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Brittle Fracture Failure Due to Deficient Welding

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A failure as a result of brittle fracture occurred at the Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfax, VA, USA, in January 1985. Failures that occur at stresses below the yield strength are broadly classified as brittle fractures. At Wolftrap, one of the main roof box girders, constructed of welded structural steel plates, actually split vertically, with a gap as wide as 38 mm. The thicknesses of the flange plates and web plates were 76 mm and 12.7 mm, respectively. On site investigation revealed that the gap reached its maximum width on the bottom of the girder and extended for most of its depth. The roof structure remained suspended and did not fall. There was sufficient redundancy in the structure, and alternate paths were available for load transfer. Therefore, total collapse was averted.

Keywords: Brittle fractures; Metallurgical evaluation; Roof structures; Welding; Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts (VA, USA)

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 1993

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    Structural Engineering International (SEI), the quarterly Journal of IABSE, published since 1991, is the leading international journal of structural engineering dealing with all types of structures and materials. SEI offers its readers a unique blend of short profiles on recent structures, and longer, in-depth technical articles on research, development, design, construction and maintenance. Articles are written by practicing engineers and academia from around the world and reflect the high standards of IABSE. IABSE Peer Review stamps are given to papers that have passed through a highly selective review process and demonstrate a significant contribution to the state of structural engineering knowledge.To recognise contributions of the highest quality, an Outstanding Paper Award is presented each year.

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