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The Art of the Forensic Engineer

by Donald Charrett

Dr Donald Charrett Paper delivered at the Fifth Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Computation, Capetown September 2013; Zingoni (ed), Research and Applications in Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Computation 2341.

The first part of the paper discusses the role of the forensic engineer in investigating and determining the causes of structural failures, and how that role differs from that of the design engineer. The forensic engineer’s “deliverables” and “clients” require specialised skills directed to answering and communicating “why” the failure occurred. Recommendations are made for the appropriate engagement of a forensic engineer. The second part of the paper reviews the application of forensic engineering in the public reports of several structural failures. The direct “technical” causes of failure were accompanied by contractual and project execution deficiencies that did not prevent or detect the onset of disaster before it was too late. The “non-technical” lessons learnt include implementing the appropriate contractual mechanisms for managing the project risks, the appropriate engagement of the design and checking engineers, the designer’s involvement during the construction, and the ongoing requirement for monitoring and inspection of constructed facilities. Further information can be downloaded: Download


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