|History of the Forensic Engineering Group|
Back in 1998, the ASCE Metropolitan Section Construction Group sponsored a seminar on case studies in construction failures. The seminar was a resounding success, so much that its echoes were heard the following year in the form of inquiries from New York State Senator Roy M. Goodman. He asked the Construction Group for suggestions to help form a panel of experts to study building failures in New York City. The seminar also provided a one-time forum for the enormous forensic engineering talent in the New York City metropolitan area.
The Forensic Engineering Committee, formed in September 2001, provides a permanent forum for forensic engineers, members of the legal profession, construction managers, architects, specifiers, quality assurance specialists, owners, municipal and government authorities, the academia, insurance companies, OSHA administrators, and many other organizations to share their experience and expectations in an organized and meaningful way.
Since its formation, originally named as the Forensic Engineering Committee, there have been many interesting lectures on the subject of forensic engineering and organized forums and symposiums which were held in 2002, 2005, and 2006; each were co-sponsored by The Columbia University School of Engineering. Proceedings of those symposiums were published and distributed to the attendees.
The most recent Forensic Engineering Symposium - "Sources Of Errors And Opportunities For Catching Them" was held during four days in June 2010, at the new Engineering Building of The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art, 41 Cooper Square, NY, in the Rose Auditorium.
The Forensic Engineering Committee was elevated to a formal technical group of the ASCE Metropolitan Section in the Fall of 2010 based on the executive board's recommendation, after review of all past years sustained successes and accomplishments by the Forensic Committee of meeting the expectations and vision of the executive board's requirements regarding a Technical Group.
Forensic Structural Engineering is a very challenging and complex field of professional engineering work.
From the ASCE Guidelines for Forensic Engineering Practice Preface:
Engineering investigation of buildings, bridges, and other constructed facilities that fail or do not perform as intended, rendering opinions as to the causes of failure or underperformance, and giving testimony in judicial proceedings are fields of professional practice often referred to as forensic engineering.
Forensic engineering practices also are applied in circumstances involving defects, failures, and accidents involving manufactured products, consumer products, machinery, and vehicles of all types; however this publication principally addresses forensic engineering for the civil built environment.From the Introduction:
Failure can be defined as an unacceptable difference between an actual condition or performance and the intended or reasonably anticipated condition or performance.
Failure need not always involve a complete or even partial collapse; failure may involve a less catastrophic deficiency or performance problem, such as unacceptable deformation, cracking, water‐ or weather‐resistance issues, or other such phenomena. The role of the forensic engineer may be that of an investigator of the causes of the failure, or it may extend into litigation support and testimony in legal proceedings. Forensic engineers are also involved in devising repairs or mitigating consequences of failures, however, the Guidelines do not intend to address issues of failure mitigation or repair.
Forensic engineering is often used in historic preservation work. The issues, approaches in determining the condition of a building having no drawings, building codes issues, known material properties, questionable means and methods in construction, lack of compliance with accepted building codes and techniques, etc., is identical to any failure investigation with the difference being lack of litigation.
Forensic engineering reports and other civil/structural engineering documentation is often needed by contractors and preservation architects, among many others besides attorneys and insurance companies. However, their needs are different and difficulties may arise in communication and contrasting objectives.
Sometimes forensic engineering projects and tasks are involved in component or localized building failures which could be mundane to the extreme; vis a vis condominium litigation involving minor issues with regard to cracked concrete and waterproofing, etc.There could be as much forensic engineering work in association with refurbishment of the Washington Monument as there is in an investigation of a building collapse.
2009 - 2013 Paul Anthony Roppa, P.E., M.SEAoNY, M.ASCE
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