Miami building collapse could profoundly change engineering

Source(s)
Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.

By Robin Lloyd

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Last week’s deadly collapse of a 12-story oceanfront condominium in a small town on the same barrier island as Miami Beach, Fla., is raising concerns among structural engineers and designers about how to prevent future building failures.

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Structural engineers aim to design buildings that can withstand the loads from forces and hazards such as gravity and weather. Engineers routinely update design practices, often in response to advances in technology or hard-won insights from failures. However, nearly all the building stock in the U.S. is not newly designed. Champlain Towers South, for example, was erected in 1981. These buildings may face loads and other threats that designers did not anticipate, including those linked to climate change.

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We can’t ignore our infrastructure, and we need to invest in it. Experts have been telling us that for 40 years. A major bridge between Memphis, Tenn., and Arkansas on Interstate 40 had to be shut down last month after a huge fracture was found in a beam. These examples are going to keep coming more frequently. They won’t all be a result of us ignoring our infrastructure, but many will be. And climate change isn’t helping. Our infrastructure is mostly in place and developed already, and we need to continue to invest in that development.

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