The history of the development of practice in many engineering disciplines is, in large part, the story of failures, both imminent and actual, and of the changes to designs, standards and procedures made as the result of timely interventions or forensic analyses. All engineers, and more particularly structural engineers, should be failure literate. Failure literacy means knowing about the critical historical failure cases that have shaped the profession, not merely the surface technical details, but the environment, the communications difficulties and the procedural issues. In the U.S., an intensive effort has been under way for nearly a decade to promote failure literacy in engineering education and practice. A number of educational resources have been developed by the Education Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers Forensic Engineering Division (ASCE FED) to make it easier for engineering students and practicing engineers to learn from failures. Some landmark failures include the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse, 1940, the Point Pleasant/ Silver Bridge collapse, 1967, the Ronan Point building collapse, 1968 (U.K.), the 2000 Commonwealth avenue building collapse, 1971, the Bailey’s Crossroads building collapse, 1973, the Hartford Civic Center building collapse, 1978, and others. This list, unfortunately, is a living document that will expand as more failures occur. Thorough forensic investigations are vital to capture the lessons from the unfortunate occurrences.
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