Local News

Engineer: Brier Creek building collapsed while awaiting Raleigh inspections

Posted January 24

— A condominium building in Raleigh's Brier Creek neighborhood collapsed during a Jan. 11 storm because crews were waiting for required city inspections before installing support structures, according to an engineer who inspected the building.

The building on Bruckhaus Street blew apart during storms that produced hurricane-force winds, and cellphone video that documented the destruction was aired on national news outlets.

Rodney Axtman of JDS Consulting & Design said in a Jan. 13 letter to Toll Brothers, the Pennsylvania-based developer of the Cottages at Brier Creek condo project, that crews were waiting for Raleigh inspectors to approve the framing of and insulation in the building. So, exterior shear walls were covered only on one side, and interior walls still didn't have drywall.

"The collapse of the Units at Building 10 were a result of the shear wall bracing not being complete. The shear wall bracing was not complete due to the stage of construction at the time of the collapse," Axtman wrote.

Toll Brothers spokesman Mike Dixon said the company also had engineers examine other buildings under construction at the site to ensure the storm didn't weaken them.

"Toll Brothers did receive the assurance from a third-party engineer that the in-place framing of the units under construction had not been damaged by the high winds and that Toll Brothers could move forward with completing the structures," Dixon said in an email to WRAL News.

The company cleared the rubble of the collapsed building from the site days after the storm and has begun construction on a new condo building in its place.

20 Comments

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  • wraluser Jan 27, 5:25 p.m.

    Sounds like the inspection people are really to blame here... LAWSUIT!!! Just Kidding AOG stuff and all...

  • gadgetry Jan 24, 7:47 p.m.

    Factors present in this: a) building not fully enclosed, allowing wind to blow in and lift the building, b) not all the sheating was around the building - this not only had the effect of letting wind blow through, but it is what gives the building sheer strength, and c) yes, lack of drywall was a factor for two reasons - drywall does off some (not much) sheering strength, but it also prevents the flow of hurricane force wind through the buildings, and d) this wind is above normal for this area.

    So add in a building under construction, and vulnerable, to abnormal wind conditions and you have a recipe for disaster.

  • wenfromwake Jan 24, 5:29 p.m.

    There's more to this story than is being reported. One other important factor, is that the... View More

    — Posted by mxteam44

    MXTeam is making sense. The rest of you are jumping to conclusions. This was an unusual circumstance and unfortunate timing. I don't think you should hesitate to buy a condo from this builder; this would have happened to any building at this stage.

  • NCSULandscaper Jan 24, 5:24 p.m.

    drywall most certainly adds rigidity to a structure, all the little things add up to keeping a structure standing.

  • Mungo Jan 24, 5:18 p.m.

    Excuses or not, I certainly won't be buying a Toll Brother's home. Shame too, I have seen some of their higher end work, which seems pretty good.

  • scubagirl2 Jan 24, 5:08 p.m.

    Guess it's a good thing it fell BEFORE someone bought it. Guessing the rest of the condo complex might take a while to get sold as well. Yes it was a high wind burst but I don't believe them for a minute that dry wall would have helped

  • whatelseisnew Jan 24, 4:45 p.m.

    "Pretty easy to blame others. Sounds like McCrory and Wos."

    Hey they should follow the lead of Obama and blame Bush. As to the blame in this instance, YES, Government helped cause this, but it was a storm that brought down the building. Frankly it is my PERSONAl experience that these inspections are a JOKE and really are just another way Government has to extort money from people. My most recent experience was the required inspection for a replaced heat pump. The inspection was a JOKE and absolutely no measure of whether the system was correctly installed. But hey the county made 125 dollars on the joke.

  • Honesty first Jan 24, 4:33 p.m.

    Pretty easy to blame others. Sounds like McCrory and Wos.

  • cushioncritter Jan 24, 4:31 p.m.

    Most things in this area are not designed for "hurricane force" winds. For example, A/C condensers are held down by gravity in this wind zone 1 area, but in a coastal wind zone 3 area they are screwed down to the concrete pad by code. The purpose of hurricane shutters and garage door braces is to prevent large openings such as the missing window in the picture that admit wind to blow under shingle roofs (shingle vs. concrete tile, much lighter). An entire open wall facing the wind is the worst case scenario because the wind will lift the structure while pushing it sideways. Homes built for wind zone 3 are often concrete block construction so something is left of the house even when the wood truss roof is blown away.

  • mxteam44 Jan 24, 4:27 p.m.

    There's more to this story than is being reported. One other important factor, is that the building wasn't "dried-in", meaning there were no windows or doors installed yet. This allowed the wind to get inside the building and basically lift the building up and create all sorts of stresses on the building that it wasn't designed to withstand. I would feel confident that the contractor was following plans as designed, and the remaining buildings are structurally sound.

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