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Computational Science, Engineering & Technology Series
ISSN 1759-3158
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping
Chapter 2

Designing Buildings Against Abnormal Loading

D.E. Grierson

Department of Civil Engineering, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Full Bibliographic Reference for this chapter
D.E. Grierson, "Designing Buildings Against Abnormal Loading", in B.H.V. Topping, (Editor), "Progress in Civil and Structural Engineering Computing", Saxe-Coburg Publications, Stirlingshire, UK, Chapter 2, pp 37-62, 2003. doi:10.4203/csets.10.2
Keywords: buildings, abnormal loading, progressive collapse, historical overview, literature review, recent research.

This paper considers the topic of designing buildings against abnormal loading from three different but related perspectives. First presented is an historical overview of a number of building failures caused by a variety of different abnormal loads over the past thirty-five years. Failures discussed include that of the: Ronan Point Flats, Canning Town, UK, in 1968, [1]; Harbour Cay Condominiums, Florida, USA, in 1981, [2]; Save-On Grocery Store, British Columbia, Canada, in 1988, [3]; World Trade Centre, New York, USA, in 1993, [4]; Murrah Office Building, Oklahoma City, USA, in 1995, [5]; and the World Trade Centre [6] and Pentagon [7] in the USA on September 11, 2001. Attention focuses on the nature of abnormal loading, structural details, failure mechanisms and lessons learned.

The second part of the paper presents a review of the research literature over the past number of years dealing with the analysis and design of buildings subjected to abnormal loading. Research progress in the aftermath of certain building failures is reviewed in chronological order, including a brief discussion of current building code provisions for design against abnormal loading. Also surveyed are the building performance reports prepared in the aftermath of the failures of the Ronan Point Flats in 1968 due to gas explosion, the World Trade Centre in 1993 due to bomb attack, the Murrah Building in 1995 due to bomb attack, and the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in 2001 due to airplane attacks.

The third and last part of the paper discusses current research work by the author dealing with the analysis of buildings subjected to abnormal loading. A rigorous progressive-collapse analysis capability is discussed and applied to an example low-rise building framework, [8]. Also introduced, for the first time in this paper, is an approximate progressive-collapse analysis capability based on conventional design-office computer software for building design that, for the example low-rise framework at least, produces results comparable to those found using the rigorous analysis technique.

Griffiths, H., Pugsley, A., Saunders, O., "Collapse of Flats at Ronan Point, Canning Town", Ministry of Housing and Local Government, London, United Kingdom, 1968.
Lew, H., Carino, N., Fattal, S., Batts, M., "Investigation of Construction Failure of Harbour Cay Condominium in Cocoa Beach, Florida", National Bureau of Standards, Washington, DC, 1982.
Closkey, D.J., "Report of the Commissioner Inquiry Station Square Development", Burnaby, British Columbia, 1988.
Interpol. The Bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City 1993. Online: URL (Accessed on June 1, 2003).
Technology Unlimited. Terror in the Heartland (Oklahoma City Bombing 1995). Online: URL (Accessed on June 4, 2003).
Federal Emergency Management Agency. (WTC Terrorist Attack 2001). WTC Building Performance Report (Executive Summary). Online: URL (Accessed on June 2, 2003).
Structural Engineering Institute, "The Pentagon Building Performance Report", American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, Virginia, United States, 2003.
Liu, Y., Xu, L., Grierson, D.E., "Performance of Buildings Under Abnormal Loading", Conference on Response of Structures to Extreme loading, Toronto, Canada, August 2003.

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