Construction Flaws Likely in Berkeley Balcony Collapse

Construction Flaws Likely in Berkeley Balcony Collapse

THE Berkeley apartment balcony that collapsed during a party causing the death of six Irish students was designed to hold nearly two tons in weight, according to construction documents released this week.

This contradicts earlier reports that claimed the balcony was "decorative" and not designed to hold a large number of people, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

"This was meant just to be a place where someone could stand out for bit," former San Francisco official Carrie Olson had informed the newspaper, but the newly-released documents now serve to reinforce suspicions that construction flaws were at the root of the catastrophic failure of the balcony at the Library Gardens apartment in the university town.

Investigators have not yet released their findings into the collapse, though Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said there was a “high probability” that water damaged the balcony’s supports after the building was completed in 2007.

Experts who reviewed photos of the collapse this week agreed that the incident was likely due to dry rot, a product of excessive moisture in the wood.

Another balcony at the building has been designated for removal and two others were tagged for inspection, it was confirmed following the tragedy.

“The evidence is overwhelming,” said Bernard Cuzzillo, an engineer in Berkeley who runs a forensic analysis lab that searches for causes of mechanical failures, who examined the construction documents.

“This is failure due to dry rot.”

Under the state building code, the balcony at 2020 Kittredge Street, the site of the tragedy, was required to hold a minimum of 60 pounds per square foot.

But blueprints for the project, released by Berkeley town authorities during the week, indicate that the balcony was constructed to bear 100 pounds per square foot.

City officials confirm that the balcony deck measured 8 feet 10 inches by 4 feet 5 inches, meaning that the 13 or so people believed to have been on it when it collapsed should easily have been supported.