RANT: That Berkeley balcony


Rotten to the core: Berkeley balcony covered in dry rot says report
Cathy Hayes @irishcentral June 24,2015 01:45 AM

*** begin quote ***

Officials from the City of Berkeley, near San Francisco, have confirmed that the eight wooden beams supporting the fourth-story balcony that collapsed killing six students were massively compromised due to dry rot.

The report, compiled by City of Berkeley engineers, stated, “The deck joist ends protruding from the exterior wall appeared to be severely dry rotted.”

*** and ***

The preliminary ten-page report found that the balcony, in the Library Gardens complex on Kittredge Street, completed in 2007, should have been able to support up to two tonnes. Last Tuesday morning the balcony collapsed under the weight of the Irish and Irish American students and dropped 40 feet to the sidewalk.

A full report on the balcony’s condition will be completed over the coming months.

*** end quote ***

As a fat old white guy injineer, I’m always interested in “engineering failures”. Sounds like everyone was doing everything correctly. Eight years for a wood deck doesn’t sound unreasonable.

BUT, (and there is always a BIG butt), this deck appears to have a different design than the others.

That strikes me as unusual. 

Now I am sure that the politicians and bureaucrats will huff and puff, but adding more controls, licensing, and permits aka taxes are locking the barn after the horse.

Seems like the engineering and construction “fraternity” have to “solve” this.

People have a great propensity to use stuff beyond its design life and abuse the heck out of stuff in ways never planned for by the designers. (Hence a small deck designed to hold 2 tons!)


*** begin quote ***

Several Murphy’s law adages claim that idiot proof systems cannot be made.

“Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool”


“If you make something idiot proof, someone will just make a better idiot.”

Along those lines, Douglas Adams wrote in Mostly Harmless, “a common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

So maybe there is nothing more to say about this sad event, other than “stuff happens”.

# – # – # – # – #