Course Description :

Cultural and technical basis for concepts of risk and failure, formal approaches to failure investigation, origins of natural and man-made disasters, the role of building codes, standard of care, ethical standards, community resiliency, and legal issues as related to forensic structural engineering.

Specific Course Objectives :
  • Characterize major types of natural and man-made disasters and the role of community resiliency in the response to such events.
  • Differentiate between technical and cultural origins of failures in complex systems.
  • Evaluate impacts of civil engineering and non-civil engineering failures through case studies and presentations.
  • Categorize and describe elements of design, fabrication, construction, and maintenance that lead to structural failures.
  • Apply forensic engineering skills including preservation of perishable data, on-site data collection and documentation, laboratory tests and failure analysis.
  • Develop and critique forensic engineering technical reports.
  • Illustrate design concepts such as performance based design and fault tolerant design in the context of failure analysis.
Course Prerequisite :
Graduate Student Standing
Hours & Credits :
3H, 3C
Semester Offered :
Course Comment :
As rehabilitation and retrofit of our infrastructure have become priorities, forensic engineering has become an important sub-specialty, particularly within structural engineering. Forensic engineering addresses the need to understand the processes that lead to failure or unsatisfactory performance of engineering materials, components, structures or systems. This understanding informs rehabilitation and deconstruction strategies, as well as the possible legal consequences. The emphasis in this course is on understanding the concept of failure as the product of complex systems and cultural/societal trends as opposed to failure as only a random occurrence or a purely technical issue. The need to characterize failures has been well understood within engineering curricula for many years, with case studies of failures being extensively used to both demonstrate the importance of fundamental principles and problems in the design process. As many of these events have legal, ethical and professional ramifications, students need to be exposed to the topic in a formal fashion. Failure investigations are now a routine part of structural engineering work and this course will provide a framework for students to approach failure from a broad cultural perspective, ranging from large natural and man-made disasters to relatively minor long-term performance issues.
Faculty :