Building Construction For Fire Protection
The Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse
The collapse of the Hyatt Regency Hotel walkway was one of the worst structural collapses to ever occur in the U.S soil. The incident happened on July, 17, 1981 in Kansas City, Missouri. It claimed 114 lives and maimed over 200 others. Huge losses were incurred and sources of livelihoods cut short. It was a case of happiness turned sadness because at one moment the casualties were partying while the next, they were fighting for their lives.
The incident was like a cine film, the deadly incident occurred, and then the film was running again. The hotel had prepared a tea-dance party at the hotel’s atrium lobby. Lots of people attended the party. Over 1500 party-goers assembled in the hotel’s atrium lobby while many others were on the suspended walkways. Like the literary line, “things fall apart; the center cannot hold”; the links to the supporters of the ceiling rods holding the walkways on the second and forth floors failed, and they ended up collapsing and falling on the audience in the atrium of the first floor (Francis, 1992). First, the walkway on the forth floor collapsed on the one on the second floor and then on the crowd below. Despite that, the third floor’s offset was not affected.
The construction of the building contributed to the incident. The cause of the incident predated the incident by two years. The cause was in the designing of the walkways. According to the suggested design, the walkways had have the following (Mark, 2008). Every walkway’s beam box had to be propped up by both a washer and a nut which in had to be connected to the supporting rod; wide-flanged beams had to be used on both sides of the walkway which had to be suspended from a box beam; bolts had to conjoin the wide-flanged beams with the box beam through a clip angle that had to be welded to the top of the box beam; and one of the two ends of the walkway had to be conjoined to a fixed plate and the other one had to be hold up by a supporting rod.
The proposed design aside, the actual design had the following characteristics. Every rod’s one end was fastened with the cross beams of the roof of the atrium; the rod’s lower end passed through the box beam whereby it was fastened to a washer and a nut; after a mere four inches from the first rod, the second rod was fastened to the box beam; and similarly, the second level was supported by suspended extra rods. This was the cause of the incident, because, the added rod implied that the nut that fastening the forth floor’s segment had an increment of its load. Based on the proposed design every hanger rod had to hold a load of 90kN; the changed design made an increment of the load of the hangar rods to 181kN, double the proposed. Unfortunately, the load of the two walkways that fell could not be held by the box beams because their welding had been horizontal. The overweighted box beams broke making the broke bottom rod pass through the box beam; and then, finally, there was the ghastly collapse that left deaths, injuries and huge losses in its wake.
There was the proposed and the actual designs. But if the proposed design was not implemented, what went wrong? The problems teethed from different directions— each party was blaming the other. There were two separate companies who were involved in this construction namely Havens Steel Company, the fabricator, and G.C.E. International, Inc., the latter company being the engineering design team. In order to make their assembling work easier, Havens Steel Company altered the one-rod design to a two-rod design and in their haste, increased the load of the connector by twofold, the collapse of the walkways. By then, there was no communication between the two companies (Caroline, 2011). In a sworn testimony in court, the engineering team claimed that it communicated with the fabricator to change approval, a claim that the fabricator refuted. However, the engineering had the responsibility of reviewing the ultimate design so as to correct the mistake which had saw the load on the connections increase.
The next party to be blamed by the engineering team was the owner of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. G.C.E. International, Inc., claimed that there was another incident in the site that had happened on October 14, 1979, when the building was still being constructed and that it was the one that ushered in the final collapse. On that date, as G.C.E claimed, there was a collapse of over 2700 sq. feet of the atrium roof caused by the failure of one roof connectors of the northern tip of the atrium. It also claimed that fearing the extra charges that would result from on-site inspection, the owner declined to give them access to the site three times. Moreover, based on the building regulations of the Kansas City Building Code, even the proposed design of the walkways couldn’t hold up the proposed load.
Abkowitz, M. D. (2008). Operational Risk Management: A Case Study Approach to Effective Planning and Response. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Brannigan, F. L. (1992). Building Construction for the Fire Service. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Whitbeck, C. (2011). Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.