The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 13:16

10 Dead in South Korean Auditorium Collapse

Ten people died and over 100 were injured on Monday night when the roof of the auditorium building at the Mauna Ocean Resort in Gyeongju, South Korea collapsed. Nine of the ten fatalities were students, and the other was a worker for the company organizing the school event. Officials believe the heavy snowfall in the area likely caused the roof to collapse, but a full investigation has been ordered.

Texas Central Railway President Robert Eckels discussed some of the preliminary details for a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston last week. The high-speed passenger rail system would take 90 minutes to go from one end of the line to the other, saving passengers around two hours compared to driving between the two cities. Texas Central Railway is a private consortium that is promoting the project. Unlike many other high-speed rail projects across the country, the project in Texas would not receive any federal or state money to build the project. This includes not being eligible for the part of the $8 billion federal grant created in 2009 to promote high-speed rail in the country. The Texas DOT received part of that funding when the grant was created. The project will cost roughly $10 billion, and it will be financed through private funding.

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Developer Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group submitted a plan on Wednesday to fix the “Death Ray” coming from sunlight bouncing off the Walkie Talkie building. The 160-meter, 34-story office building located at 20 Fenchurch Street in London is currently under construction. Last fall, the skyscraper briefly became a tourist destination due to the car-melting light beam cast by the tower. The beam reached temperatures as high as 110 degrees Celsius in September, and it melted parts of parked cars and even set fire to a doormat at a barbershop. Temporary scaffolding was erected across the street to prevent the sun’s rays from causing damage to nearby buildings and pedestrians, and all parking spots were fenced off so no other cars would be melted.

Plans were revealed today for a new 209-meter, 52-storey skyscraper in Auckland, New Zealand. The tower will be referred to as the NDG Auckland Centre, named after the New Development Group owned by Shanghai businessman Nuru Ding. Once finished, the NDG Auckland Centre will be the largest building in New Zealand and the second tallest structure in the country behind the Sky Tower. The $350 million skyscraper will feature residential space, a hotel, shopping centre, restaurants, cinema, and sky decks. Auckland residents will also look forward to using the building’s 6-storey underground parking structure.

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The owner of Rhode Island’s tallest building renewed his effort on Monday to gain support for a public private partnership that would convert the vacant office building into apartments. 111 Westminster Street, formerly the Bank of America Building and commonly referred to as the Superman Building, has been empty since Bank of America removed the last of its employees from the building on April 7, 2013. High Rock Development bought the building for $33.2 million in 2008, and they invested an additional $6 million into the building. This investment quickly began to lose money due to the real estate market meltdown, and the company had to write off $24 million of its own investment.

Irish Developer Garrett Kelleher announced on Thursday that he has found an investor willing to pay his company’s creditors.  He hopes that this news will allow construction to resume in the near future on the Chicago Spire. The Chicago Spire project began in 2005, and the tower’s design would make it the largest building in the western hemisphere once completed. The 2,000-foot, 150-floor skyscraper was planned to include 1,193 luxury condominiums. The building was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and was developed by Garrett Kelleher’s company Shelbourne Development Group, Inc. The project’s primary lender faced financial problems in 2008 caused by the United State’s recession and housing market meltdown, and construction was suspended on the site. Since 2008, Shelbourne Development has continued to try to find financing for the project, but legal actions taken by Anglo Irish Bank caused the Spire project to be handed over to a receiver. The 76-foot by 110-foot hole in the ground along Lake Michigan where the Spire was supposed to be built has not been touched in the last six years.

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Negotiations relating to a financial dispute on the Panama Canal Expansion project between the European building consortium GUPC, or Group United for the Canal, and the Panama Canal Authority, a government agency, broke down on Tuesday.  While it is unclear if work has completely stopped on the project, it is confirmed that the GUPC has reduced their work by at least 75 percent from when the consortium was working at full capacity.  Any delays to the expansion project will have far reaching economic impacts, particularly for ports on the Atlantic Ocean.  Many U.S. cities have already invested millions of dollars to increase the size of their docks in order to handle the larger ships passing through the expanded canal.  Liquefied natural gas producers from the Gulf of Mexico who are shipping their product to Asian markets must still travel around South America at Cape Horn, a two-week delay compared to crossing the Panama Canal.  Also, Panama will be able to increase its annual toll revenue from the canal from $1 billion to $4 billion once the project is finished.