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Chapter 3.1 Learning from Failure

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness…..Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfil it

George Santayana. 19th Century – philosopher, writer

Figure 3.1.2 Hyatt Regency Walkway Detail
Structural engineers exist to ensure that buildings stand up, that structures are fit for purpose and will perform satisfactorily over their allotted lifespan. However humans err and catastrophic failures have happened. There are a number of publications available on the subject of historic failures but a highly recommended book is: ‘To Engineer is Human’, (Petroski 1992, reference 8.).

On 17 July 1981 in the Hyatt Regency hotel in Kansas City Missouri, which had been in use for two years, the internal atrium walkway collapsed during a function with sixteen hundred people present. See figure 3.1.2

The shop drawings were produced by the steelwork contractor were based on the engineer’s design but a crucial alteration was made. The rods were offset at the fourth floor rather than running straight through as a single rod with nuts.