Top Ten Construction Failures

10.) Tower of Pisa

No list of construction failures would be complete without this iconic engineering mishap. A mere three meter foundation and weak subsoil contributed to a nearly 5.5 degree lean until preservation crews were called in to help lessen the instability. The tower’s top is still more than 3.9 meters off center.

Tower of Pisa.jpg

9.) Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Opened in1940, the bridge was the third longest suspension bridge in the world before it collapsed in dramatic fashion just four months later. Sustained 40 mph winds caused a phenomenon known as aeroelastic flutter, resonating violently with the structure until the roadway broke apart and fell hundreds of feet into the gorge below.


8.) Hubble

One of the crowning achievements of the space age, the Hubble Space Telescope launched with a defective mirror that severely inhibited the quality of the incredibly expensive instrument’s imaging capabilities. Several servicing missions had to be flown to correct the issue, and Hubble ended up costing U.S. taxpayers nearly $6 billion – up from an original $400 million.


7.) Lotus Riverside Complex

In 2009, a recently completed residential building collapsed nearly intact in Shanghai, killing one construction worker. A lengthy probe pointed to excavated earth being dumped nearby, which caused a river bank to collapse and saturate the surrounding soil, causing the instability. The eleven remaining structures in the project were immediately investigated.

Lotus Riverside Complex.jpg

6.) New York City Crane Collapse

A 2008 crane collapse in a downtown NYC neighborhood resulted in the deaths of six construction workers and another female bystander. Investigators determined that instead of the recommended eight safety straps, negligent crews had installed only four, worn straps, leading to the deadly failure.

NYC Crane.jpg

5.) Hyatt Regency Walkway

During a tea dance in July of 1981, dozens of people gathered on an aerial walkway of the less than year-old hotel, before a catastrophic structural failure sent hundreds hurtling down four floors onto crowds of hundreds below. More than 200 people were injured and 114 lost their lives.

Hyatt Regency walkway.jpg

4.) Chicago Crib

As crews were working on a water intake tunnel for Chicago in 1909, a fire broke out on a water crib in the middle of winter, killing 60 workers and badly burning dozens of others, with many drowning or succumbing to hypothermia as they tried to escape the flames.

Chicago Crib Fire.jpg

3.) Quebec City Bridge

The 1907 construction of the Quebec City Bridge across the St. Lawrence River ended tragically after officials ignored the fact that initial calculations for the bridge were off by more than 8 million pounds. 75 workers lost their lives when the structure finally failed and plunged into the river below.

Quebec City Bridge.jpg

2.) Willow Island Cooling Tower

A 430-foot power plant cooling tower, under construction in 1978, was severely behind schedule, resulting in a number of shortcuts and oversights that led to a collapse claiming 51 lives. Unset concrete and poorly constructed scaffolding were the main factors behind the structural failure.


1.) Teton Dam

While many of these construction failures resulted in tragic loss of life, they have helped shape the safety procedures and guidelines that have saved countless lives over the years.

The Teton Dam, for example, was an earthen dam built by the federal government in southeastern Idaho which broke apart upon its first filling on June 5th, 1976. The rushing waters from the catastrophic failure killed 11 people and drowned more than 13,000 head of cattle, with damages estimated up to $2 billion.

Permeable soil and cracked foundations were blamed for the dam’s collapse, which allowed more than 2,000,000 cubic feet of water per second to careen into the Teton River canyon, emptying the reservoir within hours. The Dam’s failure prompted a round of more stringent regulations governing similar projects across the United States.

Teton Dam.jpg


Top Ten Net-Zero Buildings

10.) Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies

One of the first net-zero projects in the world, the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College in Ohio was completed in January of 2000. At nearly 14,000 square feet, it remains one of the largest net-zero projects in the country, and derives much of its power from photovoltaic panels.

Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies.jpg

9.) Beddington Zero Energy Development

Also known as BedZED, this environmentally-friendly housing development in Hackbridge, London has 777 square meters of solar paneling and uses a downdraft gasifier to glean energy from tree waste. The project consists of 99 individual units and nearly 1,500 square feet of work space designed by architect Bill Dunster.


8.) Suzlon One Earth Corporation

The world’s fifth largest wind turbine supplier, Suzlon’s One Earth headquarters in India employs roof gardens and passive cooling, along with 154 kilowatts of wind and solar generated power to keep the sprawling 10 acre facility at net neutral energy consumption. The project was designed by architect Christopher Charles Benninger.


7.) Omega Center for Sustainable Living

More than 200 solar panels provide electricity for this BNIM Architects-designed model for the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. Built to participate in the Living Building Challenge, the facility uses wastewater recycling and eco-friendly architecture for its 6,200 square feet of classrooms, labs, constructed wetlands, and more.


6.) Darla Moore School of Business

To be the world’s largest net-zero project upon its completion in 2013, the facility will consist of a trading room, a 500-seat lecture hall, and classrooms equipped with advanced telepresence technology. With a variety of green elements and efficient design, the building will qualify for LEED Platinum Certification.

Darla Moore School of Business.jpg

5.) Pusat Tenaga Malaysia’s Zero Energy Office

The first completely self-sustainable building in Southeast Asia, PTM’s five-acre ZEO has integrated photovoltaic systems that were installed in 2007. Green design features ensure the energy produced is used efficiently, and the project hopes to be a model for other sustainable designs in the region.

PTM's ZEO.jpg

4.) NYCTech

The proposed 150,000 square foot academic center for Cornell’s upcoming technology campus in New York City will be one of the world’s largest and most advanced net-zero projects, aiming to be an incubator for green startups and eco-conscious research. The site will boast geothermal heating systems and a 1.8 megawatt solar array.


3.) World Wildlife Fund Dutch Headquarters

Designed by Thomas Rau, the WWF’s complex in Zeist, Netherlands was completed in 2006 as a testament to ‘avante-gard environmentalism.’ The center has a mud ceiling laced with capillary water cooling system, triple glazed windows, photovoltaic panels, recycled finishes, and built-in bird and bat sanctuaries.

WWF HQ.jpg

2.) Pearl River Tower

One of the most environmentally-friendly skyscrapers in the world, the Pearl River Tower is an enormous step towards sustainability for the Chinese building industry. At 71 stories, it is the largest radiant-cooled office building in the world, and is also one of the most energy-efficient despite its nearly 213,000 square foot sprawl.


1.) The Research Support Facility

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado is home to one of the world’s most sustainable buildings. Built in conjunction with the United States Department of Energy, the 360,000 square foot facility is LEED Platinum certified and a showcase for efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Among the facility’s green features is advanced daylighting, electrochromic windows, labyrinth thermal storage, and under-floor ventilation. Outside air is passively preheated via a transpired solar collector on the buildings south-facing wall, while most of the building is made from recycled, locally-sourced materials. Large-scale solar paneling provides all the site’s power needs,

At just over $91 million, the project achieved a remarkable $254/square-foot cost, and will provide working space for over 1,300 employees – all of whom will be helping innovate the next generation of energy-efficient buildings.

Reserach Support Facility.jpg

Reverse Engineering Cross Sections using Civil 3d

Here is a 10min video walking you through the creation of a design surface in Civil 3d.  The available civil 3d data is an existing ground surface and an alignment.  The available cross sections are no more than polylines drawn on a grid.  The trick revealed in the video is how to recreate the cross section geometry in its true 3d position within the model.