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Campus Project Collapse Injures 1

Monday, July 15, 2013

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Five workers were trapped and one of them injured after a partial building collapse at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The injured worker was listed in stable condition later, with no broken bones, a university official said.

Authorities said steel beams underneath the fifth floor of the university’s new $137 million Science Education and Research Center gave way about 1:20 p.m. ET Thursday (July 11).

Temple University collapse

Temple University officials believe a connector failure caused a partial collapse at the Science Education and Research Center under construction on campus.

Rescuers worked to free the workers involved in the collapse. Neither the victims nor their employers were immediately identified.

Connector Failure Suspected

Federal, state and university authorities have opened investigations into the incident.

However, a spokesman for the university said the cause may be a connector failure.

“The initial indications are that a failed connector on the [fifth] floor of the structure caused a beam to fall to the fourth floor,” said spokesman Ray Betzner.

Construction Halted

Construction on the eight-story research center has been postponed until further notice, Betzner said. The damaged steel was being removed from the site Friday morning.

A spokeswoman with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Region 3 office in Philadelphia said the agency had opened an investigation that could take up to six months to complete.

Temple University new science center
Temple University

The Science Education and Research Center is scheduled to be completed next June. It was designed by ARC/USA (Architectural Resources Cambridge) Architects.

The 250,000-square-foot facility, set to be completed in June 2014, has been under construction for about a year. It will provide teaching laboratories, lecture halls and classroom space, according to the project’s website.

The name of the project's general contractor was not immediately available.  

The architect for the project is ARC/USA (Architectural Resources Cambridge) Architects, based in Cambridge, MA. The firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Students Near the Collapse

Witnesses, including students walking “underneath the building,” described hearing loud noises and cries for help after the collapse, according to local reports.

“As I was walking…I heard a couple kids go, ‘Oh my God! Oh no, the building collapsed!'” Temple student Maria Macri told a local FOX News affiliate.

Student Veronica Hudaeck said, "I heard a crash and looked up, and everything had collapsed. There was a guy immediately telling us to ‘move aside, move aside.’"

Officials considered the situation under control by 2:15 p.m., reports said.

“We had workers that were trapped above the collapse. We got about five workers out,” Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayres told reporters.

Recent Philadelphia Collapse

The incident was the second building collapse in Philadelphia in five weeks.

On June 5, a downtown building under demolition toppled onto an adjacent two-story Salvation Army thrift store, killing six people and injuring 13 others.

Philadelphia collapse
RonniePhily / Twitter

On June 5, a downtown Philadelphia building under demolition collapsed on top of an adjacent thrift store killing six people.

That accident remains under investigation, though a heavy equipment operator faces criminal charges.

Campus Cave-Ins

In addition, similar construction incidents, one deadly, have recently occurred at colleges and universities across the country.

A steel building frame of an equine building under construction at Texas A&M University in College Station collapsed June 22, injuring five workers, three critically.

The cause of that collapse is still under investigation.

In October 2012, four construction workers perished when a nearly complete parking structure pancaked at Miami-Dade University’s West Campus.

Five contractors have been cited in that accident.


Tagged categories: Construction; Education; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Schools; Steel; Workers

Comment from True Cousins, (7/15/2013, 11:22 AM)

Considering the construction work I am involved with there are two items that I see, One, The contractors are continually badgered to hurry to maintain a schedule that is too compressed. Concrete structures are the most affected because sufficient drying time is not allowed before the next segment of work is begun. Careful scheduling of construction is necessary to prevent overloading partially cured materials. Secondly, Younger engineers today have the ability to provide beautiful computer analyses of complex buildings and other structures with all the calculated loads. The problem is that the engineer has never made any simplified calculations for the structure to see if the computer calculated loads appear to be in the ballpark.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/17/2013, 1:57 PM)

TC, sometimes it is not the calculations...the younger engineers are actually at their technical best fresh out of school (they can sit down and do the calculations without having to go back through the text book to try to remember how to do it). As well, sometimes a "simple calculation" isn't that simple, it really depends on the structure. What I find younger engineers lack (and it is not to say that this incident was the result of a younger engineer's work...the article identifies a suspected cause but nothing else) is the experience to know a) how things go together in the field and b) whether or not a design is practical (because of how things are actually constructed). I do agree, though, TC, that timeline and productivity have become major concerns, especially with penalty clauses, other jobs and such.

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