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For literature review (total word count no less than 3000, not including references):

Title Page

Table of Content



Failure analysis (including pictures, equations, and etc.)



• Title sections: Times New Roman font and size 14 with boldface.

Page Layout: 1 inch left margin, and 3⁄4 margin on all other sides (right, top, and

bottom), justification on both left and right margins.

All the equations must be centered with equations number: (1), (2), (3) with right


Main text Format: 1 1⁄2 spacing for texts and equations, Times New Roman font

with size 11

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work on a case study of a mechanical engineering failure.
For literature review (total word count no less than 3000, not including references):
Title Page
Table of Content
Failure analysis (including pictures, equations, and etc.)
Title sections: Times New Roman font and size 14 with boldface.
Page Layout: 1 inch left margin, and ¾ margin on all other sides (right, top, and
bottom), justification on both left and right margins.
All the equations must be centered with equations number: (1), (2), (3) with right
Main text Format: 1 ½ spacing for texts and equations, Times New Roman font
with size 11
IMPORTANT: “Turn it in’ will be used to check the similarity of your report. The similarity
of your report must be lower than 25%, otherwise, it will be considered as Plagiarism and
reported to the department and university.
See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265154829
Using the Hyatt Regency Skywalk Collapse Case Study in Engineering Education
Article · April 2011
DOI: 10.1061/41171(401)100
2 authors:
John Lawson
Pamalee Brady
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects:
Multi-hazard Risk Assessment of Rigid Wall Flexible roof Diaphragm Buildings View project
Rain intensity for the design of draining roof structures View project
All content following this page was uploaded by John Lawson on 05 April 2016.
The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.
Using the Hyatt Regency Skywalk Collapse Case Study
in Engineering Education.
John W. Lawson
& Pamalee A. Brady
To this day, the 1981 skywalk collapse in the Kansas City Hyatt Regency resulted in
the worst loss of life from a structural engineering mistake in United States history.
While many important engineering lessons can be drawn from this disaster, it is just
as important to recognize the broader lessons learned in the design and construction
process as a whole that can be successfully brought into the classroom. Numerous
organizations have undertaken the task of envisioning how engineering education
can meet the demands of the future. ABET’s baccalaureate degree accreditation
criteria, ASCE’s Body of Knowledge and Body of Knowledge 2 as well as the
National Academy of Engineering have documented the need to change engineering
education from its historical focus on technical content knowledge to include greater
emphasis on professional issues and to integrate engineering practice into education.
To this end teaching methods such as project based learning, active learning and the
use of case studies are being explored to address these broader learning outcomes
while actively engaging students. Because of the attraction students have in
extraordinary events, the Hyatt disaster provides an ideal backdrop to introduce
many of the professional issues needed to broaden the undergraduates’ learning
experience. This paper discusses the use of the Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse in
design coursework with specific application to third and fourth year civil and
architectural engineering student learning. Besides the traditional concepts of load
flow analysis and member design, broader concepts relating to professional roles and
responsibilities, design team interplay, the design process, the construction process
and professional practice ethics are emphasized.
Today’s engineering graduates face a world more complex than ever before. Their
engineering profession is being challenged by both technical complexities and
societal complexities. Historically, engineering education has primarily focused on
technical content to provide a strong theoretical foundation for future practicing
engineers. Learning to apply their technical knowledge as well as experiencing the
professional and societal issues was relegated to their early years of employment
under the guidance of a mentor or watchful supervisor.
In a similar fashion, other professionals in the construction industry had apprentice
and journeymen approaches to teach the broader professional issues on the job.
However, in today’s fast-paced society, with increasing job complexity and
competing priorities for limited time, there has been less fostering within the
engineering profession and more relying upon skills acquired during college
education. The expectation has become that engineering graduates must be well
prepared to meet the new challenges of not only heightened technical complexity but
also escalating professional complexity.
As engineering students begin their career path, they are facing challenges of
competing and conflicting demands. Exciting and dramatic projects must be
economically feasible; durable materials must be sustainable, and more daring
structures must be at the same time safer. Under this backdrop, the engineering office
is often expected to meet unrealistic deadlines, for lower fees, while maintaining a
high level of quality control to ensure human safety, health, and welfare. These
professional and technical challenges require engineering students to be adept in
interdisciplinary and teamwork skills, have refined communication skills, appreciate
responsibility and accountability, and embark on lifelong learning. It has been well
established that the education of the future engineer must incorporate these
professional issues in the classroom as well as into the early years of employment to
face these challenges (ASCE Body of Knowledge Committee, 2008).
The Kansas City Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse has at its heart non-technical
issues of communication, interdisciplinary teamwork, and ethical challenges; and
provides an excellent tool as a case study to engage students while teaching these
boarder professional issues. This paper is not meant to educate the reader of the
events that led up to and followed the disaster; but instead demonstrate the
usefulness of this using this tragedy as a platform to engage engineering students and
introduce broad professional issues into the classroom.
It is now widely accepted that the incorporation of both technical and professional
issues is necessary in an undergraduate engineering education. The National
Academy of Engineering (2005) and ABET’s accreditation criteria (ABET, 2010)
emphasize this objective, yet the need for integrating professional issues into the
classroom is clearest in the ASCE’s report Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for
the 21st Century: Preparing the Civil Engineer for the Future (ASCE Body of
Knowledge Committee, 2008).
The objective of ASCE’s Body of Knowledge report is to provide a guide to reform
education and pre-licensure experience to shape the civil engineer of the future. The
vision of the civil engineer in year 2025 is seen as being quite different from the past
due to society’s dramatic globalization with the complexities of sustainability
demands, risk management, and the larger number of interested parties in a particular
project. ASCE’s Body of Knowledge report identifies the knowledge, skills and
attitudes necessary to enter the practice of civil engineering at the professional level,
through education and early experience. It is ASCE’s hope that engineering curricula
and pre-licensing experience will change over time towards this model. And indeed,
ABET education accreditation and National Council of Examiners for Engineering
and Surveying (NCEES) engineering licensing criteria are working together with
ASCE’s Body of Knowledge for an integrated process towards licensing.
ASCE’s Body of Knowledge guidelines contain the traditional instructional
objectives in foundational and technical outcomes. These basics broadly include
work in math and sciences, experimentation and problem solving. What have been
more difficult to incorporate in existing curricula are the nine professional issue
outcomes identified. Figure 1 lists the desired professional outcomes and their
respective level of achievement to be reached upon completing an undergraduate
education in civil engineering (on a scale of 6). In the ASCE’s outcomes rubric it is
interesting to note that none of the professional outcomes are assigned to the
master’s degree education process. The master’s degree is recommended to focus
exclusively on technical experimentation, problem solving and area specialization.
Professional Outcome
Public Policy
Business and Public Administration
Lifelong Learning
Professional and Ethical Responsibility
Figure 1. ASCE’s Body of Knowledge Professional Issue Outcomes at the
Undergraduate Level
The level of outcome achievement is tied to the cognitive domain of Bloom’s
Taxonomy. The two highest professional issues on this cognitive achievement scale
are Communication and Professional and Ethical Responsibility. While some
educators may simply regard communications as being satisfied by their institution’s
general breadth requirements in speech or writing, the intent is far more extensive.
Undergraduates are expected to understand communication issues within the
professional practice, including graphic presentation, construction drawings,
computer models, hand sketches, verbal instructions, technical and non-technical
writing. Reinforcement of these professional issue outcomes are also addressed in
ABET’s a-k criteria for baccalaureate engineering degree programs. Criteria f, g and
h specifically address: an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility, an
ability to communicate effectively and the broad education necessary to understand
the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context, respectively.
The Kansas City Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse is a uniquely suited case study to
engage and educate students in the more important professional outcomes desired by
the Body of Knowledge. The two most significant professional issues identified by
ASCE’s Body of Knowledge are communications and professional ethics and
responsibilities, both of which are spotlighted in the collapse.
The major issue at the heart of the Hyatt Regency disaster is the breakdown of
communications (Banset, 1989). There was a failure for the structural engineer to
clearly communicate his intent to the steel fabricator his role or responsibility in the
design of the critical rod-to-beam connection. In addition, the failure of this
connection was traced back to an inadequate design that was not properly
communicated graphically in the construction documents or verbally in subsequent
phone calls between the two disciplines.
The ambiguous communication between the structural engineer and the steel
fabricator was identified in Missouri’s Administrative Hearing as a major factor in
the disaster (Deutsch, 1985). The Commission report states that the structural
engineer “bears the burden of communicating his intent to the contractor and
assumes the risk of confusion or noncommunication.” The report also states, “…the
burden and responsibility for clear communication lies with the engineer who
assumes the risk of ambiguity in his design drawings.”
In line with another learning outcome is the understanding of professional
responsibility and its ethical implementation by the Hyatt’s structural engineer.
Despite making assurances to the owner and architect of doing so, the structural
engineer never ran calculations on the flawed connection. In addition, the structural
engineer and the steel fabricator did not properly coordinate their responsibilities in
the connection design; and in their rush to complete the job, the critical shop
drawings never got a proper review despite the engineer’s review stamp. Valuable
opportunities exist in such a teachable case study to highlight important professional
issues in communications, professional responsibilities, professional ethics, and
interdisciplinary teamwork.
Case studies lend themselves as a powerful tool for contextual learning of professional
issues. These are real-life stories with characters, a setting, a plot with a struggle, and an
outcome; and when presented in story form, students are immersed briefly into a chain
of unfolding events with an underlying professional context. Weaving factual
information into an emotional story has been shown to develop better comprehension
and long-term memorization [Abrahamson, 1998; Haven, 2007]. In addition, a deeper
emotional connection is made allowing the students to personally experience and
internalize engineering judgment dilemmas and ethical decisions. This is very difficult to
achieve in the classroom through any other method of instruction.
When case study events are presented in chronological order with a surprise ending,
teaching tends to take an inductive approach rather than a traditional deductive style.
Instead of first describing how mistakes were made along the way in the Hyatt disaster,
an inductive approach reveals the disaster and then encourages the students to determine
the cause by sifting through the facts. In general, the inductive approach first gives
students the reason why they need to learn the material and then challenges them to
make logical sense of a complex problem. This problem-solving skill is imperative to the
success of life-long learning. The inductive approach to student learning is supported by
the best research on learning currently available (Prince, 2006).
Another powerful teaching technique well-suited for the Hyatt Regency case study is the
use of project-based active learning strategies. This is a dynamic approach to teaching
with a high level of student engagement and participation. Research indicates that
students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach than
through traditional lecture-centered or textbook-centered learning. In addition,
students develop confidence and self-direction as they move through both teambased and independent work. There are various approaches to implementing active
learning strategies in conjunction with inductive learning and storytelling, and a few
approaches considered by the authors will now be discussed.
Various approaches are available to introduce case studies to students. One author’s
approach to introducing the Hyatt Regency case study lesson involves only one or
two days of class time. The students are first introduced to a “hypothetical” hotel
project as an in-class exercise where the instructor challenges them to develop
engineering ideas to span elevated walkways across a 120-ft wide atrium space.
Students break into small groups and develop schematic design solutions for two
stacked, visually floating, walkways across the atrium space. During the exercise, the
instructor plays the role of the architect guiding and challenging students to make the
walkways thin and visually floating. This is an excellent time to provide an overview
of the entire design process from the developer’s original concept to the completed
construction drawings as the students experience a portion of this process.
Additionally, the professional roles and responsibilities of the developer, architect
and structural engineer are discussed in this context.
At the conclusion of the groups’ schematic design exercise, the instructor compares
and contrasts the different approaches developed. While some design solution
differences may simply be a matter of different perspectives, other differences could
be attributed to intentionally ambiguous communications from the instructor. An
important lesson in clear communications and the pitfalls of inappropriate
assumptions can be taught here, foreshadowing later parts of the case study.
It is at this point that the instructor explains that this exercise is actually based on a
real design problem, and then unveils the as-designed solution with three pairs of
continuous suspended rods supporting both stacked walkways. Once it is revealed
that this is a real project, the instructor can engage the students further using the
actual setting and participants’ names to begin to tell the story. The as-designed
solution is discussed in general and contrasted with the student designs, and it is of
some benefit to encourage the students to mentally adopt the as-design solution as
reasonably appropriate.
Using the power of storytelling the instructor can slowly unveil the story with plot
twists and emotional surprises providing drama, but importantly allowing the
instructor to control the student’s experience and to introduce key points in
communication failures, ethical dilemmas, professional roles and responsibilities.
The revelation that the adopted design detail led to 114 deaths provides an emotional
attachment as the students search for causes. The process provides students with a
self-motivated inductive learning approach.
Similar to an actual investigation, the instructor slowly reveals more information
being learned of the collapse. Using an important active learning approach, students
are periodically polled with a show of hands or electronic clickers to observe opinion
shift as to perceived fault. Using the following hypothetical series of discoveries, the
instructor gradually introduces many professional issues while students critically
think of responsibilities and ethical challenges:
Investigation discovery #1: The hanger rods pulled through the inadequately
designed box beam flanges.
Teachable moment: Basic technical design concepts may be introduced.
Graphic communication methods of drawings and details are introduced.
Students’ general opinion: The structural engineer is at fault.
Investigation discovery #2: The steel fabricator revised the single continuous
rod design to a design using two separate rods, thus doubling the load on the
failed box beam connection.
Teachable moment: The roles and responsibilities of the engineer and
fabricator are compared and contrasted.
Students’ general opinion: Fault has shifted towards the steel fabricator.
Investigation discovery #3: The steel fabricator explains that the single rod
design is impractical to build, as it requires a fully threaded rod design and
mid-length nut assembly.
Teachable moment: The issue of constructability is introduced and whose
responsibility it is.
Students’ general opinion: Class split between the engineer and fabricator as
to fault.
Investigation discovery #4: The steel fabricator’s shop drawings indicate the
revised connection was communicated to the engineer who reviewed it and
stamped his approval.
Teachable moment: Introduction of the purpose of steel shop drawings, with
roles and responsibilities of the involved disciplines.
Students’ general opinion: Fault has shifted back to the structural engineer.
Investigation discovery #5: The engineer says he doesn’t “approve” shop
drawings but only provides a cursory review as indicated on the stamp.
Teachable moment: Ambiguous communications of responsibility and
expectations are a major factor in this disaster. Additionally, the introduction
of fast-track projects and this delivery mode’s rushed nature are discussed.
Students’ general opinion: Class becomes split as to fault assignment.
Investigation discovery #6: The steel fabricator’s detailer and the architect
testify that they had undocumented phone calls with the engineer regarding
the connection revision, and that they were assured by the engineer that it
was safe. Engineer admits to some of the phone calls, but denies assuming
responsibility for the connection.
Teachable moment: Communications need to be clear and documented to
avoid ambiguity and accountability.
Students’ general opinion: Fault shifts more towards the engineer again.
Investigation discovery #7: During construction, a 2700 square foot portion
of the atrium collapsed due to a poor connection, alarming the owner. The
engineer assured the owner that every atrium detail would be checked for
safety. Despite being compensated for checking the atrium again and writing
a letter to the architect assuring safety of the suspended walkways, a review
commission determined that engineering calculations of the box-beam and
connection were never made.
Teachable moment: Ethical behavior serves an important purpose.
Students’ general opinion: The engineer is at fault.
Additional hypothetical scenarios for discussion:
What if the steel fabricator dumped over 500 pages of shop drawings on the
engineer for immediate review?
What if it was standard practice for the steel fabricator to complete the design
of typical connections?
What if the engineer strongly suggested to the architect it would be safer to
support the walkways with columns instead of suspended rods?
As this case study is presented with unfolding drama, students are immersed into
different situations that challenge their perceptions and attitudes. This experiential
approach can instill professional ethics very successfully, and gives the students the
practice of making difficult judgments before beginning their careers. With both
intellectual and emotional engagement, students are in a valuable learning
environment to introduce ASCE’s and NSPE’s Code of Ethics and to introduce other
professional learning outcomes in communications, interdisciplinary teamwork, roles
and responsibilities, and leadership.
Student response to the introduction of case studies has been overwhelmingly
positive. During the exercises and discussions, student engagement is very apparent
with insightful questions and full attention throughout the classroom.
Another instructor takes a different approach using the Hyatt walkway collapse
within a professional issues module that is a part of a broad quarter-long design
problem. The objectives of the module are to discuss an engineer’s professional
responsibilities and the relationship of these responsibilities to society; to discuss
various engineering ethics codes; to identify the need for an ethics code; to
emphasize the importance of communication – both written and verbal; and, within a
setting – the Hyatt walkway collapse – identify ethical concerns, describe what
action should be taken and discuss the ethical basis for these actions. The case works
well within the context of a design project wherein the students are progressing from
conceptual design through final design and developing a calculation package and set
of construction documents. The lessons require limited class time but make use of
asynchronous discussions conducted through a website.
The instructor begins the module by conducting an assessment of the students’
understanding of what distinguishes engineering as a profession, what is an
engineer’s responsibility and to whom is an engineer responsible; and what if any is
the distinction between professional ethics and personal ethics? The instructor then
begins a discussion of the assessment topics along with an introduction to the steps
to licensure as a professional engineer and structural engineer, the latter of which
always elicits much student inquiry. The responsibility of engineers to the society as
well as the public trust placed in the profession to establish standards of conduct and
to enforce those standards highlights the importance of professional ethical tenets
beyond personal opinions. The ASCE and NSPE codes of ethics are introduced along
with some history of their development. A brief PowerPoint presentation is used to
open the story of the Hyatt Regency design and construction – a project much larger
but similar to the one they are undertaking. The context of practice in the 1980s is
presented; the roles of individuals are described. The story is set in motion. The
walkway collapse is not yet discussed.
The students are then divided into four teams; each team is assigned four technical
papers (Gillum, 2000; Luth, 2000; Moncarz, 2000; Pfatteicher, 2000) for reading and
discussion within their teams. Each team is given a list of questions for discussion
on the technical / human / organizational / socio-cultural aspects of the case. Sample
questions from each of these four areas follow:
Technical: Describe the features of the critical detail that failed in the
walkway collapse.
Human factors: As an entry level engineer what steps will you take when
new situations arise in a design project that you have not faced before? How
will you convey your knowledge and understanding and what you don’t yet
Organizational: What is the responsibility of the Engineer of record?
Socio-cultural: What do you believe should be the responsibility of building
departments for projects such as the Hyatt Regency Hotel? How can building
departments provide the level of review appropriate for such a project?
The students are also required to submit a question that they think should be
answered regarding each aspect of the case.
Over a period of approximately two weeks the students answer the questions and
undertake an asynchronous discussion with one another in the four areas via an
electronic discussion board. During this period they are engaged in the structural
detailing of a multi-story building in the classroom. The final task of the assignment
is to compile a summary presentation of the team’s perspective of what can be
learned from these events. A post assessment on professional ethics follows
sometime later in the term.
Student responses in the asynchronous discussion for each aspect of the case are
evaluated based on their depth of inquiry and reflection of the reading. A team score
is assigned. Some responses provided by students to posed questions include:
“[in new modes of delivery and contractual arrangements] early delineation
of responsibilities should stimulate cooperation and communication.”
“One thing that [is mentioned] that I have not considered is being open to
everyone and letting them know that you are not completely familiar with the
problem, this can help with avoiding any mishaps and it also reaffirms the
team aspect of a project.”
“…this situation shows that more structured communication between parties
was necessary to avoid problems.”
Suggested questions by students include:
“How can the lack of communication and ineffective collaboration between
the design and construction professionals that characterized this project be
prevented in the future?”
“…about having an onsite engineer…what should an onsite engineer be
looking for and checking during construction?”
The concluding student PowerPoint presentation and final professional engineering
ethics quiz administered following the case study module indicate that students
develop a keen awareness of the responsibilities embodied in engineering practice.
Future assessments will include a student survey evaluating the contribution of case
studies to both technical and ethics learning. The survey was developed by faculty at
Cleveland State University for evaluating individual course learning with respect to
ABET’s a-k criteria as well as the impact of case studies, along with other course
elements, in contributing to student interest in the course material.
The two presented approaches are those most familiar to the authors. A myriad of
other approaches are possible to achieve the similar learning objectives. The use of
active learning strategies enhances student engagement and material retention, and
should be strongly considered. Another such approach with strong potential is to
have each student assume the role of a Kansas City Star newspaper reporter and
write an article with the intended audience being the general public. This exercise
challenges students to research complex events and then disseminate them into basic
concepts and translate technical terminology into lay terms. Student then exchange
the proposed articles with each other and then take on the role of newspaper editor
for a peer review. To enhance the active learning and engagement, the articles are
formatted similar to newspaper with multiple column formatting, headline,
photograph, several figures, and notable quotes. With a restrictive word count it will
be impossible for students to have a comprehensive discussion; thus students are
challenged to prioritize the relevant information from the public’s perspective, and to
be as succinct as possible.
A similar role playing approach places the students into the uncomfortable position
of representing Hyatt Hotels. In this exercise, students assume the role of Hyatt’s
public relations officer who must write a letter to the disaster survivors explaining
what was determined to be the cause of the collapse. This style of letter will be quite
different than a newspaper article in its demeanor. The use of analogies is strongly
encouraged to help relate the mechanics of the collapse with everyday concepts the
intended audience is familiar with. Another important aspect of this exercise is
students’ selection of language and disposition when communicating with survivors
who are still healing physically and mentally from their experience. Students are
challenged to be transparent and open, yet to experience the underlying fear of a
disgraced corporate image and potential liability. These are real professional
conflicts that occur in an engineering office, and the ethical implications of different
courses of action can be discussed.
Another approach which has been shown to be very successful is the implementation
of a mock trial or public inquiry (Jennings, 2000). Students form teams to research
the disaster, form opinions, and then support or even argue their findings to the rest
of the class. This student-based learning approach encourages students to be
inquisitive about the roles, responsibilities, and priorities of the engineering
profession. In addition, student-based learning as opposed to teacher-imparted
learning fosters student self-discovery, an important trait for lifelong learning. These
outcomes are core professional issues desired by ASCE’s Body of Knowledge and
ABET. An additional benefit of this approach is that student-based learning has less
reliance on the instructor’s practical experience, thus making this case study
approach more acceptable to the entire faculty. Detailed descriptions of the events
from various perspectives are widely available for students to draw upon, especially
five articles published in the Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities
(Gillum, 2000; Luth, 2000; Moncarz, 2000; Pfatteicher, 2000; Rubin, 1987).
Using approaches that involve teamwork, communications within a group,
communications to lay people, and self-directed discovery creates an experiential
learning environment that is similar to the engineer’s practice environment. These
approaches not only allow students to experience some of the professional issues in a
design office, but also allow students to possibly connect with how these
professional issues affected the initiation of the Hyatt Regency disaster.
Traditional classroom assignments involve a hypothetical situation with a single
solution or obvious best answer. The engineering profession is far more complex
with competing priorities, numerous uncertainties, and several feasible solutions, all
subjected to various human factors such as communication, risk adversity, and our
ability to work with others constructively. The vision of the future engineer has
embraced the need to educate towards these professional issues for the benefit of the
profession and society.
Using case studies, active learning techniques, and student-based approaches are
powerful tools educators use to engage students and introduce professional issues.
The Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse is well suited to assist educators towards the
outcomes desired for the future engineer. Whether the instructor has practitioner
experience or is more comfortable in academia, different approaches are available to
match the instructor’s level of involvement and past experiences.
It is especially rewarding as instructors to witness increased levels of student
engagement and excitement while students learn an important chapter of our
profession’s past and interlacing the more mundane professional issues into the
subject matter. Others are encouraged to find other significant events and engaging
teaching approaches to reach the same outcomes.
ABET (2010). Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs, Engineering
Accreditation Commission, ABET, Inc., 111 Market Place, Suite 1050,
Baltimore, MD 21202, http://www.abet.org/.
Abrahamson, C. (1998). “Storytelling as a Pedagogical Tool in Higher Education,”
Education, Vol. 118.
ASCE Body of Knowledge Committee. (2008). Civil Engineering Body of
Knowledge for the 21st Century: Preparing the Civil Engineer for the Future,
2nd Edition, Reston, VA; http://www.asce.org/raisethebar.
Banset, E. and Parsons, G. (1989). “Communications Failure in Hyatt Regency
Disaster,” Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering, Vol. 115, No. 3.
ASCE, Reston, VA.
Deutsch, J. (1985). “Report of the Administrative Hearing Commission, State of
Missouri.” Case No. AR-84-0239, Missouri Board of Architects, Professional
Engineers, and Land Surveyors vs. Daniel M. Duncan, Jack D. Gillum, and
G.C.E. Int., Inc., Jefferson City, Mo.
Gillum, J. (2000). “The Engineer of Record and Design Responsibility,” Journal of
Performance of Constructed Facilities, Vol. 14, No. 2. ASCE, Reston, VA.
Haven, K. (2007). Story Proof: The Science behind the Startling Power of Story,
Libraries Unlimited, Westport, CT.
Jennings, A. and Mackinnon, P. (2000). “Case for Undergraduate Study of
Disasters,” Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, Vol. 14, No. 1.
ASCE, Reston, VA.
Luth, G. (2000). “Chronology and Context of the Hyatt Regency Collapse,” Journal
of Performance of Constructed Facilities, Vol. 14, No. 2. ASCE, Reston, VA.
Moncarz, P. and Taylor, R. (2000). “Engineering Process Failure – Hyatt Walkway
Collapse,” Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, Vol. 14, No. 2.
ASCE, Reston, VA.
National Academy of Engineering. (2005). Educating the Engineer of 2020:
Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century, National Academies of
Sciences, Washington, DC.
Pfatteicher, S. (2000). “’The Hyatt Horror’: Failure and Responsibility in American
Engineering,” Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, Vol. 14, No.
2. ASCE, Reston, VA.
Prince, M. J., and Felder, R. M., 2006. “Inductive Teaching and Learning Methods:
Definitions, Comparisons, and Research Bases,” Journal of Engineering
Education, Vol. 95.
Rubin, R. and Banick, L. (1987). “The Hyatt Regency Decision: One View,” Journal
of Performance of Constructed Facilities, Vol. 1, No. 3. ASCE, Reston, VA.
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Hyatt Regency
Walkway Collapse
Isabela Novaes, Kassidy Rehm, Ash Bista, Hamza Sadiq
Ethics in Engineering
• Hold paramount the safety, health , and welfare of the public.
• Perform services only in the area of their competence.
• Release public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
• Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
• Avoid deceptive acts.
• Conduct themselves honorably.
Building the Hyatt Regency
Construction began in May of 1978 in Kansas City
The engineers and contractors on the project
G.C.E. International Inc. – Jack D. Gillum, Daniel M. Dunkin
Eldridge Construction Company
Haven Steel Company
40 stories tall
Main focus point of the hotel was the atrium
featured 3 walkways suspended from the ceiling
Construction finished in July of 1980
Atrium Ceiling Collapse
• Occurred in 1979, a year after
construction began
• Hotel owner hired Seiden-Page, an
engineering firm, to investigate
• Failure in one of the connections on the
north end
The Walkways
• Each approximately 120 feet long and 64,000 lbs in
• Made of steel, glass and concrete
• Connected the north and south wings of the hotel on
floors 2, 3 and 4
Second floor walkway – most easily accessible to atrium
main floor.
Third floor walkway – led to the hotel ballroom.
Fourth floor – walkway was least accessible and carried
less traffic compared to the other two.
Walkway Design Changes
• Hanger rod design was changed
• Went from a one-rod system to a tworod system
• Design was changed to simplify the
assembly task
• Doubled the load on the connector
• Each rod was supposed to support
90kN of load, change caused them to
each support 180kN of load
Original Design
Changed Design
The Collapse
• Due to excessive load, the fourth floor
walkway collapsed and fell onto the
second floor walkway
• Both walkways then fell onto the lobby
severed the hotel’s sprinkler system and
flooded the lobby
• Killed 114 people
• Injured over 200 people
• Wayne G. Lischka, an architectural engineer, was hired by The Kansas City
Star newspaper to investigate the collapse
• Discovered the change in design that caused the failure to happen
What Caused Them to Collapse?
• Walkways suspended from a set of steel tie rods
• Fourth floor walkway platform was supported by 3 crossbeams
box girders – enclosed tubes with multiple walls made from C-channel
• Design only supported 60% of minimum load required by
Kansas City building codes
What Caused Them to Collapse? (cont.)
• Haven Steel Company opposed Jack D. Gillum’s
original design for the cross-beams
required the whole rod to be screw threaded in order to hold
the fourth floor walkway in place
Haven Steel thought the threads would be damaged when put
in place
• Haven Steel proposed the change from one-rod to
• This change forced the fourth floor walkway to
support the weight of the second floor walkway
What Caused Them to Collapse? (cont.)
• G.C.E.’s design stated that flange beams were to be used along the walkways’
sides and hung from a box beam for better support
One end of the walkways were designed as a sliding bearing – a roller
Other end of the walkways were supposed to be welded to a fixed plate – a pin
• The fixed plate end was changed to be a hinge
• Change would not have mattered if it was still a single rod system
after becoming a two-rod system, hanger rods carried more load
• Haven’s change to design, that was then approved by G.C.E., ultimately
caused the walkways to collapse
Engineers Aftermath
• February 1984, the Missouri board of architects, professional engineers, and
land surveyors filed a complaint against Daniel M. Dunkin, Jack D. Gillum and
G.C.E. International Inc.
• Found guilty of:
gross negligence
unprofessional conduct
• Gillum and Dunkin lost their engineering licenses in the state of Missouri
• G.C.E. lost its certificate of authority as an engineering firm
Change in Codes
• American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) changed a code to state that the
responsibility of the design lies with the engineer’s seal
the engineer that places the seal of approval upon the set plans carries the responsibility for
the building and its outcome
The Hyatt Regency Today
• Now called the Sheraton Kansas City
• Renovated numerous time, thought the lobby
still remains the same layout
• Lobby reconstructed
one walkway on the second floor
supported by several columns underneath, rather than
suspended from the ceiling
• Plans for a memorial in Kansas City
July 17th, 2015, exactly 34 years after the collapse,
ground was broken

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