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Expert: ‘Leaning’ Tower Earthquake-Safe

Friday, October 7, 2016

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Engineers retained by the owners of San Francisco’s Millennium Tower have issued a report reinforcing that the luxury condo high-rise is earthquake-safe, despite reports that the building has settled and begun to tilt in ways not foreseen by its designers.

Engineering firm Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger issued the report Tuesday (Oct. 4), insisting that the building is still structurally sound and can still withstand the seismic activity that is common in the San Francisco Bay area. The firm, according to reports, was hired by building owner Millennium Partners.

Sinking and Leaning

Reports surfaced in August that the Millennium Tower, home to some of San Francisco’s richest residents, had sunk 16 inches since it was built in 2008—10 inches more than architects had predicted it would ever settle. It also exhibits a two-inch tilt toward the northwest, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Millennium Tower
By Daniel Ramirez – CC-BY 2.0, via Flickr

Reports surfaced in August that the Millennium Tower, home to some of San Francisco’s richest residents, had sunk 16 inches since it was built in 2008.

Millennium Partners has been feuding with the Transbay Joint Powers Authority over the possible causes for the unanticipated settling. Millennium Partners have called into question the transit authority’s nearby excavation and construction of its new Transbay Transit Center, accusing the authority of causing the settling

When the Handel Architects-designed tower was built, it won awards for its design and structural engineering, which involved high-strength reinforced concrete in lieu of steel beams.

Since reports of tilting and sinking first surfaced, at least one condo owner has brought a suit against Millennium Partners and the building’s architects and builders, and much has been made about what should be done next.

The Hamburger Report

The Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger report, prepared by earthquake-proof design expert Ron Hamburger, reportedly states that the building’s “structural elements do not experience appreciable stress as a result of these settlements.”

By Sergio Ruiz, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr

Millennium Partners also released a study backing up the developer’s claim that the Transbay Transit Center construction contributed to the settling.

“Most” of the elements of the building would stand up to seismic activity at the same level other similar buildings in the city would, Hamburger concluded, according to the Chronicle.

The building's homeowners association reviewed the Hamburger report as well, relating in a statement that Hamburger "clearly states that the building is safe for occupancy," the Chronicle relates.

More Sparring

According to local reports, Millennium Partners also released a study prepared by John Egan of SAGE Engineers, backing up the developer’s claim that the Transbay Center construction led to dewatering of the soil under the tower, contributing to the settling.

TJPA responded by asserting, "The allegations of the Millennium Tower developer, Millennium Partners, concerning the impact of the TJPA’s construction on the Millennium Tower are not accurate,"

The Millennium Tower Homeowners Association has also retained a team of engineers, according to the Chronicle, and is in the second week of its own investigation of the situation.


Tagged categories: Architecture; concrete; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Developers; Engineers; Safety

Comment from peter gibson, (10/7/2016, 1:00 PM)

Case to watch. The owners don't want to hear what Hamburger is saying. Am surprised he stuck his neck out so far.Thing can come down..then what about Hamburger.

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