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Causes of Building Failures

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Construction
Wordcount: 5434 words Published: 10th Jul 2018

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Building failure can be some part of building cracking occur, more seriously will bring building collapse. Building collapse will carry the risk of human injure or deaths. For example, buildings and structures all around start falling. This causes many people to get hurt, many of them fatally, because of the impact of falling material. Or, in high rise buildings, people themselves might fall from higher floor, thus, getting hurt, due to the impact of fall. Buildings with glass-facades are especially dangerous, as, glass being brittle would tend to crack with smallest deformation of the frame. And, worse, glass being very heavy has a very high impact on hitting somebody. And then, glass shards have a tendency to go inside the skin and cause damage to internal organs (Sanjay Churiwala and Naveen Gabrani n.d.). In addition, building collapse results in property damage and functionality inadequate. It also needs to spent time on clean-up, repair, cost losses and so on to get the facility up and running again.

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Building that causes fail may due to numerous of reasons that may not be easy predict before or during the construction. The analysis shows the general causes of building tend to failure that include unwise land-use and defective in designs which are arise at pre-construction phase and those construction and operational error which arise at during construction phase. Errors appear from pre-construction and during construction phase has the greatest potential influence on a project’s final outcome.

Building failure may occur due to three parties involved – Consultant, Contractor and Developer/ Owner. The Consultants and Contractors had given insufficient of control and supervision of site operation and the quality control. More that, owner also is the one who are required to give cooperate and any assistance with Consultants and Contractors to completed the construction project. According to Mohammed Azad Hossain (2009), such errors ultimately lead to a situation, which may involve such failures, which are related to excavation and equipment, inappropriate sequencing, not enough temporary support; unnecessary structure weight; untimely taking away of shoring or formwork; and non-conformance to design objectives.

Problem Statement and Research Question

Failures have been found in various types of the buildings. Failure in buildings built any time the last 25 years, some as recently as the last couple of year (Steve 2008). A total of 225 building failure in Unites States and the result show that the building failure of low rise building constitutes about 63% of all cases, followed by multi-storey building as a distant second and this has been established by Kumalasari Wardhana and Fabian C.Hadipriono (2003). Building tend fail are depending on materials, designs, environmental conditions, method of construction and which the building is put of the use to, etc.

Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium is a new multi- purpose stadium in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia which was constructed by South Korean construction firm. On July 3, 2009, a major part of the roof construction collapsed. The major cause such stadium collapsed has been identified are failure by design and materials used, rush development and under-supervised.

Aims and Objectives

The aim in this dissertation is to study and analyse the building failure and to find out the factor that causing building failure by three parties involved in construction industries. The objectives are:

  1. To study the factor that caused building failure by Contractor.
  2. To undertake the factor that caused building failure by Consultant; and
  3. To determine the factor that caused building failure by Developer/ Owner.

Scope of Study

The scope of study emphasizes on the building failure and factors that causing by three parties involved in Construction industries which are Consultant, Contractor and Developer/ Owner.

Research Methodology

Research Methodology is the way in which the research objectives can be questioned. There are two types of research strategies, which are quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative research is highlight in the collection and analysis of data. This research based on testing of theories and to look for whether the theories are true. For the qualitative research, it approaches seek to gain insights and understand people’s awareness. The understandings, opinions, views, etc. of people are investigate which collect from survey questionnaires and document review.

Primary Data Source

Survey Questionnaires

In this proposal, Survey Questionnaires will be used to collect all the opinions, views, etc. This method is the more accurate since as the first hand information collected from original research. The survey questionnaire form will be distributed form to 50 people who are random citizens and the purpose to investigate the major factor of building failure causing by three parties involved in construction industries. The survey questionnaire form will be set out in closed-ended question format for respondent to select the answer. That mean the closed-ended is the limit respondents’ answers to the survey, such as choosing either yes/no, true/false, or multiple choices. More that, the recommendation to reduce such failure in construction industries are also be conducted by survey questionnaire.

Secondary Data Source

The research undertakes a review of all literature which known as secondary research method that is selection of available related documents on the topic, which contain information, ideas, data and evidence written from a particular standpoint to fulfil certain aim or express certain views on the nature of the topic (Chris 2003, p.1-2). In this proposal, the information sources and obtains can be from reference book which are from Library College and National Library. Beside, information also can be obtained from article and journal that were related to cause failure of the building. Electronic sources such as internet website from Google can helped to found the information which required in this research, and etc.

Dissertation Contents

For this study dissertation report involved 5 chapters. The general description of each chapter as follow:

Chapter 1 – Introduction

The first chapter is the introduction of the dissertation. The contents in this chapter include Project title, background of the research problem, problem statement and research question, aim and objectives, scope of study, research methodology of the study and dissertation contents.

Chapter 2 – Literature Review

In this chapter two is the literature review. It will review on the selection criteria of building failure which in discussed for failure of building, factor that causes of failure by primary parties involved in construction industry.

Chapter 3 – Research Methodology

Chapter three is includes the research methodologies and to provide the rationale for the method adopted in this dissertation project. Then methods used to research are literature review on journal, reference book, etc., survey questionnaire, and case study.

Chapter 4 – Research Findings

Chapter four is the discussion and result analysis. The data collected and interpret from research method adopted, identify and analysis it, then present and explain the findings. The data present will in a table, chart, diagram, and essay form.

Chapter 5 – Conclusions and Recommendations

The last chapter will be the conclusions and recommendations. The achievement of research objectives, recommendations and limitation of the research will be record in this chapter.


Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) College Harvard Referencing system will be using in the research. This Harvard Referencing system is a standard practice at all institution of higher learning including Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) College.

Project Plan and Schedule

The table below is the Project Plan and Schedule of the research proposal project.


Basic of Building Failure in Construction Industries

Definition of Building Failure

Building Failure is refers to the member within structure or component or structure itself which are loss of load carrying capacity. More on the time initiated of building failure is when material stressed to its strength limit and fails to withstand the stresses imposed upon it. The failure will expose itself by crack or breaking, occur permanently deformed, becoming bending and more seriously may collapse (Wikipedia 2012). Calvert (2002) notes the buildings, “like all structures, are designed to support certain loads without deforming excessively. The loads are the weights of people and objects, the weight of rain and snow and the pressure of wind and load of the building itself. With buildings of a few floors, strength generally accompanies sufficient rigidity, and the design is mainly that of a roof that will keep the weather out while spanning large open spaces. With tall buildings of many floors, the roof is a minor matter, and the support of the weight of the building itself is the main consideration. Like long bridges, tall buildings are subject to catastrophic collapse”. The loads can divide into two parts which called live loads and dead load. Live loads are the weight of temporarily attached to; it can produce by like people, machinery and equipment, furniture, appliances, etc. of the building or other structure. But do not including the material that utilized in construction or environmental loads or anything permanently attached to it such as wind load, snow load, rain load, earthquake load, flood load, or dead load (N.A.N.d.). The case effects of machinery, equipment, furniture, appliances concentration, deflections or cracks must be considered and to determine the necessary proper intensity of design to considering those effects.

Dead load is a fix load in a structure such as a bridge, building, or machine that is the weight from members itself, the supported structure itself, and permanent attachments equipment or accessories that apply in the building (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated 2012). The item that considered of dead load include construction material that use to build or make up the building such as beams, columns, floor systems, ceiling systems, wall systems, doors, windows, floor coverings, wall coverings, cabinets, and the like. Besides, the item considered of permanently attached equipment or accessories such as heating and ventilating systems, electrical trays, piping, etc. In the other way round that the item is not considered to dead load are the things as movable. That item like shelving, desks, chairs, beds, chests, books, copiers, stored items, or anything else that can be moved around during the life of the structure. The feature of dead load shows that they are the weight of final structure. This is creates a bit difficult for the design Engineer since in order to design the building, the Engineer must need to know the weight of the structure. Besides, the engineer also needs the accurately define the weights of the final structure. At the beginning of design process, the weight of the structural element and the framing are all unknown. So more of time to solution this kind of difficult position is the design Engineer often involves iteration where an educated guess is needed as to where design will finish, the dead loads is based on estimate, select the structure members that based on the estimated loads, dead loads is need to recomputed, then continue the cycle until all the member sizes do not change (T. Bartlett Quimby 2007).

The aim of the structures are designed is to achieved the requested function of creation, ensuring the structures could be applied all of the loads, and sufficient safety of structures is obtain. In the properly designed system, it will prevent a local failure cause immediate and gradual failure of the complete building. The ultimate failure strength of a material or structural element is taken carefully consideration in the structural engineering and structural design to prevent failure (Finn 2009). As Aggeliki (2009) notes in his articles, if that are unexpected loads are applied, one of the factor of safety is needed to link into the design analysis to prevent building failure. Nowadays, building codes have improved and expressively to reduce the structural collapses, but it still cannot essential completely prevent the structural failures. Even though the structural failure is become less, but the results still are disastrous. Until now the engineers are still insistently searching the method to reduce structural failures by introduce to proper building standards and other safety requirements. Lastly, reducing of human error, carrying out proper hazard identification, and using suitable maintenance procedures for the structures is the chance can be minimized of structural failure (Suvo 2009).

Type of Building Failure

The term of “defect” is defined as the premature failure of structure and the results cause from improper or substandard engineering, manufacture, design, application and installation. In another way, the term “failure” can described as the system breakdown or unable to function at all, breakdown in the operation, quality, or appearance of structure, component or material. Therefore those are different meaning in term of “defect” with the term “failure”. So, the following table show some of that various type of building failure (James and Ransom 2007, p.8):

Failure Type


Aesthetic failure

Concrete or render cause crazing or shrinkage cracking.

Flaking and peeling of paintwork.

Staining and soiling of the finishes.

Functional failure

Caused sagging of the floors.

Leaks in elements such as roofs, walls and floors

Failure of materials

Chemical attack of rendering or concrete, mortar or brick.

Fungal are attack of the timber.

Metals are corrosion.

System failure of components and elements

Carbonation of concrete.

Leading to corrosion of reinforcement and subsequent cracking and spalling of concrete members.

Structural failure

Subsidence which caused downward movement of a building and caused by below ground factors such as desiccation of clay soil.

Settlement which also caused downward movement and caused by overloading.

Non- structural failure

Cracking and deboning of plaster.

Tenting, deboning and bubbling of floor coverings.

Roof tiles and slates are delamination.

Reversible failure

Jamming of door and windows since of moisture intake by these components. Usually in winter or summer, the wood will be dry out and door and window will become unstuck.

Irreversible failure

Chemical reaction (sulphate attack) on mortar or rendering.

Excessive distortion in beam, column or wall owing to structural movement.

Primary Parties Involved in Construction Industries


Lawrence (2003, p.1-2) indicated that, “The management of construction is an enterprise that involves many people with diverse interests, talents and backgrounds. The owner, the design professional and the contractor comprise the primary triad of parties, but others, such as subcontractors, material suppliers, and bankers, insurance and bonding companies, attorneys and public agency officials, are vital elements of the project team whose interrelated roles must be coordinated to assure a successful project”. In this part will concern the duties and responsibilities of the primary parties such as the building contractor, consultants, and Developer/ Owner on the construction project. The primary focus here is on the building contractor who are to carries the lead duties and responsibility for the on-site installation work or sometimes off- site as well and all of the associated planning and follows up. At the same time, also to understand the duties and responsibility for other people and organisations participate to success the project.

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Definition of Building Contractor

According to Exforsys Inc. (2010), In the Construction industries, the contractor also can calls as the project engineer or project manager. The contractor is the one an individual who engages in the planning, developing and coordinating of activities in the construction project. The contractor also is the one to supervise the construction and to ensure all necessary measures must be taken in the result of completed finished product. More important is notwithstanding that possible delays due to bad weather or building causes any emergencies, contractor needs to sure that construction work finish are met the deadlines and try do the best of prevent causing any delay.

The General contractor is employed by the developer/owner, and may also advice of the Architect to the developer/owner. Contractor must first assess the project-specific documents (referred to as tender documents). In during of the construction stage, contractor required to visit the site since it will help to get a better understanding of the project. He may handle the work on residential dwellings, commercial buildings or infrastructure, such as roads, bridges or schools. As the contractor, working hours are more the time is irregular, since any sudden problems that may arise at the construction site and constructor must be available at all times to resolve that problem. Besides, the contractor may need to calculate the price, as also called an estimate. Contractor required providing the approximate price with considers the cost of materials and equipment as well as the cost of labour to the owner for the project.

The General Contractor’s Duties and Responsibilities

That is many duties and Responsibilities that building contractor must be fully complete on day to day in order to ensure the construction project is completed smoothly and in a timely and correct manner. More about that, building contractor also need to ensure the project complete by price specified in the contract. Building contractor to construct the construction project must be according to the designer’s plans and specifications. Firstly, the duty of the building contractor is require implementing a plan and direct in which to carry out all the aspects of construction project. This is from hiring the workers to developing the contraction project and follow the step-by-step timeline that the project from start until end.

In addition to implementing the construction plan, the building contractor is responsible for hiring, supervising, firing employees who are under the specific construction project with the contractor. For example, building contractor including design and worker selection or appoint as to hires specialized subcontractors to perform all or portions of the construction work, managing personnel on site, providing site surveying and engineering on site, etc. As a supervisor on construction project to supervising the employees, the building contractor must be regard to the workers and also take care of payslip. Ensure engage in hire someone to do work for the contractor.

Obtaining the materials for the project also is the one of responsible for the building contractor. For instance, Contractor is the one to providing all of the labour, material, equipment (such as engineering vehicles and tools) and services necessary in the construction project. Since construction projects must be up to the contractor to acquire goods to build the structures, if not, cannot complete without the necessary building materials.

Another duty of the building contractor is to applying for building permits from relevant department (local authorities). At before want start to construct the building, it must be acquire all necessary licenses and permits from relevant entities so that the building project just can begin. Since there are many regulation that the building contractor must be follow which relate to these documents which each building in order to engage in construction.

The building contractor must complete the project which agrees with all laws, rules and regulations. The building contractor need to research about relevant regulations and laws that are related to the construction process. There are many laws such as different state have their different own law. Those laws will state that when, where and how a building contractor and his crew should build in certain areas. So, the building contractor must be recognized and followed in order to complete the project in a law-abiding manner.

Another specific duty of the building contractor is budget issues. The building contractor may require planning all aspects of a construction project which including establish a budget for the construction project. That budget must be follow by the building contractor as closely as possible. For the example that budget will allow the building contractor to gain supplies, hire workers and finish the construction in a cost-efficient manner. That must be taken in serious matter which building contractor to following budgets and his/her should be care with or to ensure that the project will be completed as what was aspiration in the beginning of plan.

From the beginning to end of the construction process, reviewing the progress and implementing any changes along the way also is another item which relate to the responsible of a building contractor. The building contractor needs to follow closely of the specific building project and necessary to make any changes when he/she deems fit to do so (Exforsys Inc. 2010).

Lastly, the working hours of building contractor are irregular. Those emergencies and surprises may arise which relate to the project and it may occur on-site and sometimes off-site as well. So, as the building contractor must be assistance with an emergency issue available at all times and to resolve that problem.

On the Wikipedia (2012) provided that, In the during construction phase, the building contractor is also responsible for providing temporary utilities on site like equipment, tool, formwork and etc., securing the property, control the quality assurance, managing personnel on site, providing site surveying and engineering on site, disposing of or recycling construction waste, monitoring master program (schedules) and cash flows, maintaining accurate records and etc. Besides, he/she should day-to-day go to the site and specialize and oversee of a construction site or the progress of a particular building task, such as plumbing, heating or electrical wiring. He or She also require to management of the vendors and trades.

The building contractor should be done to prevent any oblation either the safety of the workers or the quality of the work. The contractor is has fully responsibility to complete and the purpose to achieving the quality level and for safety that required in the documents. The building contractor may also be involved in the training of the owner’s personnel in the operation of the building systems and may be provide some maintenance after construction is complete.

It is important that the contractor’s has an obligation to get satisfy the minimum requirements of the drawings and specifications from the Architect. In the bidding process, the owner will asks for the lowest possible price to perform and that only those things are absolutely required by the drawings and specifications. Thus, the contractor is need obligated to satisfy those minimum requirements and no more. Of course, the owner is always free to require additional performance by change order.

In the design / bid / build method, the owner only contract with the contractor. In the case, the contractor has no any contract with the designer. Then the contractor’s is required responsibility to comply any requirements of the contract with the owner. All efforts by contractor are essential to prevent the structural failure as it causes dangers to human life and property. There are the numerous of causes for a structural failure, and there is a requirement for a proper analysis of all the factors before construction (N.A, N.D).

Definition of Consultants

Who are the consultants? The consultants can be the design consultants, cost and contract consultants, land surveyors, etc. The design consultants usually comprises of the architect, civil and structural engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers and other specialist designers, such as interior designers, landscape architects, lighting specialists, town planners, etc. Design consultants as a designer of the project in the area he/ she is specialized in. They also as a facilitator of client’s need and project brief. Besides, they as an advisor to the client on matters are relating to design and on statutory requirements and by- laws relating to the project. The cost and contract consultant can be the quantity surveyors. The quantity surveyors usually act as the cost and contract consultant for a project.

The General Consultants Duties and Responsibilities

In the following are shows the duties and the responsibilities of both which are design consultants and cost and contract consultant.

Design Consultants

Carrying out design works in their areas of specialization.

Ensuring design works are properly coordinated with fellow consultants.

Ensuring design complies with the requirements of the authorities, and with the by- laws.

Choosing appropriate systems and materials, and making sure design for the elements of the works is kept within the cost plan.

Notifying and advising the client on any necessary design changes due to unforeseen circumstances.

Ensuring that design works are carried out within the time frame as set out in the programme.

Conducting field observations to ensure that the contractor carries out the works as per the specifications and design.

Contract documents include a budget, specifications, any general and special conditions prepared by a design professional such as an architect.

Cost and Contract Consultant

Responsible for study of the economics and financial implication of a construction project.

Preliminary cost preparation and estimating.

Cost plan preparation and cost studies.

Contract documentation and administration preparation.

Evaluation of contractors’ tenders.

Cash flow forecast and post contract coat monitoring.

Valuation of Variations.

Preparation of periodic cost report for the client.

Evaluation and settlement of contractor’s claim.

Settlement of contractual disputes.

Definition of Developer/Owner

The developer/owner is the party who wishes to have a project constructed and pays for it. The developer/owner can be an individual, a business enterprise or an organization, and it can be both private and public. Developer/Owner is the key master to the construction production process. In addition, when initiate a construction project, developer/owner have a right to selecting project timing, priorities, cost limits, specific requirement, and determine the contractual methods. There are two type of developer/owner which are well informed and know nothing. Developer/Owner who are well informed mean know what they want and take decisive steps to achieve it. Another are know nothing mean the developer/owner need guidance to formulate their wishes and match them to the available budget.

The General Developer/Owner Duties and Responsibilities

Basically the duties and responsibilities of the developer/owner in a project can be under the following:

  • Providing the client’s brief and clarity of brief.
  • Financing the project, i.e. they pay for the project.
  • Ensure safety, health and environment aspects of the project are complied with in accordance with the legislation as laid down by DOSH and the Department of Environment.
  • Make sure smooth incorporation and prevent disruption takes place.
  • Avoidance of interruption to professional advisor’s job.

Building Failure Caused by Primary Parties


Adel Abdulaziz Al – Barrak (1993) postulates that, the construction business is the much higher level of competitors than any other business. As the result showing that, construction business has very high risks could lead to failure are exposed than any other business. Therefore, to determine cases of failure should be studied and such cases should be avoided in order to reduce that number of failure. The construction business need to more attention to treat the weak point. In the section will study the various building failure that cases by primary Parties involved in construction industries. There are three parties involved, namely, developer/ owner, consultant, and contractor. The relationship between these parties is adversarial since different parties has different goals they want to meet and each party goals that will has arisen conflict with the other parties goals. For the instances, the developer/ owner want the project be low cost to expend and result in good quality. But this will reduce the profit that contractor gain. Besides, as the consultant, he/she wants the project is much more attractive and safe. In this circumstance, it may cause both the contractor and the developer/ owner spend more money or extra cost on the project. Except on this relation among parties, which still have more any other reason could be a major source of building failure.

Building Failure Caused by Contractor

More commonly factor that strong influence in the contractor’s failures in the project or building are lack of experience, poor labour productivity, bad management decisions, lack clearly assigning the responsibility and authority, recruiting multinationals, neglect, frauds, lack of control or supervision system, and lack of communication system.

Lack of Experience

That is important the building contractor must have the experience in the construction project. Contractor is the person who is daily to manage the activities process on the construction site. Besides, the building contractor also as field supervision to supervising all hiring worker on site. If the building contractor does not have experience, he may not to solve any problem arise from construction site. Dr. Sadi Assaf (2004) indicated that, the owner should try to employer a higher degree qualified working team in the company because that may able to maximize the usage of the company’s resources and avoid any waste resources occur. The working team employer by owner mean should have good experience in the same line of work.

As the more experienced building contractor in the project should be able to demonstrating knowledge of, propose a wide array of options, and have the experience with a variety of products, materials and techniques. Little or no experience of the building contractor is the most common cause the project or building failure. That is very difficult if the contractor resign at the halfway through the project, since the new contractor employ by the owner need to take over the work that where ex-contractor left off. For instance, the second contractor may not familiar to use the materials or techniques that first contractor have used. In addition, the second contractor may not at the same way that first contractor wishes to did, unless there are very specific drawings are provided (McCaleb Construction Inc, 2012).

Poor Labour Productivity

Poor labour productivity also mean as poor workmanship in construction industries. Poor workmanship is the actual that cause of construction either in defect or failure


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