An Investigation of the Collapse of the Dallas Cowboys Practice Facility

November 29, 2012

The Dallas Cowboys Practice Facility (DCPF) was a large, fabric-covered, lightweight steel truss structure that collapsed in May 2009. News coverage of the event was quick to identify high winds as the cause of the failure, but in reality, there were a number of design errors which caused failure of the structure in winds far less severe than the nominal design wind speed. This paper presents the results of our failure investigation, including a comparison of the wind loads used in the original design to the provisions of ASCE 7, an analysis of the strength of the steel trusses, and the results of a 3D finite element model of the structure including the outer fabric covering. Portions of the original design that did not meet accepted codes and standards are highlighted and discussed. Based on these results and photographs of the collapsed structure, a likely initial failure mechanism and progressive collapse sequence is proposed. The results of our analysis and proposed failure sequence are compared to the investigation performed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Based on the design errors identified by both investigations, recommendations related to the design of lightweight fabric-covered structures are made.

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Forensic Engineering 2012: Gateway to a Safer Tomorrow – Proceedings of the Sixth Congress on Forensic Engineering, Oct 31 – Nov 3, 2012, ASCE

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