American Society of Civil Engineers

Stone Cladding Failure: The Cause and Consequences

by Matthew C. Farmer, P.E., (No affiliation information available.) and Susan P. Lyons, P.E., M.ASCE, (Consultant and Engineer III respectively, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., 3025 Hamaker Court, Fairfax, Virginia 22031)
Section: Technical Session 9a: Building Facade Failures, pp. 472-481, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Forensic Engineering
Abstract: During routine maintenance involving replacement of joint sealant on a medium story high rise office building, a 300 pound granite panel fell 8 stories to the ground. Within two days, a second and third panel was found dislodged, but was safely removed before falling. The building was eight years old at the time of the failures. Through swift action and commitment by the building owner, the immediate failure and the risk of future failures was addressed, the building was made safe for the tenants, and a comprehensive solution was implemented to correct the design and construction deficiencies causing the stone failure. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Too often the anchors for exterior stone cladding systems are designed without adequate capacity, structural redundancy, or regard for long term performance of the materials used. Some systems rely solely on the adhesion of the system components to support significant, permanent loads. Commercial pressures have forced designers and fabricators to minimize anchor expense and limit quality control procedures. This paper will focus on the concerns surrounding stone anchor systems that suffer from a lack of adequate design, fabrication quality control, and inspection during construction. It will do so through discussion of a granite cladding failure case study that illustrates all of these deficiencies.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Commercial buildings
High-rise buildings
Failure investigations