Structural Details: Is Anything Missing?

by Robert A. Halvorsen, Partner; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, New York, NY,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 11, Pg. 70-71

Document Type: Feature article


While actual failure of a structure is uncommon, many projects have less publicized, detailing-related difficulties involving rework, changes, clarifications, and increased costs. If the drawing doesn't answer the engineer's questions, it isn't complete. Anytime the details leave uncertainties as to how a structure is to be built, they invite problems. They must provide people working in construction and related services with the information they need to do their work. Any missing, conflicting or incorrect information can result in confusion, cost overruns, delays or failure. The details must provide any information not in the specifications, notes on the drawings, the plan drawings, or the column or beam schedules. Unfortunately, no set of contract documents can define entirely what needs to be done; there is a gray zone that constitutes the range of acceptably complete documents. There are popular conventions and assumptions, shorthand notations and common practice that help define the substance and quality of the finished product. A checklist can serve as a reminder of the kinds of questions which the structural contract documents must answer.

Subject Headings: Failure analysis | Beam columns | Contracts | Structural failures | Construction costs | Uncertainty principles | Scheduling

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