Avoiding Residential Deck Failures

A quick internet search will turn up dozens of news stories about catastrophic failures of decks, balconies and similar structures at restaurants, apartment buildings and beach houses among other places. Many of these are mass-casualty events involving multiple injuries and occasional fatalities. It seems like there are several every summer. Failures of these outdoor accessory structures are indeed relatively common and are probably among the most common types of structural collapses. However, most deck, porch and balcony failures are not catastrophic enough or do not cause enough carnage to make the news. This would include most residential deck failures.

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What Homeowners Should Know About Engineering Fees

Homeowners and even some residential contractors can be surprised by the cost of engineering services. Most residential projects do not require engineering, Homeowners are seldom in the position to retain an engineer. In addition, engineering fees can be confusing to the uninitiated and are especially counter-intuitive when it comes to residential projects. This unfamiliarity can lead to unrealistic expectations.

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When to Perform a Geotechnical Investigation for Residential Construction

Photo: FHWA

One of the ways that the residential codes are more permissive than general building codes is their treatment of geotechnical investigations. Conventional residential construction is lightweight and the prescriptive foundation design provisions in the code are very conservative, yet typically cost-effective. There are circumstances, however, when performing a geotechnical investigation is beneficial or necessary for a residential project. Therefore, the decision as to whether to perform a geotechnical investigation warrants more attention then it usually receives.

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How to Use Recycled Materials in Your Project

Environmental responsibility has been an increasingly sought-after attribute of new building construction and renovations. This has driven and had been driven by the development of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED is a rating system; points are awarded for design elements that reduce the environmental impact of the building.  There is even a rating system for homes as a result of the demand for green building practices in new homes. Continue reading “How to Use Recycled Materials in Your Project”

What Everyone Should Know About Earthquakes and Structures

This post was originally published on the Richard J. Driscoll, Consulting Engineer blog and has been edited for length. The original can be found here.

Partially collapsed building. 2008 Wells, NV Earthquake (Utah Geological Survey)

Most people understand that earthquakes can produce catastrophic damage to the built environment. However, given that large earthquakes are relatively rare, and that the television news cameras typically move on a few days after any disaster, a lot of people’s understanding of the effects of earthquakes may be shaped more by bad disaster movies than reality. Continue reading “What Everyone Should Know About Earthquakes and Structures”