienced severe twisting right before collapse as Tacoma Narrows did (Levy and Salvadori, 1992). In 1826, a hurricane partially


destroyed the Menai Straits Bridge in eastern England. The deck experienced 16-ft oscillations

before it broke (Feld and Carper, 1997). Thirty-eight years later in 1854, the bridge over the Ohio River at Wheeling, West Virginia also collapsed due to wind. Many other bridges suffered a similar fate (Levy and Salvadori, 1992). In fact, it was not until the success of John Roebling’s suspension bridges that they became widely accepted. Through his understanding of the importance of deck stiffness and knowledge of past failures, Roebling was able to make suspension bridges accepted as strong railway bridges (Feld and Carper, 1997). Soon, however, the success of the suspension bridges completely overshadowed the failures of the last century. Once again, suspension bridges evolved towards the longer sleeker designs forgetting the cornerstone of their success, wind resistance (Petroski, 1994). Ethical Concerns If engineers had never tried innovative techniques, suspension bridges may never have been built at all. At the time of their introduction, no one believed that a suspension bridge could safely accommodate trains. Roebling, however, took a gamble, pushed the limits of the current technology, and built a suspension bridge that he believed could safely support rail traffic. Luckily he was correct, and suspension bridges soon became widely accepted (Petroski, 1985). Moisseiff also took a gamble, trying to create a longer, sleeker, less expensive bridge, by pushing the limits of technology. He, however, was not as lucky, and what could have been a breakthrough in technology turned into a catastrophic failure. Every time engineers push the limits of technology they risk a similar loss, sometimes even a loss of life. References Billah, Yusuf and Scanlan, Robert (1991), "Resonance, Tacoma Narrows bridge failure, and undergraduate physics textbooks." American Association of Physics Teachers, February 1991. Feld, Jacob and Carper, Kenneth, Construction Failure (1997), 2nd Ed., John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. Levy, Matthys and Salvadori, Mario (1992), Why Buildings Fall Down: How Structures Fail. W. W. Norton, New York, NY. Petroski, Henry (1994), Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgement in Engineering. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY. Petroski, Henry (1996), Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America. Vintage Books, New York, NY. Petroski, Henry (1991), "Still Twisting." American Scientist, Sept/Oct 1991.

Ross, S. et al. (1984), "Tacoma Narrows, 1940." Construction Disasters. McGraw-Hill Book Co, New York, NY.


Petroski, Henry (1985), "The Ups and Downs of Bridges," To Engineer Is Human. St. Martins Press, New York, NY.



Photograph from

Every conflict between safety and economy was resolved in favor of economy. On June 16, 1897, the chief engineer of the Quebec Bridge Company wrote to a friend, who was also the president of the Phoenix Bridge Company (Holgate et al., 1908). In response, the Phoenix Bridge Company sent its chief engineer to meet with the Quebec Bridge Company’s chief engineer at an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) meeting in Quebec in 1897. The Phoenix Bridge Company offered to prepare plans for the bridge free of charge. In return, the Quebec Bridge Company would then be obligated to give the tender for construction of the bridge to the Phoenix Bridge Company. Theodore Cooper, who learned of the Quebec Bridge project at the ASCE 2001). Some of the key players in the construction and failure of the bridge are listed below


meeting, offered his consulting services to the Quebec Bridge Company (pp. 32 – 33, Middleton,

NAME A. B. Milliken Benjamin A. Yenser*

TITLE Bridge superintendent of erection for 1st year of work General foreman of erection for remainder of project. Worked for Phoenix Bridge Company

Arthur H. Birks*

Resident Engineer of Erection

Collingwood Schreiber

Chief Engineer for Railways and Canals

David Reeves

President of the Phoenix Bridge Company

Edward Hoare

Chief Engineer for Quebec Bridge Company

E. R. Kinloch

Bridge erection inspector

John Sterling Deans

Chief Engineer for Phoenix Bridge Company

Norman McLure

Bridge Inspector, Civil Engineering Graduate from Princeton, hired by Cooper

Peter L. Szlapka

Chief Designing Engineer for Phoenix Bridge Company

Robert C. Douglas

Bridge engineer for Railways and Canals

Simon-Napoleon Parent

President of the Quebec Bridge Company

C. C. Schneider

Commissioned to review design work on the bridge after the collapse

Theodore Cooper

Consulting Engineer

*Died in the collapse

The chief engineer of the Quebec Bridge Company, Edward Hoare, had never before worked on a bridge longer than about 90 meters (300 feet). The company decided to hire a consulting engineer, and Theodore Cooper was selected from a list of six prominent engineers for the project (Holgate et al., 1908, p. 36, Middleton, 2001). Mr. Cooper was an independent consultant operating out of New York City. He was one of the foremost American bridge builders of his day. To Mr. Cooper, this project would be the crowning achievement to his life’s work. Petroski (1995) notes Cooper’s strong qualifications for this project. In his long career, he had written an award-winning paper pioneering the use of steel for railway bridges, and had prepared general specifications for iron and steel bridges. His method of accounting for railroad loads on bridge structures became widely used (p. 37, Middleton, 2001). Tenders were called for on September 6, 1898 and received until March 1, 1899 (Holgate et al., 1908). They were then reviewed by Mr. Cooper. The specifications called for a cantilever structure. The basic configuration of a cantilever bridge is shown below. However, suspension bridge designs were allowed, providing they came with their own set of specifications. Earlier, noted French engineer Gustave Eiffel had considered the problem and found that a cantilever design would be superior to either a suspension or an arch bridge for the Quebec site (pp. 29 – 30, Middleton, 2001).


Events leading up to the Collapse As the bridge was erected, workers and supervisors found noticeable deflections in some of the chords. When the workers tried to rivet the joints between these chords, the pre-drilled holes did not line up. In addition, bends (deflections) were observed in some of the most heavily loaded compression members. Over time, some of the member deflections increased. Some of the major chords with their corresponding deflections, with the dates of measurement, are presented below.

Date of Observation


June 15

Amount of Deflection mm



1/16 to ¼


A3R & A4R


1/16 to ¼


A7R & A8R


1/16 to ¼


A8R & A9R


1/16 to ¼


A8L & A9L



August 6

7L & 8L




8L & 9L



August 20





9R & 10R



August 23

5R & 6R



August 27



Being dissatisfied with the theories offered by the engineers on site, Cooper developed his own theory. “None of the explanations for the bent chord stand the test of logic. I have evolved another theory, which is a possible if not the probable one. These chords have been hit by those suspended beams used during the erection, while they were being put in place or taken down. Examine if you


cannot find evidence of the blow, and make inquiries of the men in charge.” McLure did as he was

instructed, and reported back to Cooper that there was no evidence of such an incident (p. 74, Middleton, 2001). Some of the engineers were unconcerned about the problem, believing that it was nothing serious. Others were still insisting that the bends were the result of a pre-existing condition. The manufacturer guaranteed that all the members had been perfectly straight when they left the yard. Another incident had occurred during the 1905 construction season, when chord A9L was dropped and bent while being handled in the storage yard. The A9L notation refers to the chord located in the anchor arm, within the ninth panel, and on the left or West side of the bridge. It was repaired and placed into the structure. Although at the time the repair was thought to be satisfactory, this member was later found to be the triggering cause of the collapse. Collapse Meanwhile, back at the construction site, at about the same time the decision-makers in Phoenixville were ending their meeting, the Quebec Bridge collapsed at 5:30 p.m. The thunderous roar of the collapse was heard ten km (six miles) away in Quebec (p.80, Middleton, 2001). The entire south half of the bridge, approximately 189 MN (19,000 tons) of steel, fell into the waters of the St. Lawrence within 15 seconds. Eighty-six workers were present on the bridge at the time. Only eleven workers on the span survived. The Governor General of Canada formed a Royal Commission, comprised of three civil engineers, whose sole task was to investigate the cause of the collapse. They were Henry Holgate, of Montreal, John George Gale Kerry of Campbellford, Ontario, and John Galbraith of Toronto. Their completed report was a pioneering event in the discipline of forensic engineering, and consisted of over two hundred pages plus twenty-one appendices. As stated by (Middleton 2001, p. 91), “…the thoroughness and objectivity of their inquiry and report stand even today as models of their kind.” The immediate cause of failure was found to be the buckling of compression chords A9L and A9R. The official report attributed the collapse to a number of reasons. Listed below are some of the major findings (pp. 9 – 10, Holgate et al., 1908): 1. “The collapse of the Quebec Bridge resulted from the failure of the lower chords in the anchor arm near the main pier. The failure of these chords was due to their defective design.” 2. “We do not consider that the specifications for the work were satisfactory or sufficient, the unit stresses in particular being higher than any established by past practice. The specifications were accepted without protest by all interested.” revising this assumption. This error was of sufficient magnitude to have required the condemnation of the bridge, even if the details of the lower chords had been of sufficient strength, because, if the bridge had been


3. “A grave error was made in assuming the dead load for the calculations at too low a value and not afterwards

completed as designed, the actual stresses would have been considerably greater than those permitted by the specifications. This erroneous assumption was made by Mr. Szlapka and accepted by Mr. Cooper, and tended to hasten the disaster. “ 4. “The loss of life on August 29, 1907, might have been prevented by the exercise of better judgement on the part of those in responsible charge of the work for the Quebec Bridge and Railway Company and for the Phoenix Bridge Company.” 5. “The failure on the part of the Quebec Bridge and Railway Company to appoint an experienced bridge engineer to the position of chief engineer was a mistake. This resulted in a loose and inefficient supervision of all parts of the work on the part of the Quebec Bridge and Railway Company.” 6. “The work done by the Phoenix Bridge Company in making the detail drawings and in planning and carrying out the erection, and by the Phoenix Iron Company in fabricating the material was good, and the steel used was of good quality. The serious defects were fundamental errors in design.” 7. “The professional knowledge of the present day concerning the action of steel columns under load is not sufficient to enable engineers to economically design such structures as the Quebec bridge. A bridge of the adopted span that will unquestionably be safe can be built, but in the present state of professional knowledge a considerably larger amount of metal would have to be used than might be required if our knowledge were more exact.”

Procedural and Professional Aspect Cooper insisted on retaining full control of the project, even at a considerable distance. Schreiber recommended that the governmental agency of Railways and Canals hire a consultant on their behalf. In a letter to Edward Hoare, Cooper wrote, “This puts me in the position of a subordinate, which I cannot accept.” (p. 52, Middleton, 2001). Cooper met with Schreiber personally. Following this meeting, Schreiber revised his recommendation to eliminate the need to hire an additional project consultant. The new amended order-in-council to the Railways and Canals gave an unclear definition of just how much authority Cooper would have over the project. No clear chain of command existed. It was assumed that the final authority rested with Theodore Cooper. All concerns were directed towards him, even though, due to illness, he was unable to travel to the job site. There was no one present on the job site that was qualified to oversee this type of work or who was in a position to make a decision. Ethical Aspects Several ethical concerns can be pointed out in this case. The major one is that deformations went unheeded for so long. The engineers on site argued among themselves as to the cause. Although the workers who failed to report to work because of the deformations lacked the technical expertise, they seemed to be the only ones who properly understood what was really happening to the bridge (p. 78, Middleton, 2001). Engineers and others in charge must be open minded to the ideas of the laborers, many of which have years of hands on experience.


Another ethical concern was Cooper’s rejection to having an independent engineer check his work. His decisions were not questioned, even when they seemed to be unusual. An independent consultant may have not allowed the higher than normal design stresses. Some of the other errors such as the underestimated dead loads and the failure to recheck the weight could have been discovered before the bridge collapsed. In conclusion of this thought, “Cooper’s engineering expertise became the sole factor that was relied upon for assuring structural integrity of the bridge.” (Roddis, 1993). References Engineering Record (ER). (1907a). “The Anchor Pier Towers of the Quebec Bridge” (1907), Engineering Record, Vol. 55, January 12, pgs. 34-35. Engineering Record (ER). (1907b). “Erection Attachments for Bottom Chords and Vertical Posts of the Quebec Bridge,” (1907), The Engineering record, building record and the sanitary engineer. Vol. 55, January 19, 1907. Engineering Record (ER). (1907c). “Erection of the Main Vertical Posts of Quebec Bridge”, (1907), Engineering Record, Vol. 55, January 26, pgs. 92-94. Engineering Record (ER). (1907d). “The Quebec Bridge Superstructure Details, Part VIII,” (1907), The Engineering record, building record and the sanitary engineer. August 17, 1907. Engineering Record (ER). (1907e). “The Cause of the Quebec Bridge Failure”, (1907), Engineering Record, Vol. 56, Sept. 14, pg. 276, Sept. 21, pg. 302. Holgate, Henry; Derry, John, G. G.; Galbraith, John. (1908). Royal Commission Quebec Bridge Inquiry Report. Sessional Paper No 154. S.E. Dawson printer to the King Ottawa. Middleton, William D. (2001). Bridge at Quebec. Indiana University Press, Indiana, USA. Petroski, Henry (1995). Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America, Knopf, New York. Roddis, W. M. Kim (1993). “Structural failures and engineering ethics.” Journal of Structural Engineering. 119(5), 15391555. Shepherd, Robin and Frost, J. David (1995). Failures in Civil Engineering, Structural, Foundation and Geoenvironmental Case Studies. American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, New York. Tarkov, J. A. (1986). “A Disaster in the Making.” American Heritage of Invention and Technology, Spring 1986, 10-17.




Photograph from

The Stava dams were a pair of dams, placed directly above each other, used as a part of a fluorspar mining operation. Located in Stava, Italy, the Stava dams were a pair of dams, placed directly above each other, used as a part of a fluorspar mining operation. Fluorspar, or fluorite, is a translucent mineral used to manufacture opalescent glass. They were used to dispose of the wash water and mine tailings or residues, from the process whereby fluorspar was extracted from the mined material. Mine tailings were separated into clays and sands. The heavier sandy material was evenly deposited on the upstream embankment faces while the finer clay material was deposited in the upper basin of embankment as the wash water passed through. The filtered water was then discharged to an old river bed that flowed into the Rio Porcellini.


water. These sediments settled out first in the upper embankment and then in the lower

Design and Construction The dams were built in 1961. The location for the dams was poorly selected; at an elevation of 4,425 feet above sea level, the dams were built on top of glacial deposits consisting of sand, gravel, and cobble. As previously mentioned, the site of the dam was near the Rio Porcellini. The river existed as a surface stream uphill of the dams and resurfaces downstream from the dams as a spring. In 1984, the townspeople of Stava and Tesoro complained to the mine owners and local authorities that the Rio Stava water was increasingly dirty. Failure On July 19, 1985, at 12:23 p.m. the residents and tourists in Stava felt a rumbling in the ground, which was followed by a white cloud that some mistook for smoke. Some thought it was an earthquake, but only minutes later, everything was engulfed by a surging mass of water, whitegray mud, and debris. The upper dam broke first, leading to the collapse of the lower dam. Stava and the village of Tesoro, located less than a mile downstream of the dams, were destroyed and buried under tons of mud. The flood wave, traveling at 90 km/h, washed away everything in its path as it traversed the Stava Valley, where approximately 200,000 cubic meters of mud and debris were deposited. The failure killed 269 people, and it destroyed 62 buildings and 8 bridges. The survivors approximated the wall of water to be about 100 feet high and 150 feet wide. The Investigation According to When Technology Fails by Schlager, 1994, the investigating team made several important determinations about the dams operation: 1. The dams were constructed without any prior geologic, hydrogeologic, geotechnical or hydrologic investigations. This seemed to be common practice during the early 1960s. 2. Neither the formulation of a comprehensive plan nor a systematic stability analysis was ever undertaken. Construction and operation were makeshift. 3. The dams’ reserve stability was always very low. While the factor of safety started out above 1.0, it was estimated to have fallen by the middle of the 1970s to between 0.75 and 1.0, well below acceptable minimum standards. 4. The dams were never instrumented to monitor stress, pore water pressure, or earth movement. 5. No tests were ever performed to ascertain the quality or characteristics of the that hinges on those sediment characteristics.


sediments in the ponds, despite the use of the “upstream construction method”

6. Sufficient sediment-filtering could only be achieved by using both ponds in series and at very high water levels. This brought water into contact with the dam crests over large portions of their lengths, which is extremely hazardous to an upstream method dam. 7. No measures were taken effectively divert surface runoff from the ponds or to drain springs. The disaster could have been avoided if it weren’t for Italy’s lax environmental and dam safety laws. The failure revealed the need for national policy and regulation reform.

References Bressan, David. "July 19, 1985: The Val Di Stava Dam Collapse | History of Geology, Scientific American Blog Network." July 19, 1985: The Val Di Stava Dam Collapse | History of Geology, Scientific American Blog Network. Scientific American, 19 July 2011. Dixon-Hardy, D., and J. Engels. " ::: Stava Tailings Dam Failure." Stava Tailings Dam Failure., 2012. Schlager, Neil. When Technology Fails: Significant Technological Disasters, Accidents, and Failures of the Twentieth Century. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994. Print.


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