Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities
In the early morning hours of May 16, 1968, the occupant of apartment 90 on the 18th floor of the 22-story Ronan Point apartment tower, in London, lit a match to brew her morning cup of tea. The resulting gas explosion initiated a partial collapse of the structure that killed four people and injured 17 (one of whom subsequently died). On investigation, the apartment tower was found to be deeply flawed in both design and construction. The existing building codes were found to be inadequate for ensuring the safety and integrity of high-rise precast concrete apartment buildings. The Larsen–Nielson building system, intended for buildings with only six stories, had been extended past the point of safety. The tower consisted of precast panels joined together without a structural frame. The connections relied, in large part, on friction. The apartment tower lacked alternate load paths to redistribute forces in the event of a partial collapse. When the structure was dismantled, investigators found appallingly poor workmanship at the critical connections between the panels. Subsequently, building codes in many countries have adopted structural integrity or “robustness” provisions that may be directly traced to the Ronan Point collapse.
Pearson, C., and Delatte, N. (2005). "Ronan Point Apartment Tower Collapse and its Effect on Building Codes." J.Perform.Constr.Facil., 19(2), 172-177.
Support for this research was provided by the National Science
Foundation under the project “Developing Case Studies in Failures
and Ethics for Engineering Educators,” project number DUE