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Structural Failure Summary

Important Things In Structural Failure

Structural failures refer to the inability of a structure, such as a building, bridge, or dam, to perform its intended function due to inadequate design, construction, or maintenance. These failures can have serious consequences, including property damage, injury, and loss of life.

There are many factors that can contribute to structural failures. Some common causes include:

  • Poor design: Structures that are not designed to withstand the loads they will be subjected to, such as wind or earthquakes, are at risk of failure.
  • Inadequate construction: If a structure is not built according to the design specifications, it may be prone to failure. This can include using inferior materials or not following proper construction practices.
  • Material failure: Structural materials, such as steel or concrete, can fail if they are of poor quality or are not properly maintained.
  • Corrosion: Structures that are exposed to corrosive environments, such as saltwater or acidic soils, may be at risk of corrosion and subsequent failure.
  • Aging: Over time, structures may become weakened due to wear and tear, making them more prone to failure.

Some examples of well-known structural failures include:

  • The collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940: This suspension bridge in Washington state collapsed due to a phenomenon known as “aeroelastic flutter,” in which wind caused the bridge’s roadway to oscillate at a frequency that resonated with the structure’s natural frequency.
  • The collapse of the Hyatt Regency walkway in 1981: A walkway at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, collapsed due to a design error that caused the support rods to be inadequate to hold the weight of the walkway.
  • The collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001: The collapse of the Twin Towers was caused by the impact of the planes and the resulting fires, which weakened the steel structures of the buildings.

There are several reasons why reinforcement is used in concrete construction:

  1. To increase the tensile strength of the concrete: Concrete is a strong material in compression, but it is relatively weak in tension. By adding reinforcement to the concrete, the tensile strength of the material can be increased, allowing it to resist forces that try to stretch or bend it.

  2. To improve the durability of the concrete: Reinforcement can help to improve the durability of concrete by reducing the risk of cracking and other types of damage. This is especially important in structures that are subjected to extreme loads or environments, such as bridges, highways, and buildings in earthquake-prone areas.

  3. To reduce the amount of concrete required: Because reinforcement can increase the tensile strength of the concrete, it may be possible to use less concrete in a structure while still maintaining its strength and stability. This can be an important consideration in situations where the cost or availability of concrete is a concern.


  1. “Structural Failure.” Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. “Structural Failure: Causes and Consequences.” Civil Engineering Portal.
  3. “10 Famous Structural Failures.” Engineering News-Record.

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