Disaster struck the city of Clemson in South Carolina this past weekend, as the floor of an apartment clubhouse collapsed under the weight of dancing party goers. 30 people have been reported injured, and an inquiry has been launched to understand exactly what happened.
Students and local residents were jumping in unison to music in the clubhouse, part of the Woodlands of Clemson apartment complex. One of the party attendees, Jeremy Tester, told CNN that he heard the floor begin to fail, but it was already too late for the crowded room to be cleared. “You could hear the floor about to go through,” he said, “but nobody thought it was going to happen. They just kept going.”
Another attendee, Jayden Adams, said that the synchronized movement of the crowd had caused the floor to move up and down “like a trampoline.” While footage of the incident is terrifying, the consequences could have been much worse — the floor collapsed just one story into a basement, and CNN reports that “no individuals were trapped during the collapse and no one suffered life-threatening injuries.”
Incidents like this are incredibly rare in modern times — usually structural failure is caused by larger destabilizing events such as earthquakes. Collapses caused by people alone include the Versailles wedding hall disaster, which occurred in Jerusalem in 2001, and the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse back in 1981, which was the deadliest structural collapse in U.S. history until the collapse of the World Trade Center towers 20 years later.
As with those incidents, questions will be asked about the structural integrity of the Clemson clubhouse, situated within a building constructed just 14 years ago. An investigation has been opened into the capacity of the common area in which the party was taking place.
The maximum occupancy of the clubhouse was 135, according to Todd Steadman, director of the city of Clemson’s planning and codes department. Camera footage is being studied to establish whether this reflects the true number of people in the space at the time of the collapse. If the occupancy levels of the clubhouse exceeded those specified in the building’s safety regulations, then authorities will seek to understand why these limits were not adhered to.
However, if the number of people in the building complied with regulations, a spotlight will be thrown on the engineers, architects and contractors involved in the design and construction of this building. Were the correct materials specified for this structure? Were they detailed and installed correctly? And are there other similar buildings across the US that could be vulnerable to similar incidents?
The ongoing investigation will seek answers to these questions with great urgency, with official bodies desperate to ensure an event like this does not happen again. Architects and engineers will await the report and any consequences it may have for US building regulations.
Stay tuned for further details on Architizer as they become available.