The Collapse of a 13-Story Building

In June of 2009, a 13-story apartment building that was still under construction in the city of Shanghai (China) collapsed. As a result, one worker of the construction site was killed, and hundreds of people who had invested money in an apartment had to seek lawyers to obtain their money back. The building was also located in a complex, very near other 10, which fortunately were not affected by this collapse.

Collapsed building in Shangai.

Collapsed building.

After investigation, it was concluded that the cause of the accident were inadequate construction practices. The investigation report said that the construction workers dug an underground garage on one side of the building, at the same time that they put the dug soil on the other side of the building, which reached heights of about 10 meters. This was a huge error and no construction company should allow such method to be executed.

What happened as a consequence was that the weight of the pile of soil created a pressure differential, leading to a shift in the soil structure, weakening the foundations and finally resulting in their failure. In addition, despite not being the main factor, the situation was worsened by heavy rains in the previous days of the collapse.

Hence, this accident was caused basically by the implementation of wrong construction methods, which in turn could have been caused by lack of training of the workers, lack of clear instructions or resources from the construction managers or even lack of sufficient regulations for safe construction practices.

In order to avoid it, the workers could have dug the garage and put the soil in a further location, which would avoid the pressure differential that initiated the failure of the structures. In addition to that, other safety practices could have been implemented previously to the accident to help prevent it, such as:

  • A discussion with the whole construction team about possible issues with the integrity of the permanent structure building;
  • Before excavating the garage, the construction team could have obtained information on how the other buildings of the complex performed this operation and communicated it to all workers;
  • Prior to the beginning of the garage digging, a design review process should have been done to analyze construction best practices and avoid possible accidents.

In conclusion, safety protocols and standards should be of paramount importance for every design and construction process, especially the ones that have great dimensions and proportions, such as a building. Although this accident resulted in only one death and headache for investors, it had the potential to lead to far more serious casualties.