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Vertical building collapse triggered by loss of all columns in the ground story−Last line of defense


In multi-story buildings, one of the worst collapse types in terms of structural damage and loss of life is the pancake-type collapse, where some or all floors end up lying on top of each other like the layers of a pancake, with the floor contents crushed between them. Mostly observed after strong earthquakes, such collapses are triggered by loss of some or all vertical load bearing elements in some story−often the ground story. Once this occurs, the building part above the lost vertical elements−still intact−starts gaining downward velocity until it meets resistance from below. The ensuing impact forces often lead to collapse progression ending in total collapse. However, there are some examples of buildings in which the columns of an entire story failed and the collapse remained arrested after the subsequent impact. Such cases were observed in the 1995 Kobe earthquake and in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. There have also been some failed controlled demolition attempts in which the intended total vertical collapse did not occur after letting a building collide with the ground by explosive removal of the vertical load bearing elements in the lowest stories. In an attempt to determine the factors which play the main role in arresting vertical collapse once initiated at the ground level, this paper studies the behavior of vertically falling multi-story building structures impacting a rigid surface representing the ground. A simplified analytical model of the problem is presented. Depending on the structural properties, several possible energy dissipation mechanisms, and−in case the collapse cannot be arrested at impact−collapse modes, are identified.

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Correspondence to Nikolay Lalkovski.

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Lalkovski, N., Starossek, U. Vertical building collapse triggered by loss of all columns in the ground story−Last line of defense. Int J Steel Struct 16, 395–410 (2016).

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  • high-rise buildings
  • progressive collapse
  • loss of all the ground story columns
  • energy absorption mechanisms
  • collapse modes