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Design flaw blamed for fall of school roof

By Mary Vorsino


The roof collapse at Farrington High School's auditorium is believed to have been caused by a design failure dating back to the building's original construction 58 years ago, according to a preliminary report.

Structural engineers hired by the Department of Education to determine how the roof came down — and whether other buildings may also be at risk — concluded that maintenance, the age of the building and condition of the roof did not appear to be factors in the collapse Nov. 23, said Ray L'Heureux, Department of Education assistant superintendent for facilities and school support services.

Repairs and upgrades to the building also were not factors.

The culprit instead was a steel roof truss whose "design limit" was overextended by an attached concrete cantilevered balcony that provided access to lights used to illuminate the stage, L'Heureux said Monday.

The truss that failed was the second from the stage.

"It was a time bomb just ticking," L'Heureux said. "This thing was designed to fail the minute it was built."

He said the light balcony almost doubled the vertical load that the truss had to support.

A 40-foot section of the auditorium's roof fell during a short but heavy afternoon rainstorm.

The engineers report said the rain also wasn't to blame, though vibrations during the downpour could have been the "last straw," L'Heureux said.

"This thing could have fallen in 1961, in 1983," he said.

L'Heureux discussed the findings of the preliminary report, which will be released later this week.

He added that the design flaw would be impossible to see in a regular inspection designed to determine whether roof or truss maintenance is needed.

In the wake of the finding, the DOE is reviewing its buildings to determine whether any others were designed or built by the same companies that put up Farrington's auditorium. None have been found so far.

The DOE has already pledged to inspect nine auditoriums built around the same time as the one at Farrington High.

Meanwhile, officials still did not have an estimate for damage.

But L'Heureux said engineering firm Kai Hawaii did find the auditorium was otherwise "structurally sound" and so could be saved rather than torn down. That's a bit of good news for the DOE: The cost of repairs to the building is in the neighborhood of $8 million, L'Heureux said, while rebuilding it would cost $30 million.

"It's a no-brainer," he said.

No one was injured in the roof collapse of the 1,100-seat auditorium, but it was a close call. Just hours later, 100 to 200 people were scheduled to be in the auditorium for a slam poetry contest.

Since the collapse, crews have been removing debris from the auditorium. That work is expected to wrap up soon, but it's unclear when the DOE will be able to secure the funding for repairs.

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mellishi wrote:
...and so the real questions is: "what date was the light balcony installed and were permits issued for this addition to the auditorium, and were plans and specs submitted to the DPP (City department of planning and permitting) along with an engineering stamp of approval for the so called "light balcony"??? Let's get down to the nitty-gritty and pin-point whose is responsible ... let me guess, the State DOE's facilities and school support services is the likely culprit and who specifically was the superintendent at the time????
on December 18,2012 | 04:16AM
wiliki wrote:
1962... it was probably DAGS.
on December 18,2012 | 04:34AM
localguy wrote:
mellishi - Vegas bookies are giving 100 to one odds this work plan was inspected by all the responsible city agencies and it passed with flying colors. No one there had the experience or expertise to realize this was a problem. Just rubber stamped it as "Good to go" and get it built. It happens.
on December 18,2012 | 06:37AM
Canefire wrote:
Would be good to have peer review of the report and release it to public.
on December 18,2012 | 04:57AM
nippy68 wrote:
it was a time bomb waiting to blow up after it was built. wow! talk about dodging the bullet after 53 years. that is scary s@#t.
on December 18,2012 | 05:38AM
bender wrote:
The design flaw is that it is a flat roofed building in an area that experiences heavy rains. If they don't collapse, they leak.
on December 18,2012 | 06:07AM
bumbye wrote:
You should've been on the inspection committee.
on December 18,2012 | 10:42AM
surfergirl808 wrote:
if the lighting cat walk was added after the original construction, then the original design was not at fault. if the cat walk was part of the original design then it was at fault. was the cat walk added later? that seems unclear from the story
on December 18,2012 | 06:18AM
mellishi wrote:
...the light catwalk/balcony was installed much later, after the initial construction- it became an add-on ; I am very familiar with the FHS auditorium during the 1960's having assisted with various stage productions as a backstage crew and light & sound assistant. That is why, knowing the date of when this was added-on is paramount to finding out who approved the change order without a structural engineering stamp of approval. The initial architect /engineer is not at fault, it is the renovations made later, that had compromised the internal structural design, causing this $8 million repair job and that is the party who should be responsible and sued. The State should have some record of this, through it bid process or maybe the principal at the time would know something... It could even be the current non-profit church organization who may have installed this light balcony without approval and permits---since a lot of money was donated in-kind to FHS!
on December 18,2012 | 07:10AM
billso wrote:
Seems like there had to be modifications or additional load on that light balcony at some point.
on December 18,2012 | 07:31AM
bluebowl wrote:
Design flaw is the structural engineer .Certainly not the first time structures have collapsed due to design flaws, Foodland Mililani 1976.
on December 18,2012 | 06:28AM
Wazdat wrote:
Does this surprise anyone ??? Hawaii has the WORST builders, Planners, traffic planners, developers, etc. LOOK what they did to this great city.
on December 18,2012 | 06:54AM
buttah wrote:
get rid of the mandatory low bid process requirement for public sector jobs...hence you eliminate 3/4 of the crappy contractors
on December 18,2012 | 12:45PM
false wrote:
wazdat: Wonder what the odds are for solid construction of a rail system with hundreds of support columns?
on December 18,2012 | 01:33PM
COlohe1 wrote:
"This thing could have fallen in 1961, in 1983," It fell in 2012!!! A design flaw that lasted for over 50 years??? No way. Something else caused this to happen. Wonder what it could have been..... "an attached concrete cantilevered balcony that provided access to lights used to illuminate the stage,"
on December 18,2012 | 07:13AM
buttah wrote:
that's what I read too...how can a building be standing for 50 plus years with a design flaw of this nature. The original designer/engineer obviously size the steel member accordingly (for their design intent) to be stand for 58 years. Blame should be on the persons/groups/designers who added the 'attached concrete cantilevered balcony that provided access to lights used to illuminate the stage'. Lesson 101 when doing any renovation/alteration work... Not to mention that the State as a whole never has money to do proper inspection and maintenance of their buildings.
on December 18,2012 | 12:52PM
HCSSC wrote:
"God smashed the auditorium, and if we don't get out of the gym He gonna smash that one too!," said Pastor Wayne Cordeiro in his sermon last Wednesday night. Cordeiro made the statement as he was explaining why his New Hope megachurch would be leaving Farrington after more than 16 years: "Cuz they raised the rent on us."
on December 18,2012 | 08:11AM
palolo2001 wrote:
The church and their television lights and heavy new speakers could not have helped the poor old roof.
on December 18,2012 | 08:57AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Did he really say that? That just doesn't sound right.
on December 18,2012 | 02:45PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Oh, so it was God that did it.
on December 18,2012 | 11:39PM
nj24 wrote:
So I could have been killed when I attendeds FHS and went to the auditorium for the Christmas concert.
on December 18,2012 | 09:23AM
hawaiikone wrote:
You could have been killed driving home too.
on December 18,2012 | 10:42AM
bumbye wrote:
Yes, but you weren't.
on December 18,2012 | 10:46AM
fonzie56 wrote:
I believe Ray L'Heureux owes all of the New Hope Staff and attendees a big apology for first pointing the finger at them in regards to the roof caving in. His preliminary indication was that the church people made modifications that may have caused the damage. I would respect him as such if he would provide them an apology. Who along with me will wait for this?
on December 18,2012 | 09:42AM
BTO wrote:
If you seek forgiveness, then you shall forgive Mr. Ray L Heureux,
on December 18,2012 | 12:21PM
bboops wrote:
The design flaw was its AGE!!! Just fix it and all the schools that need repairs and stop pointing fingers!!
on December 18,2012 | 11:58AM
buttah wrote:
the design flaw was not the age...it was the alteration
on December 18,2012 | 12:54PM
mellishi wrote:
...by Pastor Wayne and his mega church?!?!?!?!---no wonder they stay moving, they fleeing the scene of trouble they may have caused?
on December 18,2012 | 07:20PM
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