In the history of the construction industry, there are many projects that have become memorable for all the wrong reasons. From Boston to Shanghai, the world’s worst construction mistakes are concrete examples of what not to do.
Legendary Construction Mistakes
Sampoong Department Store, South Korea
In 1995, the collapse of the Sampoong Department Store in Seoul, South Korea killed 502 people and injured 937. The building’s structural failure was blamed on shoddy construction and a blatant disregard for ethical engineering practices. Sampoong Department Store’s deficiencies included missing support columns, substandard concrete and fewer reinforcing bars than necessary. The building ultimately toppled after air conditioning units on the roof quadrupled the load that the structure was designed to support. It was the largest peacetime disaster in South Korean history.
Washington State’s Tacoma Narrows Bridge
On a windy day in 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State unexpectedly collapsed. The truss, which spanned the Puget Sound, was the third largest suspension bridge in the world at the time. Although it was constructed to be flexible, the engineers did not properly consider the potential aerodynamic forces at play during high winds. Four months after opening to traffic, a 600-foot section of the bridge broke free. Before the entire truss fell into the water, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge buckled widely in the wind. Today, the bridge’s remains form one of the largest man-made reefs in the world.
Shanghai’s Lotus Riverside
In China, rushed and shoddy construction led to a structural collapse of a 13-story Lotus Riverside apartment building in 2009. Block 7, one of 11 apartment buildings under construction in a Shanghai compound, fell to the ground completely intact. It was so loud that people nearby thought the disruption was an earthquake. The location of the building may have been to blame. It fell one day after a nearby riverbank collapsed, because the soil was loose in the area.
Boston’s ‘Big Dig’
The Central Artery/Tunnel Project, also known as the “Big Dig,” started in Massachusetts in 1991. Sixteen years and $14.8 billion later, the project officially concluded. Along the way, construction mistakes caused many problems that irked Bostonians. During construction, a series of leaks plagued the I-93 tunnel under downtown Boston. In 2006, concrete ceiling panels and debris, which weighed more than 20 tons, fell on a car driving on a two-lane ramp in South Boston. An investigation revealed the epoxy glue used for bonding was not appropriate for long-term bonding. Although the project was much-maligned while it was underway, it has since improved traffic congestion in the Boston area.
Throughout history, there have been countless construction mistakes that caused major problems in cities across the world. What other big projects do you think should have made this list?