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Steve and Sylvia Burges Endowed Lecture

About the lecture

This lectureship was founded in 2013 by Steve and Sylvia Burges. The purpose of the endowment is to support an annual public lecture by distinguished practitioners in the field of Civil and Environmental Engineering to broaden the horizons of engineering students and professionals beyond the purely technical challenges of our times. Speakers include faculty members in the department as well as experts identified by faculty as possessing perspectives, expertise and/or experience of particular importance and interest to the field of civil and environmental engineering.

About the donors

Steve and Sylvia Burges

Sylvia and Steve Burges have been associated with the University of Washington since September 1970, when Steve joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering. Shortly thereafter, Sylvia earned two University of Washington master’s degrees: a Master of Education (Educational Psychology Counseling) in 1973 and a Master of Science (Civil Engineering Department) in 1976. During her career, Sylvia conducted water quality and environmental studies for consulting engineering firms. She joined Region 10 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1988, where she spent the rest of her professional career as a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act enforcement officer. Steve spent his career as a University of Washington faculty member attaining the rank of Professor in 1979. He became a registered Professional Engineer in 1980, a Professional hydrologist in 1990 and a Diplomat Water Resources Engineer in 2005. Steve retired from the university in 2010 with the title of Professor Emeritus.

Burges Lecture 2023

What Happened? Investigating the June 2021 Building Collapse in Surfside Florida

Thursday, February 23, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Alder Hall Auditorium
Reception with light food and drinks in the Alder Hall Commons following the lecture

Featuring Dr. Dawn Lehman
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Abstract: Building collapses are rare in the United States. As such, the world was shocked on June 24, 2021, when the Champlain Towers South (CTS) building in Surfside Florida partially collapsed without warning. The initial collapse occurred outside of the building tower, in the pool deck region. Seven minutes later, the central portion of the building collapsed; the eastern portion of the building collapsed quickly after that. The western section of the building remained standing.

To many of her colleagues, it was surprising that Professor Lehman took it upon herself to discuss and study the building collapse. Professor Lehman is a well-known expert in earthquake engineering, spending decades working with her research students and academic colleagues studying the behavior of structural systems subjected to seismic demands. In her research on earthquake-induced structural damage and collapse, Professor Lehman uses large-scale experimental studies and advanced nonlinear analysis to investigate the causes of building collapse. Could this expertise help her, the structural engineering community and the residents of Miami-Dade County develop an understanding of possible scenarios the led to the collapse of this structure? After an initial, informal collaboration, Professor Lehman joined the investigative journalism team at the Miami Herald led by Sarah Blaskey to investigate the partial collapse using the tools and technologies she had developed through her research on seismic evaluation of existing buildings and design of new concrete connections.

The primary objective of this investigation was to understand how initial damage in a pool deck could lead to partial collapse of this flat-plate cast-in-place reinforced concrete structure with an eye towards improving evaluation methods for these structures. This talk will address the investigation of the building collapse that used a wide variety of sources of information and investigation tools including: (1) timeline of the collapse as reported by eyewitnesses, (2) building damage photographs and videos, (3) building plans and repair drawings and permits, and (4) advanced nonlinear finite element analyses. The talk will introduce concepts developed in the earthquake engineering community as well as Professor Lehman’s own research using large-scale testing and nonlinear analysis to understand the initiation and development of damage of in reinforced concrete components, such as beams, columns and slabs, and their connections. The presentation will conclude with possible advancements to prevent collapse of other coastal structures with similar structural configurations and designs as CTS.

Resource links to selected interviews and articles:

Bio: Dawn Lehman is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington. She received her BS from Tufts University in 1989 and her PhD from U.C. Berkeley in 1998. She worked as a structural engineer in Boston MA between these degrees. She has been a faculty member at the University of Washington since 1999. Her research expertise lies in seismic engineering of structural systems. She has conducted research on a range of systems including reinforced concrete walls and frames, steel braced frames, as well as concrete-filled-tube, precast and reinforced-concrete bridge systems. Her research results have been implemented in codes, design manuals and provisional structural engineering recommendations, including AASHTO, AISC, WSDOT BDM, Caltrans SDM, and ASCE 41. She has authored over 100 peer-reviewed research articles. She led the technical investigation of the partial collapse of Champlain Towers South as a consultant to the Miami Herald. The team was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for this work.

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