An Investigation of Building Damage Caused by Thunderstorm Winds

December 30, 2009
Publication: Forensic Engineering 2009: Pathology of the Built Environment - Proceedings of the Fifth Congress on Forensic Engineering, Nov 11-14, 2009, ASCE p 759-768
Author(s): Adan, Scott M. Luft, Rene W. Wetzel, Nicholas G.

Abstract: In June 2004, thunderstorm winds caused significant structural damage to a downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma 15-story building. Damage was concentrated on the east facade of the building's multi-story glass atrium. The atrium is constructed with a framework of vertical steel trusses and horizontal struts. Eyewitness accounts from inside the atrium described a shaking or pulsing of the exterior glass curtain wall while wind gusts of up to 56 mph were recorded at a nearby weather station. On the building's sixth floor, the alternating wind pressures caused the failure of several horizontal strut connections. Without the horizontal support, the vertical structure deformed outward dislodging approximately thirty glass panels and damaging much of the surrounding structural support. In the ensuing investigation, a number of structural deficiencies and construction defects were uncovered in the curtain wall framework. This paper describes the sequence of events that led to the damage and summarizes the investigation's findings.