CROSS Safety Report
Collapse of a gable wall
This report is over 2 years old
Part of a gable wall to a fairly recently constructed block of flats collapsed onto a parked car which suffered significant damage.
Key Learning Outcomes
For construction professionals:
Quality control and competent supervision on site can help to ensure that the structure is built in accordance with the design
Effective communication of essential design information in an accessible form to tradespeople working on site can also ensure the works are in accordance with the design intent
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This report concerns the collapse of part of a gable wall to a fairly recently constructed block of flats. The collapsed masonry fell onto a parked car which suffered significant damage. The owner had left it only a minute or two beforehand, heard the crash as they walked around to the front of the building. They were very shocked at how close they had come to severe injury or worse.
The subsequent investigation found several reasons for concern. The lateral restraint ties were spaced excessively and had inadequate fixings. Wall ties had been bent up where an adjoining wall should have been tied in but were not connected because the coursing did not match. Similar defects were found on other gables and remedial action had to be taken.
Expert Panel Comments
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Supervision on site is critical for good construction and was clearly lacking here. Are standards for supervision adequate and if not, what should be done? Risk based inspections appear to some to be the way forward in building control, and this may be the basis for fewer random inspections so such deficiencies may not be picked up in this way.
On the other hand if risks are thought to be significant it could lead to more inspections. The failures of inadequate wall ties and lack of lateral restraint emphasise that if mid-construction inspections are not undertaken then there is a risk. The fact that 'similar defects were found on other gables' suggests that the poor construction and supervision throughout the site.
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