L'Ambiance Plaza: What Have We Learned

by Virginia Fairweather, Editor in Chief; Civil Engineering, 345 E. 47th St., New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1992, Vol. 62, Issue 2, Pg. 38-41

Document Type: Feature article


In April 1987, a structure called L'Ambiance Plaza collapsed during construction, killing 28 workers. The building, in Bridgeport, Conn., was being built using the lift-slab method. Six months after the collapse, a National Bureau of Standards report fixed the blame on a failed lifting nut in one of columns on which stacked precast floor slabs were being jacked up to their final position. Since that time, the Office of Health and Safety Administration has issued new regulations on the use of the method, the method has fallen into disuse, and the contractor on the L'Ambiance project has gone bankrupt. At an ASCE meeting in October 1991, engineers offered several other failure scenarios for discussion, some supporting the safety and efficiency of the lift-slab method. Several criticized the NBS for barring the site for other investigations, questioned the report's conclusions and criticized the short time frame allowed for the report. The engineer of record told his story for the first time in public, recounting the criminal investigation of the events, his subsequent exoneration on all counts of responsibility and the effects on his personal life and his engineering practice. Most agreed that the true failure mechanism may never be found.

Subject Headings: Slabs | Structural failures | Labor | Failure analysis | Site investigation | Shopping centers | Bridges | Standards and codes

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