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[Live Webinar] Engineering Ethics: The Millennium Tower Sinking and Tilting-Was the Root Cause Engineering Ethics Violations?


The 58-story Millennium Tower in San Francisco started sinking and tilting before its construction was completed in 2009. The sinking and tilting have continued since then at a rate of about one inch a year of sinking and three inches a year of tilting in terms of horizontal movement of the roof. In January, the sinking was 18 inches and the tilting 24 inches. The engineering cause of the sinking and tilting is due to the use of 60-90 feet long friction piles under the mat foundation instead of end-bearing piles supported on the bedrock, which is about 200 feet below the surface. The sinking and tilting have already dished the 10-foot thick mat foundation and cracked seriously the R/C bearing/shear walls, and caused non-structural damage as well. With so much advancement in structural and geotechnical engineering and foundation design, and many layers of double-checking, peer review, and permit process, the question is how can such a major failure occur.

In this webinar, Dr, Astaneh, after presenting engineering causes, will show that the root cause of this failure was violations of several canons of the Code of Ethics for Engineers by a few engineers involved with the design and the peer review as well as the deputy director of the City’s Department of Building Inspection.

Dr. Astaneh, then will pose the question “what are the reasons for people, including engineers, behaving unethically?”  Not being a psychologist or ethicist, and far from being involved in studying human behavior and morality, he will use reliable data and research results from the experts in these fields and discuss the most important reasons why people behave unethically. According to experts, the main cause is falling into a variety of “psychological traps.”  The most important psychological traps will be discussed, believing that knowing these traps, we, engineer or not, can avoid them and behave ethically.

The main conclusion of this webinar, supported by the evidence presented during the webinar, is that if the engineers involved in this project all had followed the Code of Ethics for Engineers, the Millennium Tower would not have this structural safety problem and unknown seismic safety level during the future major earthquakes.

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