Berkeley Balcony Collapse




I’m compiling article and information related to the Berkeley balcony collapse here. Berkeley cannot be forgotten, the lessons from it must be that proper design and execution of waterproofing is paramount to life/safety.

Experts suspect poor waterproofing in Berkeley balcony collapse

Rong-Gong Lin II and Lisa Girion Contact Reporter

As officials investigate the sudden collapse of a Berkeley balcony last week that killed six and injured seven, outside experts say it’s obvious what happened: Water got into the balcony and didn’t get out, rotting the wood that kept it in place.

The big question is why.

Before the collapse, there should have been warning signs easily noticed by an inspector on a routine maintenance schedule, one expert said.

“Balconies just don’t fall off a building like what we saw without having a few years of deterioration,” said Bill Leys, a former deck waterproofing contractor who now inspects decks in San Luis Obispo for his company,

“The common man or woman walking on a balcony might look at it and see a little crack and say, ‘No big deal,’ and in my mind, I say, ‘Oh, my God. How much damage is underneath?’ ” Leys said.


Berkeley balcony collapse, other cases spotlight gap in building oversight

Two years after college students began moving into Berkeley’s Library Gardens, a similar complex built by the same general contractor opened across the San Francisco Bay. Both low-rise complexes hug busy sidewalks, wrap around quiet courtyards and are bedecked with balconies.

They also share a dangerous problem: dry rot, the predatory fungus that feeds on moist wood, turning structural framing and support beams into dust. At Library Gardens, dry rot feasted on the wood joists holding up a fifth-floor balcony until the cantilevering gave way, causing six people to plunge to their deaths.

In rental buildings, tenants have to rely on landlords to ensure the underlying integrity of the building. But, in many cases, repairs don’t happen until conditions become hazardous, said Bill Leys, a private inspector and former balcony contractor. Leys said he was called out to an apartment building in Sun Valley a few years ago where underlying dry rot was identified only after a tenant’s foot went through the floor.

“Somebody usually needs to get hurt or something catastrophic has to happen before they will go out and repair,” he said. READ THE REST CLICK HERE

Balcony design solid, but flaws may have allowed dry rot

By Jaxon Van Derbeken

Updated 10:17 pm, Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Berkeley apartment balcony that collapsed during a party this week was designed to hold nearly 2 tons, according to construction documents released Thursday — significantly greater than the weight of the people who fell five stories to the street when it failed.

The documents reinforce suspicions at the center of the collapse investigation — that construction flaws were at the root of the catastrophic failure of the balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex in downtown Berkeley.

‘Illusion’ of’strength”
Other experts said screws used during construction can puncture such a membrane, and that construction outfits sometimes mistakenly believe that the material won’t fail.
“That’s the illusion in the industry, that it is self-healing and we can puncture it,” said Bill Leys, a deck waterproofing expert in Arroyo Grande (San Luis Obispo County). “That’s not the case.”
Leys, who reviewed the design drawings for The Chronicle, said there was no ventilation or drainage system on the Berkeley balcony that would have allowed any water that infiltrated to escape.
“Without a drain, it’s going to get trapped there, it’s going to sit and it will soak up water like a sponge,” Leys said.
To Leys, that was a major flaw. “You’ve got to have drainage so that any water that gets to the waterproofing membrane can get out,” he said.
“This is all a vicious combination,” Leys said. “The penetrations, the drainage and lack of ventilation underneath — they all combined in a catastrophic failure.”  READ THE REST BY CLICKING HERE

The Balcony Collapse in Berkeley, California: What Can We Learn from This?

By Richard Flower

With due respect for the ongoing investigation by the City of Berkeley, I wish to highlight a few general observations with regard to comments on the tragic balcony collapse in Berkeley, California, that were posted on and to suggest an appropriate response. Being that I do not have first-hand access to pertinent information, such as the set of construction documents approved by the City of Berkeley for the construction of Library Gardens, the apartment complex where the collapse occurred, my observations are limited to information made available at the time this article was written. Specifically, I am relying upon photographs posted on .

First, allow me to address the issue of quality control. Ideally, quality control should be evident during the process of detailing, construction and maintenance of any structure. While quality control may well be present during the detailing process, there generally tends to be less quality control on the job site, with periodic on-site inspections, at best, and virtually no quality control in terms of maintenance. By and large, the structural elements are neglected during their serviceable life. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”  READ THE REST BY CLICKING HERE

Berkeley balcony collapse: State investigators move to revoke licenses of companies for failing to meet trade standards

By Thomas Peele and Matthias Gafni, Staff writers

BERKELEY — Five contractors who worked on a downtown apartment building where six people died in a balcony collapse last year could lose their state licenses for failing to follow construction guidelines, a state watchdog agency announced Friday afternoon. The Contractors State License Board found that “poor workmanship” in the waterproofing of the balcony resulted in water damage that caused it to rot and eventually collapse.

“They didn’t do the work (on the balcony) to trade standards,” said Dave Fogt, the board’s chief of enforcement, in a phone interview Friday. The collapse was caused “definitely by water incursion that caused dry rot.”

Bill Leys, who runs the website and is a Central Coast contractor, called the regulatory action against the five companies “pretty unprecedented.”

“It is rare to see a waterproofed deck have a sudden, catastrophic collapse” and a government response, he said.


Berkeley balcony collapse: No criminal charges will be filed, DA says

By Matthias Gafni,

The builders of the Berkeley balcony that collapsed last year, killing six students and seriously injuring seven others, will not face criminal charges, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday, citing “many contributory causes” that led to the tragedy.

The seeds of the tragedy were planted a decade before the catastrophic failure of the fifth-floor deck sent 13 people hurtling to the ground, O’Malley concluded, when construction during a particularly wet winter allowed water to infiltrate the substructure of the deck. Over the years, the moisture, trapped with no ventilation to help it dry out, slowly and severely rotted the supporting wooden joists until the entire structure failed last summer, her team of investigators found.

A San Luis Obispo-based deck expert, Bill Leys, said Tuesday that despite the heavy rains, the disaster was preventable. The wood was likely exposed to the elements for months, he said, and should have been tarped. The moisture content of the deck should have been measured using a standard hand-held device before waterproofing was applied, he said, and if there was a high reading, the wood should have been replaced. Plus, he noted, the composite board used on the decks “was a sponge,” holding in water.

When the waterproofing was applied to material containing a high amount of water, “it was just a matter of time until the wood gave way,” Leys said.  READ THE REST BY CLICKING HERE

Berkeley: Scrutiny turns to balcony design during state Senate hearing

By Matthias Gafni,
UPDATED:   04/26/2016 05:32:18 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO — In the first indication that the design, and not just construction mistakes, may have contributed to the Berkeley balcony collapse last summer, the board that oversees licensed architects revealed Monday that it has joined the investigation into the tragedy that killed six people.

Bill Leys, a San Luis Obispo-based deck expert, said the architect specified a cheaper laminated wood beam and called for it to be notched two inches before it extended out from the building’s main structure. That additional space would allow room for a concrete topping slab to be added, complying with disability-access requirements to the deck.

Deck joists must have a 2 percent slope, which allows water to move away from the building as required by code, Leys said. Manufactured wood products also require wood sealer to be applied to areas that have been cut open to further prevent water intrusion, he said.

Leys said none of that was called for in the architectural designs.

“As soon as that beam got wet where the notch is, it was the beginning of the end,” Leys said.




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