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Why Buildings Fall Down: How Structures Fail
 
 


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Why Buildings Fall Down: How Structures Fail [Paperback]

Matthys Levy , Mario Salvadori , Kevin Woest
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 17, 2002

The authors examine buildings of all kinds, from ancient domes like Istanbul's Hagia Sophia to the state-of-the-art Hartford Civic Arena. Their subjects range from the man-caused destruction of the Parthenon to the earthquake damage of 1989 in Armenia and San Francisco.

The stories that make up Why Buildings Fall Down are in the end very human ones, tales of the interaction of people and nature, of architects, engineers, builders, materials, and natural forces all coming together in sometimes dramatic (and always instructive) ways. B/W line drawings

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Structural engineers Levy and Salvadori have written a well-paced, highly informative, nontechnical work describing failures in a variety of structures such as buildings, bridges, and dams. Salvadori wrote Why Buildings Stand Up (Norton, 1990), so this is a natural complement. The subject, somewhat grisly in nature, is presented here with respect for the tragedies involved, and yet with a lighthearted pursuit of the truth as to the cause of the failure. Analysis of the failure is discussed and recommendations for improvement are offered, but without the usual condescension hindsight allows. Profuse illustrations by Kevin Woest, well labeled and explained, and several appendixes aid access. An index (not seen) is provided, but no glossary. This fascinating book is easily accessible to laypersons. Highly recommended.
- Alex Hartmann, Bloomsburg Univ. Lib., Pa.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

The reader is sure to find the disaster that suits his or her taste. -- New York Times Book Review

Product Details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Updated and expanded edition (February 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039331152X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393311525
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
(37)
4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear and entertaining book April 20, 2003
Format:Hardcover
Such is our morbid fascination that this book is inevitably more attractive than one called "Why Buildings Stay Up". That said, I think I have not only learned more about structural engineering than I would have done from a positive counterpart, but I have also learned vastly more about the other factors, human and natural, that influence the ultimate success or failure of structures.
The book is based on the same material as the late 1990s TV series of the same name, and having watched that series many of the incidents and issues were familiar to me. The advantage of the book is the ability to digest information at your own speed and refer back to earlier pages, but it has to be said that the TV series communicated some of the issues better, helped by animated graphics and by the better mutual support of both pictures and narrative.
Each chapter takes a topic, whether a human factor like the law, a type of construction such as the dome, or a cause of failure such as metal fatigue, and then illustrates the issues by consideration of a number of case studies, frequently including some notable successes as well as dramatic failures. In the case of failures the book always attempts to assess both the practical cause, and also any human cause, impact and implications.
The book is very well written, in an accessible style supported by some useful appendixes on structural engineering principles. However, sometimes the simple line drawings and verbal descriptions of a structure don't manage to communicate a full understanding, and more sophisticated illustrations might have helped.
Mario Salvadori died in 1997 (at the good age of 90), and the surviving author, Matthys Levy updated the book in 2002.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tecnical book easily understandable by non-engineers February 21, 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
We see all the time buildings working as they should (i.e., standing up and not collapsing), however, it is very interesting to read of some real life collapses. Salvadori does an excellant job of writing so that people without a technical background can understand why these structures failed. And he writes with such detail that engineers are not bored by lack of detail. Simpley explained, fully detailed, and thoroughly researched. Excellant book for anyone who is interested in buildings, structures, or failures
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun follow-up June 10, 2004
Format:Paperback
If you have read the book 'Why Buildings stand up' you should definitely read this one, since it is much more interesting to know why certain buildings collapse, since this makes the news.
There are some chapters almost the same as the first book, but most chapters are case studies on bridges (the famous galloping Gertie in Washington State), explosions, structural failures etc. An extra chapter is added to explain the collapse of the the World Trade Center Towers after the September 11 Attacks in 2001. Also 5 Appendixes are added dealing with stress, loads and more engineering things, which can also be found on the PBS site on buildings.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This was a great introduction to the fundamentals of building science - understanding why things don't work is a great help in understanding why they do. Each chapter discusses one example of something that went wrong and explains another reason why structures can fail.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating case studies March 11, 2003
Format:Paperback
An entertaining book for readers who know about structures, and an educational book for lay readers, WHY BUILDINGS FALL DOWN is an interesting collection of case studies concerning building failures. Never condescending, but never too technical, it's a fun way to learn about architecture or structural engineering.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling book April 22, 2005
Format:Paperback
I'm a young Civil Engineer from Portugal. Some months ago I went to New York and I found this fantastic book. I've also bought the book "Why buildings stand up" which is, again, amazing. The descriptions are in such a simple way that even lay people can understand easily the functioning of structures.

It was a pleasure to read such interesting books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book January 18, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The companion to this book (Why Buildings Stand Up) was a textbook for one of my classes when I was in architecture school in the 80s. I still have my old, dog-eared copy on my bookshelf in my office. I purchased this book, along with a new edition of Why Buildings Stand Up, to give to an 11-year-old (super intelligent) friend who would like to be an architect. I was worried that it might be too complex for him, but his mom assured me that it would not be.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, Accessible Survey of Structural Failures September 11, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books I've read on the engineering behind structural failures. The authors teach by example, exploring fallen apartment buildings, stadiums, bridges and other structure, and using each to illustrate an important engineering principle. The illustrations are also an invaluable aid to understanding the problems in each structure (particularly for readers who, like me, may find it difficult to follow verbiage on the orientation of strutts, the direction of braces, etc.).

I only had two gripes: a glossary provided the only introduction to many basic concepts; and political/historical/personal context would have made for a livelier account. The glossary was a very helpful resource for understanding basic things like, what "load" is, and how it effects structures. It might have been better to also work those descriptions into the text as the concepts arose - this would have made it easier for me to assimilate them. Also, I enjoyed it when the authors gave context for many of the engineering decisions made - for instance, that a stadium rooftop was designed, in part, because flaws in the city sewer system prevented the efficient disposition of significant rainfall. However, more of this kind of context - particularly historical and personal facts that had bearing on design decisions - would have made each example into a better story, and improved the reading experience for me.

Overall, a highly recommended book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Delighted with my purchase
Delighted with my purchase. The book arrived as described by the Seller and it arrived ahead of schedule. Couldn't be happier.
Published 10 months ago by Norman Eng
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book.
Received the book in a timely manner just as described
Published 15 months ago by Jarred
3.0 out of 5 stars As a structural engineer I enjoy in schaudenfraude fashion the...
As a structural engineer I enjoy in schaudenfraude fashion the structural problems revealed in books like this. Alas, it was a bit of a let down. Read more
Published 20 months ago by H. Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Everything was perfect!!
Published 21 months ago by CESAR GUIDI
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A good buy
Published 22 months ago by Anthony Champion
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book! This should be required reading for all ...
Great book! This should be required reading for all structural engineers.
Published 22 months ago by Mark Yerges
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a really fun book. I've been reading it out loud to ...
This is a really fun book. I've been reading it out loud to my nine-year-old.
Published 23 months ago by Alexander R. Pruss
5.0 out of 5 stars My grandson is studying to be a structural engineer and requested this...
I have not read this book, but since my grandson who is studying to be a structural engineer requested it and the book "Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture, I... Read more
Published on March 13, 2014 by Connie
5.0 out of 5 stars We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.
Fascinating case studies of dramatic failures in structural engineering. The type of book that can be enjoyed one chapter at at time by folks who don't have a degree in structural... Read more
Published on February 4, 2014 by frzstat
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Easy to read. Not too technical, but still interesting for engineers.
You are able to pick up the book at any section at start reading.
Published on October 23, 2013 by Amy Boncelet
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