AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
FACULTY OF ENGINEERING
OF MECHATRONICS ENGINEERING
490: Engineering Ethics
M 17:00 – 17:50 – B 301
Mr. Michel Owayjan
Fall Semester 2017-2018
Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse
Rani Shaar, Bassel
Hamadeh, Ali Yassine
Monday, January 15, 2018
Regency Walkway Case Study
July 1980, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, opened for
business, boasting among its design features a multistory atrium with three
suspended walkways-a fourth-story walkway spanning directly above a walkway on
the second floor, with a third-story walkway offset by a few meters. One year
after the opening, where between 1,500 and 2,000 people were in attendance at
the Tea Dance, the walkways on the second and fourth stories collapsed under
the weight of partygoers, killing 114 people and injuring more than 180 people in
one of the most devastating structural failures in U.S. history in terms of
lives lost. The effects created a shock in the United States and were
considered as a wake-up call to the engineering community.
1. Collapsed walkways after the rescue operation.
collapse was caused by the failure of the connections between the fourth-story
box beams and the hanger rods supporting the second and fourth-story walkways. The
investigation done revealed that the original design sketches had called for
the two walkways to be suspended by a single set of hanger rods threaded
through the upper walkway box beams and coming to an end beneath the box beams
of the lower walkway.
2. Fourth-floor hanger rods remain next to the intact third-floor walkway.
though that design proved to be in violation of Kansas City’s minimum load
requirements, the primary cause of the failure was a change from the original
design to a double-rod system, one hanger rod connecting the ceiling to the
upper walkway and the other connecting the lower and upper walkways. This
change had the effect of doubling the load on the upper walkway connections,
resulting in a design capable of withstanding only an estimated 30 percent of
the mandated minimum (40.7 kips).
owner wanted a complete product in the shortest amount of time, so the product
became a fast track project. Speed was of the essence, where construction often
preceded a completed design and structural design preceded architectural
design. This method became popular in the 1970s, where the coordination of all
the processes under these conditions to ensure quality, was not fully
fatal design flaw was due to a breakdown in communication according to the
engineer of record, stating that he had assigned supervision of the project to
an associate structural engineer, who was not an ASCE member. The
engineer of record was responsible for about 10 associate engineers, each of
whom had six or seven projects under their supervision, so he stated that he
could not personally oversee every aspect of the design. Instead, he gave his
trust to each associate engineer responsible for the project (G.C.E.
International, Inc., a professional engineering firm).
engineer of record also added that it was common practice in the engineering industry
for the structural engineer to leave the design of steel-to-steel connections
to the fabricator (Havens Steel Company). The original design that was provided
in the structural drawings was only a conceptual design.
fabricators found out that design is impractical, so they requested approval of
the double-rod system by telephone. The structural engineer approved the
request verbally over the phone, but he knew that for formal approval, a
written request for the change should be submitted, and this follow-up request
was never completed. In fact, the fabricators began work on the shop drawings and
a sudden increase in workload required them to subcontract the work even
further to an outside details’ person. Also, this detailer thought that the
double-rod connection on the shop drawings had already been designed, so he did
not do any further calculations on the connection.
for expedited approval was returned to the engineer of record with the design
documents. He assigned the review to a technician on his staff; however, the
connections were not detailed on the drawings and the technician did not
perform calculations on the connections. The structural engineer performed small
checks on portions of the shop drawings, and the engineer of record affixed his
seal to the documents. The latter had relied on the work of his project
engineer and design team, so he had not personally checked all calculations.
3. Cross section of the walkway.
important question which involves engineering ethics is about whether the
engineer of record’s actions in placing his seal on design documents without
verifying the soundness of the structural design violate ASCE’s (American
Society of Civil Engineers) Code of Ethics or not?
1 of the Code of Ethics at the time of the walkway collapse read as follows:
“Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the
public in the performance of their professional duties.” Category (a) of
the guidelines to practice for canon 1 had this to say: “Engineers shall
recognize that the lives, safety, health, and welfare of the general public are
dependent upon engineering judgments, decisions, and practices incorporated
into structures, machines, products, processes, and devices.” Further,
category (b) in the guidelines for that canon read as follows: “Engineers
shall approve or seal only those design documents, reviewed or prepared by
them, which are determined to be safe for public health and welfare in
conformity with accepted engineering standards.” 3
engineer of record’s argument did not persuade the Committee on Professional
Conduct (CPC) by that each person in the design process was responsible for his/her
own part of the work. Actually, the engineer’s seal made him responsible for
all elements of the structural design, so the CPC held that the
member had violated the Code of Ethics, and it voted to recommend to the Board
of Direction that he be expelled from the Society. However, the board did not
agree as to the extent of the member’s ethics violation, holding that the
engineer had been “vicariously responsible” for the tragedy “but
not guilty of gross negligence nor of unprofessional conduct.” It voted to
suspend the engineer from membership for a period of three years.
to duty ethics, the engineer of record had a duty to check all calculations
personally and ensure the safety of the design and not assign the work to his
technicians. The engineer’s duty is also to make a product that will ensure the
safety and well being of the public and not put lives in danger, and by
affixing his seal on the design documents, the engineer of record became partly
responsible for the walkway disaster.
human beings have the right to live a safe, and healthy life and it’s the engineers’
duty to ensure this safety and welfare of the public. The partygoers who were
celebrating in Hyatt Regency had all the right to enjoy their party and dance
while listening to music, and also had the right to do it safely. So, the
catastrophe that happened was a violation of the first code of ethics of the
ASCE Code of Ethics and a violation of the people’s rights.
to factual inquiries, the prototype done wasn’t tested and confirmed on, since
there was a miss-use of the product. As cited, the walkway maximum capacity
required was 40.7 Kips, and the tested results were that the maximum capacity
was only 18.6 Kips. Accordingly, the problem began before the opening, where
the walkway was down due to a breakdown in communication, where the engineer of
record had assigned supervision of the project to an associate structural engineer
who in turn divided the work among other engineers. In fact, the system chosen
should have been tested multiple times at a maximum required weight capacity to
make sure that it can withstand it.
issues have to do with the meaning or applicability of an idea. And according
to reports, the owner gave a near due date for the companies working on this
project, so they
were interested in finishing the project before the due date assigned, and the
neglected the plan check they were supposed to do by working on the double-rod
system that wasn’t even tested yet.
Alternatively, they had to put more effort into research and feasibility of
such idea without risking any lives and test the prototype in order to make
sure the project was safe.
These reasons do not,
however, fall inside suitable standards of engineering expert conduct.
Instead, they pave the path because
of respectable charges of negligence, incompetence,
misconduct, and unprofessional leading to the work of engineering.
When the engineer’s movements are in contrast according
to expert duties cited in the engineering
codes of ethics, an abrogation of professional duties via the engineer into the
charge is absolutely demonstrated.
originators of calculations and drawings did not provide a self-check of their
made by a drafter weren’t thoroughly reviewed to ensure that the corrections
reviewer was committed to quality for the firm’s deliverables but the
originator did not double check the work.
weren’t designed by a qualified engineer in the design and construction
quality of workmanship and materials did not contribute to the collapse.
The engineer of records divided the project work into multiple teams to ensure
it will be taken care of in the least time possible.
1 Randall P. Bernhardt, P.E., S.E. Hyatt Regency Skywalk Collapse Remembered.
http://www.structuremag.org/?p=10274, August 2016.
2 American Society of Civil Engineers. Quality
in the Constructed Project: A Guide
for Owners, Designers, and Constructors. Third Edition. Reston, VA: American
Society of Civil Engineers, 2012.
3 Paul R. Munger, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE. THE HYATT REGENCY WALKWAY