Steel beams near the top of the doomed Hard Rock hotel project were “undersized,” a report said | Crime / police


Steel girders, which the 16th

State investigation sources provided WWL-TV with details from a US Occupational Safety and Health Agency technical review that was made but never released, not even to Orleans prosecutors, who are considering possible criminal negligence charges.

These sources state that the OSHA engineer determined that 81 beams died in the 16th century.

Claims that steel beams that were too small contributed to the building’s failure on October 12, 2019 are not new. But WWL-TV has uncovered new details about why and to what extent some bar and column sizes have been reduced by searching thousands of construction documents collected in civil lawsuits due to the collapse.

The documents show that the owner of the project wanted a 205-foot building with tall penthouse ceilings, a pool deck, and a rooftop bar, but the changes he ordered in March 2018 would have the city’s height limit of 190 Foot exceeded.

So the design team got creative. Rather than looking for another variant of raising the roof 4.5 meters, internal project documents show the designers kept a 190-foot building and made room for higher ceilings by reducing the size of the steel beams that built the 17th century . and 18th floor.

Independent engineers who reviewed blueprints and other construction documents for WWL-TV said changes to the building’s structural steel in 2018 may have contributed to its collapse, in which three workers were crushed to death and several others injured.

Michael Bradbury, a civil engineer who designed steel buildings and reviewed high-rise projects for the cities of Denver and Austin, described the change to thinner girders and pillars as a “very significant discovery” that could be a “smoking weapon” in pending criminal investigations.

The New Orleans Inspector General’s Office has filed a long-delayed report with the prosecutor alleging a criminal charge against a …

“It tells me that they tried to stay within the basic structure and use much flatter beams and much smaller columns to keep that height,” said Bradbury. “Nobody checked whether the beams they used took the (bending force) from the deck on these upper floors, which I believe would have been one of the causes of the collapse because they overloaded the structure.”

By using thinner steel girders to support the floor above, the ceilings could be raised, allowing more headroom below.

Blueprints from early 2018 called for beams 21 inches thick. But after the owner ordered changes to the ceiling heights, the floor plans on the 16th and 17th floors changed to show 10-inch-thick beams, allowing for an additional 11-inch ceiling clearance.

Walter Zehner, a local civil engineer hired by the owner, 1031 Canal Development, said the resizing of the beams under the 17th and 18th floors did not result in the collapse. He said the beams under the sixteenth floor did that and they were three times too small all along.

“The beams on the 16th floor were the same size as those on all floors below,” he said. “It had its own floor, plus the two additional floors above and the roof. According to my calculations, they were over-stressed by 300%. “

Jason Williams

Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams photographed on October 5. The deadline for filing a criminal complaint expires.

The planning team planned to offset the effects of thinner girders by adding more steel supports, as indicated in the spring 2018 construction notes notes. But plans from October 11, 2019 – the last plans the construction team had distributed in front of the building collapsed the next day – only required an additional column along the edge of Rampart Street on the upper floors.

That gave them 12 pillars instead of 11. Bradbury said he was “shocked to see how few pillars they added” as his load calculations showed that it would have taken at least 24 pillars that size to properly support the floors above.

And like the beams running horizontally under the floors, the supports are also significantly smaller than in the original plans. All of the 12 pillars installed along the collapsed Rampart Street edge were W6x20s – meaning they were 6 inches wide and weighed 20 pounds per foot. In contrast, the 11 pillars shown in the original plans were all W10x49 – 10 inches wide and 49 pounds per foot.

Bradbury calculated that the W6X20 columns installed at the Hard Rock site were one-eighth the stiffness of the originally proposed columns.

“That’s a big problem,” he said.

On October 5, 2019, construction teams poured the last heavy concrete floor onto these pillars. A worker videotaped a video on October 10 of temporary shoring poles buckling under these floors. And two days later these floors were brittle.

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The collapse began at the end of a curved balcony along Rampart Street, just in front of a tower crane, about 25 feet from the corner of Rampart and Iberville Streets. This northwest corner of the building collapsed first before concrete and steel tumbled back into the southwest corner at Rampart and Canal.

Bradbury said the owner requested certain changes and may have pressured to complete the project without further delays. But he said that the ultimate responsibility for doing this safely rests with the engineer who approved the changes.

“The engineer must be held accountable in this case as the contractor creates the approved plans or the RFI (a document where contractors can request and receive information). They are not engineers, ”he said. “He, the engineer, is responsible for ensuring that it does not fall.”

OSHA has already pronounced violations against the registered engineer Heaslip Engineering and the steel company Hub Steel.

OSHA’s allegations against Heaslip include a “grave breach” alleging that “floor beams in the 16. They also involve a” willful breach “alleging that” structural steel connections have been inadequately designed, reviewed or approved in terms of structural integrity the connections are impaired “.

Mohan Kailas

Mohan Kailas, developer of the Hard Rock Hotel, in this file photo from October 2017.

The latter infringement states that the engineer “should ensure that the number and size of bolts for the connection are sufficient to meet or exceed the expected loads”.

Sources familiar with the OSHA investigation said the agency’s engineer found some holes for heavy bolts connecting beams and pillars that did not fit together so crews welded them instead.

Some of the photos received from WWL-TV also show handwritten notes on the plans at the construction site, suggesting that some of the prefabricated steel beams were shorter than the plans were intended to be.

OSHA issued a separate breach of Hub Steel claiming that

Heaslip and Hub Steel both deny the violations.

Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams says he wants the full OSHA report so he can file possible criminal charges against those responsible for the collapse. But OSHA has refused to even submit this report to Williams prosecutors until all appeals on the case have been heard.

For example, Heaslip’s appointment will not be negotiated until July 26, 2022.

An attorney for the developer, 1031 Canal Development, defended the aesthetic changes that Lead Partner Mohan Kailas led in 2018, blaming Heaslip and Hub Steel for the structural failure.

The developers of the ill-fated Hard Rock Hotel have sued the city over a new measure that will increase the amount of future construction …

“Like any developer on a project, the owner required certain aesthetic changes to be made,” lawyer Paul Thibodeaux said in a statement to WWL-TV. “These aesthetic changes did not lead to the collapse of the building. The property relied at all times on experienced professionals, including Heaslip Engineering and Hub Steel, to determine the means and methods of safely constructing the building, including specifying the size and type of all beams, columns and connections. “

Thibodeaux said OSHA never involved the owner in any structural flaws, and sources with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to WWL-TV that OSHA did not find Kailas responsible.

“At no point have Heaslip, Hub Steel, or anyone else raised any concerns about the structural integrity of the building,” added Thibodeaux.

In response to specific questions about the structural steel changes his company approved, James Heaslip sent WWL-TV the same statement it had previously broadcast.

“We have denied and denied all allegations of fault and negligence raised in the legal proceedings related to the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel, and we stand behind our company’s track record of developing projects that meet current technical standards correspond, ”said Heaslip.

Hub Steel officials and the company’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

When the last rubble is cleared and the streets are finally reopening where the partially built Hard Rock Hotel collapsed in October 2019, the local authorities …

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