Update on Cause of University Hospital Garage Construction Collapse

March 30, 2011
Contact: Leni Kirkman, Julie Wiley
Phone: 210-358-2335/Pager: 203-3300

Forensic engineers, working to determine the cause of the February 14 collapse of a parking garage under construction at University Hospital, which injured two workers, have identified primary factors that contributed to the failure. Although the final report will not be completed for several months, these experts agree it is safe for construction manager Zachry Vaughn Layton to resume construction on the main portion of the garage.

University Health System officials released preliminary findings Wednesday morning, the day after the second, and most seriously injured worker, was released from the hospital. “Safety is our highest priority as we implement our much-needed Capital Improvement Program at University Hospital and at the Robert B. Green Campus downtown,” said Mark Webb, vice president of Project Management and Facilities Development. “Equally important is trust. We value the trust our patients have in us when they come to our facilities to receive care. Patients, as well as our visitors and staff must also trust that our facilities are safe. This is why we pledged to be transparent with the findings of the investigation and why we are providing an update prior to its completion.”

The independent forensic engineer hired by University Health System to conduct an investigation will not have a final report for several months, but he along with other forensic engineers hired by the companies working on the garage project agree on the following contributing factors:

  • The adequacy of the bracing on a column that had been previously repaired
  • When and how grout was used to provide stability during the erection process
  • The quantity of lateral and diagonal bracing used during erection
  • The design differences in this portion of the garage, including pier extensions, required changes in procedures

These factors are somewhat complex, but the important point is that they all relate to how the structure was being constructed, or are items unique to this portion of the garage, and are NOT about the quality of the construction materials. Jef Johnson, project executive for Zachry Vaughn Layton, provided assurance that the following steps will be taken to provide additional safety “checks and balances”:

  • Zachry Vaughn Layton (ZVL) to ensure a comprehensive temporary bracing plan is utilized, including daily inspections
  • ZVL to observe all grouting, foundation, and pier cap installation procedures, have appropriate independent testing entities take necessary samples for testing, and provide daily written reports
  • Broaddus+Muñoz to confirm compliance before the next day’s work and submit daily written reports to Jacobs and University Health System Capital Improvement Program staff

Work on the portion of the main portion of the new garage that was not involved in the collapse will resume in early April. The failure did not interfere with construction work on the 10-story tower at University Hospital, which remains on schedule to open in early 2014.