Construction Failures And Defect

On the other hand, the term “failure” can be described as a breakdown in the operation, function, quality, or appearance of a structure, system, component or material. The term “defect” is not synonymous with the term “failure.” Rather, a defect is the property that causes a failure. Failure of construction is an important subject for an owner or a builder, since it involves human life and money. Structural failure may be prevented by incorporation of a proper design and use of quality materials. Workmanship is also an important factor to ensure a proper structural construction.

Why Construction Fails
Since humans first started construction, there have been numerous occasions when the structures failed. The analysis revealed the general causes of failure that includes defective design, extra loads, leaks, cracks, and sagging. Structural failure signifies the lack of the load bearing capability of a structural element or of the complete structure. Structural failure starts when the material is strained to its limit of strength, thus originating cracks or extreme deformation. The decisive material or system failure strength is its greatest capacity to endure loads, after which it is liable to fail.

The ultimate failure strength of a material or structural element is taken into consideration while preparing the design of structures. A factor of safety is also integrated into the design analysis to prevent failure if unforeseen loads are applied. Current building codes have significantly decreased structural collapses, but cannot really completely eliminate structural failures. Though the possibility of structural failure is less, the results can be disastrous. The engineers are persistently seeking measures to reduce structural failures by the adoption of appropriate building standards and other safety requirements.

In construction defect claims and litigation, the term “construction defect” is often defined as the premature failure of a component or a condition that results from improper or substandard engineering, design, manufacture, installation and/or application. 

This page addresses the various types of construction failures that may occur from construction defects.

Types of Construction Failures
This is a condition that renders a component unsuitable or unusable for its intended purpose. The functional failure of a mechanical piece of equipment resulting from a manufacturing defect often requires immediate correction.

This failure is a breakdown in one or more components of the structural system. Such failures include common concrete cracking which may or may not be of any consequence, depending upon the degree of the failure. In addition, structural failures do not always require correction, and, in the context of construction defect claims and litigation, a structural failure without some functional failure or impairment is of limited value. On the other hand, the failure of structural steel connection caused by a design defect could be catastrophic and demands immediate attention.

A condition that renders a component unsightly, significantly detracting from its appearance, can be described as an aesthetic failure. Economic consequences often accompany aesthetic failures such as masonry effervescence, although they may be subjective and difficult to quantify.

This is a condition that results in economic loss or the need to expend unplanned or unnecessary monies to keep a structure, component or system in order. The loss could take the form of excessive maintenance, shortened useful life or added repairs. The installation of improper bearings in an engine can result in the economic failure of the equipment.

This is a failure is one that is likely to worsen over time. In the legal and insurance fields, a progressive failure that is the basis of a defective work claim is often described as a “continuous loss.” Defects such as expansive soils under a basement slab can cause structural and progressive slab failure and may need to be corrected as soon as possible.

A non-progressive failure or condition is one that is not likely to deteriorate. Generally, the non-progressive failure of an under-specified component such as building insulation can result from design or construction defects that often do not need to be remediated.

Building Construction Issues
There are numerous important factors that need to be considered while designing and constructing a building. The initial foremost factor to be analyzed is the soil conditions at the site. Soil is a leading cause of building defects. If the soil is not suitably prepared, it can cause severe damage to the complete building, including the ground floor, walls, and the roof. Water leakage in the building may be due to an improper or inferior plumbing system. The water issues may be minor in the initial stages, but may become substantially severe and affect the foundation, walls, and floor.

Therefore, such issues should be taken seriously, and appropriate preventive and corrective measures should be adopted. The primary cause of the development of roof cracks is an imperfect design. The design developed by an architect or an engineer may be aesthetically good, but it could be functionally ineffective. Therefore, the builder and the architect should work jointly to ensure that the design is perfect and will not cause structural failures.

Failure Analysis
Failure analysis is the technique of evaluating data to establish the origin of a failure, and recommend the precautions necessary to avoid recurrence. It is a significant subject in the field of construction. It is dependent on the examination of the failed component to establish the cause of failure, using an extensive range of methods. The nondestructive testing approach is useful since the failed components are not affected by the examination. A software program is used to conduct the failure analysis based on the applied element method. It examines the causes for the collapse of structures due to extreme loads.

In analyzing construction defects, the parties often identify the specific type of failure(s) at issue to gain a full understanding of the potential ramifications of each problem. If this information is not offered by experts in their analysis, then it should be developed through inquiry. Theoretically, a functional, structural, aesthetic or economic failure could be either progressive or non-progressive. In general, all defects and failures can be categorized according to the above types.

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