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From Ed Craig www.weldreality.com
The North ridge earth quake weld story.
Buildings - Earthquakes - Human Tragedy and
those infamous Self Shielded Flux
This story has it all. Lincoln
Electric a Cleveland based major weld equipment and consumable manufacture has
major weld product problem in a severe earth quake. The selection by California
engineers of unsuitable
weld consumables for constuction project. Cleveland
voters sending donations to California politicians.
Tax payers stuck with the bills. Lobbyist,
Lincoln and FEMA connections. A generous grant of millions to a company
that did not ask for it. The possibility of future buildings designed to with
stand an earth quake waiting to collapse and let's not forget, lives that were
lost and lives that may be lost in the next L.A earthquake.
If this was a movie I would call it "
greatest weld Story Ever" Told or "The
Fox who was asked to guard the Hen House"
Who'll pay for L.A.'s shaky skyscrapers?
by Greg Brouwer. 1999 LA Weekly News.
the Northridge quake awakened Los Angeles on January 17, 1994, it was considered
at 6.7 magnitude a relatively moderate shudder. However, because of its location,
it was the first true seismic test for many of L.A.'s 1,500 steel-frame buildings.
At first glance, most edifices seemed to fare well, but a disturbing trend soon
surfaced: Many of the interior beam-to-column connections had cracked, in some
cases splitting all the way through. The problem first came to light in structures
still under construction, like the Getty Center, which was then just completing
steel framing. Engineers there found a series of cracked connections and decided
to replace all of its original welds. Owners of completed steel-frame buildings
thus learned of the threat, but determining the status of their own welds would
require breaking through plaster or concrete just to get a look. Still, the damage
had been done - the long-standing myth of the seismic invincibility of steel has
been questioned ever since.
after Northridge, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) joined several
independent firms in conducting tests on the flawed connections. The examinations
eventually determined, among other things, that the weld
metal was too brittle to withstand severe seismic activity. By the end
of 1994, the city of L.A. Issued construction guidelines that effectively banned
the use of this electrode product, called a self shielded flux cored wire E70T-4.
Now in 1999, five years after the realization of this
fundamental engineering flaw, even as geologists discover new, potentially catastrophic
fault lines under the city, a rather ominous question remains: What
about those Lincoln self shielded flux cored welds? Nearly all of L.A.'s
steel-frame buildings constructed prior to Northridge were built with the weak
welded connections. Shouldn't they be repaired?
Some say that the Cleveland-based Lincoln Electric Co, which produced
and supplied the self shielded E70T-4 weld wires to L.A. Contractors and builders
over the past 30 years, should be held responsible for the questionable welds
and poor choice of weld consumables. Executives at Lincoln have another idea.
Over the past two years, Lincoln
has spent more than $1 million on a quiet, sophisticated lobbying campaign designed
to press the federal government to step in and pay the enormous cost involved
in retrofitting thousands of welded steel connections in hundreds of buildings
across L.A. - and thousands more throughout the quake-prone West.
Lincoln has campaigned in part on its own, but also in connection
with Cassidy & Associates, a high-priced Washington lobbying firm. Through
the attorneys at Cassidy, in turn, Lincoln launched something called the "Seismic
Safety Coalition," (SSC) which purports to be "a broad-based, nonpartisan
organization" and a "national coalition," but
in fact claims a single dues-paying member - Lincoln Electric.
The "chair" of the SSC commission is
Leon Panetta, former congressman from California, former chief of staff
at the Clinton White House and longtime associate of FEMA
director James Lee Witt. In his capacity as SSC chair, Panetta has
registered for the first time as a congressional lobbyist.
As described in it's mission statement, the Seismic Safety
Coalition sounds innocuous enough. It seeks to "improve public health and
safety by encouraging more vigorous pre-disaster hazard-mitigation efforts with
respect to earthquakes." But then comes the punch line: "Specifically,
we want to see new developments in earthquake-resistant design and construction
practices incorporated in a responsible and effective retrofitting program"
with the federal government
picking up the tab. Government
commitment to such a policy could save Lincoln millions of dollars in liability
for its welds in Southern California alone.
Just how Lincoln's coalition has gone about pressing its agenda
remains unclear - officials at both Lincoln and Cassidy refused to discuss the
group, and a half-dozen calls to Panetta were not returned. But one apparent path
of action can be discerned in a new federally funded retrofit project in San Bernardino
County. In December of last year, engineering specialists at Cal State San Bernardino
were informed by the office of Jerry Lewis, the San Bernardino congressman, that
they were the lucky recipients of a $5
million federal grant, to be used for "a pilot
project of seismic- retrofit technology." And
while the university had not asked for the grant, they were
told during an informal meeting with FEMA and a Lewis aide that the money would
be used to demonstrate the financial and technological feasibility
of retrofitting a steel-frame building constructed with Lincoln's E70T-4 weld
Lewis, probably the most powerful member of Congress you've
never heard of, sat last year as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee,
which decides how to split up the federal pork pie. Lewis also just happens to
be from a seismically vulnerable district and was heavily lobbied for FEMA appropriations
by the Seismic Safety Coalition. To
complete the circle in San Bernardino, two members from the coalition - one representative
each from Lincoln and Cassidy - joined the FEMA crew
that met with Cal State officials to lay out the details of the unprecedented
$5 million grant.
Notes from Ed.
The Lincoln E70T-4 was touted as being a very high weld deposition rate weld wire
and therefore that was a key justification for it's use. Keep in mind may of these
steel joints were in the past welded with SMAW (stick) electrodes that typically
provided approx. 2 to 3 lbs/hr. The change to the ultra high 70T-4 wires that
enabled mechanized welds of > 20 lbs an hour looks great on paper till you
examine the weld quality differences between the stick electrodes and those 70T-4
Its not mentioned
in this report if these wires were used "manually" or were all the welds
automated. Its also not mentioned were these wire used for vertical up and manual
welds in the field.
The 70T-4 wires are designed to run hot in the flat
and horizontal positions. When manual welding extra high weld deposition rates
would push the manual welder's speeds to levels that would cause weld issues and
lack of weld fusion. Keeping in mind also the issues that would result from manual
welding idiosyncrasy from one welder to another.
If the E70T-4 was used
indoors and soley used with mechanized equipment, it's unbelievable that the fabricators
of the structures did not use submerged arc or gas shielded flux cored wires.
Both of these processes provide high deposition rates with weld quality that would
have easily have surpassed the seismic requirements.
these wires were used in the field construction there would have been no logic
in there selection as these wires are not all position wires and these wires can
not deliver welds that would pass minimal impact requirements.
When the wires were used at high deposition rates with mechanized equipment, keep
in mind the high currents used, along with the large weld passes, possible multipass
welds, and the likely chance that no inter- pass weld temperatures were used can
result in excess weld heat and extended grain growth in the welds heat affected
zones. The poor mechanical property welds and weak areas along side the welds
is going to affected the steels mechanical capability in seismic activity.
any critical weld application a logical, knowledgeable weld engineer would stress
a conservative to moderate weld settings for the pre-qualified, weld data that
takes into consideration the weld property requirements, the application requirements
and the weld skills and variables derived from a large and often poorly trained
weld work force.
Hall, an engineering professor at Caltech, was one of the first people hired by
FEMA to determine why the pre-Northridge connections were cracking. In a lecture
later published under the title "Tall Buildings, Bad Welds, Large Earthquakes
- Big Problems," Hall explains that engineers had been designing buildings
in L.A. on the assumption that, in the event of an earthquake, the
building joints would reach an elastic limit, then yield "like chewing gum."
What happened with E70T- 4, Hall points
out, is that "many welds failed well within their elastic
self shielded weld joints didn't bend; they simply broke".
Soon after Hall's study, FEMA committed $11 million to
a joint venture called SAC, with the sole purpose of establishing the cause of
- and cure for - the defective pre-Northridge welded connections. Robin Shepherd,
an engineer with 30 years of earthquake-damage analysis under his belt, is one
of six members on SAC's Management Committee. In a 1996 SAC analysis, Shepherd
wrote that the damage sustained by buildings constructed under the pre-Northridge
that collapse of similar structures may very well occur in future larger, but
realistically probable, seismic events."
In December 1994, the L.A. Department of Building and Safety
issued repair guidelines that effectively banned the Lincoln E70T-4 weld wires
by requiring a weld filler metal with a higher "notch-toughness." Two
years later, the county followed suit. But while the city has required owners
of damaged buildings to make repairs, the undamaged connections - the un-cracked
E70T-4 welds in L.A. - remain untouched. "The city does not have a
retrofit ordinance," says Richard Holguin, L.A.'s building chief. "There
is no plan to modify the existing connections."
Replacing the undamaged but potentially catastrophic
pre-Northridge connections is a responsibility that no one is willing to accept.
With roughly 1,500 steel-frame buildings in question,
a five-story structure may have 300 welds, and fixing each connection can cost
between $10,000 and $50,000. That's a lot of welds and a great deal of responsibility.
Lincoln Electric, Leon Panetta and the Seismic Safety Coalition. If Panetta and
the coalition can convince Congress and FEMA to undertake steel retrofitting as
a matter of public policy, then Lincoln
will have escaped the question of who should answer for the looming
liability encased in L.A.'s steel-framed structures.
Panetta registered with the House of Representatives
on March 20, 1998, as a lobbyist for the coalition; his filing states that he
was hired by Powell Tate, a public-relations subsidiary to the D.C. lobbying powerhouse
Cassidy & Associates. While Panetta and Cassidy refused to discuss the Seismic
Safety Coalition, both selections speak volumes about what Lincoln is hoping to
a political insider who once headed the Office of Management and Budget, combines
consummate understanding of the budgetary process with excellent contacts throughout
official Washington. As regards Lincoln, Panetta's single
most important contact is his unique friendship with FEMA director and longtime
Clinton tagalong James Lee Witt. Or as Panetta himself put it in an interview
last year with the Washington-based Legal Times, "The fact that Witt knows
who I am and what I've done is part of the reason they brought me on." Witt,
in turn, has established himself as a key player in the Clinton White House. He
came with Clinton from Arkansas, and he has transformed FEMA into what many people
consider the president's greatest political asset. Indeed, FEMA's relief effort
following the Northridge quake represents $13 billion - more than half the emergency
funds distributed since Clinton took office. But the tour de force of FEMA's response
to Los Angeles came in the form of $126 million to repair and retrofit City Hall.
Witt and Panetta joined with Mayor Richard Riordan to share in a conference call
announcing the good news. Like Panetta, Witt repeatedly failed to return calls
requesting comment for this story.
point man in the effort to secure government cooperation is their top welding
engineer, Duane K. Miller. Mr. Miller has been attempting
to polish the image of the E70T-4 wire since the first cracks were discovered
after Northridge, lobbying local and state officials, as seen in an internal
memo written several months before the city's ban on E70T-4 and published
by the L.A. Times.
"The fact that self-shielded
flux-cored electrodes [E70T-4] have not been banned is evidence that we are on
the right path," Miller wrote. "Had we not been present, I am confident
that this is one of the actions that would have been taken".
Note from Ed.
in the weld industry is aware of why we don't weld steel to aluminum. There were
numerous engineers and metallurgists available in North America that could look
at the Lincoln steel wire chemistry composition for the E70T- 4 wire and the first
thing they would note in contrast to traditional steel welding consumables, is
the high amount of "aluminum" in the E70T-
With the unusual aluminum content in the E70T- 4 wire and the
fact that no impact properties were required in the AWS wire designation for this
weld wire were a clear message to the weld wires application capability. Also
keep in mind that weld wires like this are notorious for for slag entrapment another
reason not to utilize on welds subject to seismic activity.
it, most junior weld technicians could have figured out this weld wire was not
suited for a seismic structural application.
The weld techs would then have figured out on multi-pass welds that the aluminum
and other alloy contents and slag entrapment that did not allow the weld wire
to be used on impact variable load weld applications, that the aluminum would
increase with each weld layer and the resulting multi-pass welds would result
with very poor weld mechanicals.
these wires did what Lincoln said they could do, every pipe line and ship yard
would be using them, the fact that the ship building industry and pipe and pressure
vessel shops stay clear of these product should have been and indication of their
Ship yards and pipe lines utilize gas shielded
flux cored weld wire that do provide optimum all position weld capability and
at weld deposition rates as high as 600 - 800% than the conventional SMAW (stick)
electrodes used in the construction industry. For those who state these wires
are not suited to welding out doors, I would suggest they spend a day in a ship
Mr. Miller from Lincoln also sits on
FEMA's SAC Project Oversight Committee. Ron Hamburger, chairman of SAC's
Guideline Committee, says Miller's "primary role is
to provide expert independent advice to our client,
FEMA, in other words, one of Lincoln's top men has
the authority to determine whether or not the Lincoln's weld consumable being
investigated by the federal government is an appropriate choice.
Note from Ed.
Expert Advice from a slightly biased point of view.
might call this "FEMA asks the fox how it would guard the chicken coop"
Then ask the fox to write the specification for the
on how to keep the chickens in the coop.
building chief Holguin, who is also on the SAC Project Oversight Committee, claims
Miller is a natural choice for the committee because he is knowledgeable about
Lincoln's product. However, Holguin concedes, "Let's put it this way - all
the committee members bring their own biases to the table."
note: Holguin I hope speaks for himself. In my simple world,
only an unethical politician or person would bring a bias point of view to a technical
committee that will make decisions that impact life and death. By the way I can
name dozens of people in this country who are more experienced and less biased
on the subject of flux cored welds than Mr. Miller.
Several of Miller's industry associates on the SAC project have
heard of Lincoln's Seismic Safety Coalition and are aware of Miller's involvement,
but very few have a clear idea of what the organization is up to. In fact, Alan
Goldstein, president of the Structural Engineers Association of California, one
of the three organizations that compose the SAC venture, had
never even heard of the Seismic
Safety Coalition. Hamburger is likewise in the dark. "I'm not
aware of any members of the organization," he says. "But its purpose
was to attempt to get some funding from various government sources to show that
it would be possible to upgrade existing buildings."
apparent political success for the Seismic Safety Coalition came at the end of
last year when Congressman Lewis' Appropriations Committee earmarked $40
million for three separate FEMA projects in his home district.
million of those dollars will be used to demonstrate the financial
and technical feasibility of retrofitting a pre-Northridge- designed steel-frame
building, chock full o' E70T- 4, on the Cal State campus. These
grants, which were transferred to the state about three weeks ago, are unusual
in that none of the recipients ever filed a formal application.
"This is a fairly rare earmark," says David Sandretti,
communications director for Barbara Boxer, who last year sat on the appropriations
subcommittee that oversees FEMA. "Generally speaking, hazard-mitigation earmarks
are not as specific as outlined in these appropriations," he says.
Besides Lewis' obvious devotion to the safety of his constituents,
another factor in this generous, and unexpected, appropriation may have been the
lobbying technique of Cassidy & Associates on behalf of Lincoln Electric and
the Seismic Safety Coalition. On March 20, 1998, the same day the Seismic Safety
Coalition registered with the House of Representatives, the
wives of Anthony Massaro and John Stropki, Lincoln Electric's CEO and executive
vice president respectively, made $500 donations to the Lewis campaign fund.
not every day that a California congressman impresses well-to-do housewives in
Cleveland. Cassidy showed its support to the
tune of $6,539, winding up as the 11th largest contributor to Lewis' campaign
fund in 1998. And while Sandretti claims that "Senator Boxer did not work
for this specific earmark," her campaign fund suggests that Boxer may well
have been in the loop. In one day - May 8, 1998 - Boxer received donations from
Frederick Stueber, a senior vice president at Lincoln; several key players at
Cassidy; and Leon Panetta.
again, Cleveland took an interest in California politics,
while Cassidy filled the role of one of the largest contributors to Boxer's 1998
bread and butter is the art of earmarking appropriations. Through the years the
firm has developed a niche representing universities, hospitals and other private
entities seeking to tap into the millions of dollars that flow each year from
the congressional spigot. All the various threads of Lincoln's lobbying effort
came together on December 10, 1998, at a meeting on the Cal State San Bernardino
campus. The meeting was coordinated by Jeff Shockey, the Lewis aide credited with
arranging the $40 million in FEMA grants; in attendance were FEMA district coordinator
Christina Lopez, FEMA technical consultant Bob Hanson and three Cal State engineering
idea was "to tell [the Cal State administrators] that they would have to
start putting together details for the project," explains Lopez. Also on
hand were Duane Miller, Lincoln's weld expert and wearer
of many hats, and Jeffrey Lawrence, a representative from Cassidy &
Associates. Shockey refused to return numerous calls for this story, as did Miller,
so neither could comment on why the two Seismic Safety Coalition members were
invited. However, Lopez says, "I was given the impression that Lincoln Electric
was going to be working with Cal State San Bernardino on this project."
for a project promising to display the latest technology in welded-steel connections,
no one working on the SAC venture, which has been studying the question in great
detail over the past four years, has anything to do with it. No one, that is,
except Miller from Lincoln Electric. "I was surprised to see him," says
Hanson, who knows Miller from overseeing the SAC venture. "I was also surprised
to see the person from Cassidy & Associates." Why
all the interest from Lincoln in these appropriation funds?
Soneff, a Santa Monica attorney currently suing Lincoln on behalf of a Westside
building-owners group, is convinced that the retrofit project at Cal State San
Bernardino is an obvious attempt by Lincoln to shift responsibility
for their faulty welds to the hands of the federal government. "Our
lawsuit is the only way that Lincoln can be made to pay for its share of the problem,"
Soneff said in an interview.
Soneff's suit alleges that during the 30 years Lincoln Electric
marketed E70T-4, it claimed certain durability characteristics even though the
company "had no reasonable grounds for believing that they were true."
He contends that "This type of welded construction didn't happen by accident,
but rather it happened as a product of years of "deceptive
advertising and deceptive sales techniques by Lincoln."
from Ed: Deceptive advertising and salesmanship in the welding
industry, "unbelievable". Some one should build a web site on that subject.
has an uphill climb ahead of him as he tries to hold Lincoln accountable for E70T-4.
Their counsel is Jones Day Reavis & Pogue, the firm
that represented R.J. Reynolds in the Great American Tobacco Wars. And
that's not all. Remember Robin Shepherd, the SAC earthquake-damage expert, who
has a final editing pen in recommendations that go to FEMA and to legislators,
who pontificated the quote about L.A.'s probable "collapse"? Well, Lincoln
hired Shepherd as an expert witness to the tune of $200 an hour. When Soneff
deposed him in early February, Shepherd said he had no opinion about whether there
were premature failures in steel-frame welds as a result of the Northridge quake.
Soneff then asked him about his alarming quote from two years ago, to which Shepherd
replied, "I might point out it says, 'suggests that collapse . . . ' It doesn't
say it will happen."
what about the welds? If the tactics surrounding this current quivering mishap
surprise anyone, they shouldn't. Los Angeles, described by our City Council as
"the most seismically active zone in the country," could also stand
a chance as the most seismically inept. With the scores of aging concrete and
masonry brick buildings in the Southland that have never been retrofitted, or
even inspected, it's a wonder that steel structures are getting any attention
the Northridge Earthquake, the California State Seismic Safety Commission prepared
its "Report To The Governor - Turning Loss To Gain," published in 1995.
The magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake occurred
at 4:31 in the morning of January 17, 1994, on a national holiday, when most Californians
were at home asleep. Fifty - seven people lost their lives,
nearly 9,000 were injured, and damage exceeded $20
billion.The summary of the Northridge earthquake's impact is 'It could
have been a lot worse.' In fact it would have been a lot worse if the earthquake
had occurred later in the day and if its duration and intensity had been of the
nature anticipated for most of California. (California Seismic Safety Comm., Northridge
Earthquake, Turning Loss to Gain, x (1995).
Report, expressed shock at the performance of steel moment frame buildings which
had previously been believed to be the most earthquake resistant construction.
The biggest surprise in the terms of building performance from the Northridge
earthquake, at least to professionals who deal with seismic design regularly,
was the poor performance of steel buildings with moment - resisting frames. Steel
buildings have long been viewed as among the most reliable structural systems
for resisting earthquakes. They are common for modern high-rises, not only in
California but throughout the world. Id. at 65. The Northridge Earthquake raised
serious questions about the design and construction of steel moment frame systems.
"Fortunately none of the failures resulted in building collapse or loss of
life. However, since the earthquake shaking was of short duration, it is an open
question as to how the damaged buildings would have performed if the shaking had
lasted substantially longer or of stronger intensity." Id. SAC, a joint venture
of agencies (Structural Engineers Association of California, Applied Technological
Council, and the California Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering)
has issued advisories and interim guidelines for the repair, retrofit and design
of steel moment frame structures. (See SAC Joint Venture, Steel Moment Frame Connection,
Advisory No. 3, SAC 95-01 (SAC Joint Venture Partnership 1995.) The Northridge
Earthquake challenged the assumption that welded steel moment frame connections
were automatically capable of extensive yielding without a loss of strength. SAC
was revealed that an astonishing 99% of the brittle weld failures
with the Lincoln "self-shielded flux-core" weld metal.
Thousands of welded steel moment frame connections fractured during
the earthquake. SAC 1.2. Once such a fracture formed, the beam-column connection
experienced a significant loss of flexural rigidity in capacity. SAC 1.2. In effect,
the fractured connection turned out to be a pin connection all along rather than
a connection with moment resistive capacity. It fractured
when its strength was needed most. Building Inspections After the Northridge Earthquake
Many initial inspections of steel frame buildings found only minor damage. After
reports of steel moment frame damage began to circulate, engineers and owners
revisited buildings to perform more complete inspections. In time, these inspections
revealed damage types that had been observed in earlier testing programs. [Popov
& Stephen, 1972; Popov & Bertero, 1973; Popov et al, 1985; Popov &
Tsai, 1987; Englehardt & Husain, 1993.] It was revealed
that an astonishing 99% of the brittle weld failures occurred with the Lincoln
"self-shielded flux-core" weld metal. (National Institute of
Standards and Technology, NISTIR 5625 A Survey of Steel Moment-Resisting Frame
Buildings Affected by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake)In response, the City of
Los Angeles passed an ordinance that required the inspection of all beams to column
welded moment connections. Los Angeles Cal. Mun. Code §91.8908 (a).
Studies have confirmed that self-shielded flux-core electrodes were a primary
cause for brittle weld failures during the Northridge Earthquake. The
Center for Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems at Lehigh University
examined the seismic performance of moment frame connections with specimens from
the Northridge earthquake. Eric J. Kaufmann, Ming Xue, Le-Wu Lu and John W. Fisher,
Achieving Ductile Behavior of Moment Connections, Modern Steel Construction, January
1996, p. 30. Lehigh's published findings concluded that
the welds deposited with
E70T- 4 electrodes (self shielded flux-cored arc welding electrodes) had very
low fracture resistance to moderate earthquakes (less than 10 foot-pounds at 70
degrees Fahrenheit) and are likely candidates for brittle fracture.
Lehigh study found that brittle weld fractures developed in installations that
used E70T-4 welding electrodes with backup bars. The fracture origins were identified
at the weld root adjacent to the notch introduced by the backup bar at a location
with inadequate root penetration. Kaufmann at 33. In contrast, when a ductile
weld metal was used to fabricate a joint (such as the very
common E7018 stick electrode), no weld metal cracking occurred
and the ultimate strength of the beam plate was developed, that is, it became
a moment frame. Id.36.
testing showed a much improved performance in strength and ductility (toughness)
when the very common E7018 stick electrode was used. Lehigh, thus, concluded that
acceptable connection performance is obtainable by using
a higher quality electrode that provided toughness in the weld metal.
The E70T-4 weld wire that failed in the Northridge Earthquake was deemed "pre-qualified"
by manufacturers and approved for use without performing procedure qualification
tests using the weld metal. AWS 1.3.1. The "pre-qualification"
assumption continues to this day which does not say much for the American Welding
Society. While E70T-4 may perform in a reasonable manner in non-moment frame applications,
the Lehigh study has demonstrated that the use of E70T-4 weld metal causes brittle
welds in critical moment frame connections: a catastrophe waiting to occur.
from Ed: It did not
take a Lehigh study to reveal the welding obvious. The E70T-4 wires did not need
an earth quake to figure out the wire chemistry would produce poor weld results
when variable loads were applied to the welds. On evaluating this wires chemistry,
every weld engineer and metallurgist in North America would have been aware that
this weld wire would be the last choice for welding structural components designed
to with stand seismic loads.
NORTHRIDGE WELD REALITY:
BUILDING INSPECTIONS AFTER THE NORTHRIDGE EARTHQUAKE.
Earthquake challenged the assumption that welded steel moment frame connections
were automatically capable of extensive yielding without a loss of strength. SAC
1.2. Thousands of welded steel moment frame connections fractured during the earthquake.
SAC 1.2. Once such a fracture formed, the beam-column connection experienced a
significant loss of flexural rigidity in capacity. SAC 1.2. It fractured when
its strength was needed most. An
"astonishing" 99% of these failures in the beam-column connection occurred
with "self-shielded flux-core" weld metal. (National Institute
of Standards and Technology, NISTIR 5625 A Survey of Steel Moment-Resisting Frame
Buildings Affected by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake).
Note: Only an "inexperienced engineer" or some one from Lincoln would
be have been astonished at the results of this weld wire selection.
Phase 1 Analytical Studies of Building Performance
Title: Lessons from Inspection, Evaluation, Repair and Construction
of Welded Steel Moment Frames following the Northridge Earthquake
William E. Gates, S.E.; Dames & Moore, Inc. Manual Morden, S.E.; Brandow &
Johnston Associates Project Summary: Under the SAC Task 2, interviews were conducted
to document the significant experiences of key participants involved in the discovery,
inspection, evaluation, design, and construction repair of the steel moment resisting
frame buildings. Structural engineers, testing and inspection agencies, contractors
and building officials were selected as participants in the interview process.
The interviews were designed to systematically gather, synthesize and analyze
perishable data, such as impressions and unusual experiences that may have been
encountered during the process, identify key issues or concerns, and lessons learned.
These interviews produced several key findings, including:
of the engineers interviewed anticipated that a brittle rather than a ductile
mode of failure would occur in welded steel moment frame (WSMF) construction prior
to the Northridge earthquake experience.
from Ed. What does [a] say about the weld process expertise of the engineers interviewed.
And why would an intelligent person ask these engineers for an opinion on
a subject they know very little about?.
In hindsight, a few of the engineers admitted that they were somewhat skeptical
about the ability of the welded beam-column connection to fully develop a plastic
hinge before some form of failure occurred in the highly stressed weld zone. However,
these engineers felt they had no basis on which to reject the building code premise
that ductile yielding of the connection could be achieved in an earthquake. All
of the engineers interviewed, without exception, felt that their education or
knowledge of metallurgy and the behavior of steel welding processes was lacking
the necessary elements for them to appreciate the limitations for the materials
they were working with.
Note from Ed: :
Why would anyone want to read a report based on the opinion of engineers who admit
they don't know what they are talking about.
If you are ignorant about
a weld process or weld consumable, then, It's wise not to have an opinion on that
process. And if you do need weld consumable information, the last place to ask
for unbiased advice, is a representative of the company who makes the welding
this web site indicates, the weld industry is full of individuals who have weld
opinions yet have no weld process control expertise:
The Northridge experience has reduced the engineers' confidence in the earthquake
performance of WSMF's. from the standpoint of life safety, a well designed reinforced
concrete shear wall building is now considered safer than a ductile WSMF constructed
to the 1988 UBC (pre-Northridge) standards. About
half the engineers consider the steel braced frame and ductile reinforced concrete
frame to be safer than a WSMF and the other half consider it to be equally safe.
The majority of the engineers still consider the WSMF to be safer than the following
structural systems: non-ductile reinforced concrete moment frames with or without
un-reinforced masonry infill, ordinary steel frames with un-reinforced masonry
infill, URM's upgraded or not upgraded, concrete tilt-up (post-1976) and precast
concrete without adequate connections.
Almost all of the failures, observed
by those interviewed, were a brittle form of failure in the welded joint area
between beam and column flanges. Only two or three joints in the thousands surveyed
were observed to suffer significant plastic deformation. In some cases, plastic
deformation occurred as a consequence of an initial brittle failure.
Note from Ed: It's
a pity the engineers lack confidence in a project in which the design of the component
appears solid. These engineers need to get over the design discussion and rememnber
this simple fact. According to NISTIR 5625 an astonishing" 99% of the application
failures in the beam-column connections, occurred with "self-shielded flux-core"
Engineers get your focus back on the available weld consumables
that actually are designed to meet your weld requirements. I know the use of many
common SAW consumables and gas shielded flux cored wires would without question
pass any tests provided.
the smoke that Lincoln wants to surround this issue, engineers should keep their
focus on the weld process. As reported by the National Institute of Standards
and Technology, NISTIR 5625 Survey of Steel Moment-Resisting Frame Buildings Affected
by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake).
failure issue here is not the failure of the steel components during the earth
quake, its the failure of the engineers to make the correct weld decisions for
the component they design and build.
Note: How can you
have ductility or plastic deformation in welds in which;
[a] the weld
consumables required no impact properties,
[b] the welds were made with
a weld wire that contains larger than normal
amounts of aluminum and no discussion
was had on the aluminum content and the aluminum multipass consequences,
[c] the self shield welds are not protected fully from the welding atmosphere
and these wires are influenced greatly by the wire stick out variations and voltage
[d] the high weld current and likely lack of inter-pass temperature
controls may have had its influence on the HAZ grain size, especially when multi-pass
welds were made,
no one took a look at the porosity / slag content and influence on the weld failures,
no one reported as to the consistency of weld fusion attained.
Continued: The degree of observed weld damage reported in
interviews varied significantly from engineering office to engineering office.
In general, when weld damage occurred, minor cracks, having a depth less than
1/4 inch, were found in approximately 40 to 60% of the damaged cases. Significant
cracks with greater than 1/4 inch depth were found in 20 to 40% of the damaged
cases, and severe cracks in 10 to 20% of the connections. The distribution of
damage within buildings was reported to be relatively random in the low rise buildings
with the greatest amount of damage in the first two stories. Damage in high rise
buildings was found to be located in the upper one-half or two-thirds of the building.
Directionality of the earthquake ground motion played a significant role in the
damaged WSMF's. Those buildings located in the San Fernando Valley tended to have
more damage in the north-south frames, while those located in West Los Angeles
tended to have more damage in the east-west frames oriented parallel to Santa
Monica Boulevard. The geographic distribution of damage, as reported, seemed to
be related to the location of the building relative to the earthquake epicenter
or center or energy release. Damaged buildings were located within a 20-mile radius
of the epicenter. This included West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Burbank, Santa
Clarita Valley, and much of the San Fernando Valley. No damage was reported in
Mid-Wilshire, Hollywood, or downtown Los Angeles.
was little consensus among the engineers interviewed as to the major factors leading
to the brittle failure in the welded moment connections. However, most now believe
that the welded moment connection was a flawed design due to the high triaxial
state of stress that limits yielding and plastic deformation and due to stress
risers, such as the backup bar, and stress concentration factors, such as the
interaction between the column web and beam flange in the weld zone. Furthermore,
most of the engineers interviewed now believe that the qualification tests for
the prescriptive connection failed to represent the evolving field conditions.
Prior to the Northridge earthquake, the engineers were overly optimistic about
the test results and tended to forget poor results. Other key factors named were
the welding practices and materials (both base steel and weld metal) used in construction.
The engineers were in general agreement that the rapid impulsive energy release
from the Northridge earthquake may have been a key factor in the brittle failures
observed. Few of the engineers felt that the amplitude of the ground motion or
the high component of vertical ground thrust contributed significantly to the
damage. All of the engineers interviewed agreed that standards and procedures
for welding need to be revised and "tightened up"
and that the design of the welded moment connection needs to be revised.
There is also strong opinion on the part of some of the engineers interviewed
that redundancy in the ductile steel moment frame needs to be increased.
from Ed: Perhaps it's these same engineers who need to tighten up and get a grip
and better understanding of a fundametal process that is an integral part of their
testing laboratory personnel offered the following statements or opinions:
[a]. The AWS standards for welded connection acceptance are
too lax for this type of joint and permit too much poor fusion and imperfections
in the welds.
Ed Note: The AWS committee is typically
made up many individuals who work for the companies who make the weld consumables
The certification criteria for welders is inadequate. For new work, welders should
be required to qualify by welding a real joint in the same position as it will
be constructed, including penetration welds with continuity through an access
hole (i.e., the "rat hole" at the bottom beam flange to column flange).
For repair work, the welders should also be required to perform the qualification
welds with restricted access, similar to the conditions commonly encountered in
Note. Wow you would want to test welders on weld joints similar to the weld joints
and conditions they work on every day, now that's a first.
[c] Many buildings investigated after the earthquake exhibited
"atrocious" fit up, joint preparation and weld quality. This may be
related to the degree of damage found in these buildings located furthest away
from the epicenter, or in area of lower amplitude ground motion. In some cases,
there was evidence of falsified or totally inadequate previous post-earthquake
inspection (i.e., chalk marks on columns with arrows pointing up and marked "OK"
where fireproofing had never been removed from the beam-to-column connection).
Field inspection and testing procedures for weld damage varied from firm to firm.
Most of the firms relied on engineering judgment to select the connections for
inspection. Some firms used elastic dynamic analyses after the damage had been
found to identify where to look further for potential damage. A few performed
dynamic analyses, first, before going into the field to inspect the building.
They assumed that this information provided a means of finding those connections
that were more likely to be damaged. Visual and ultrasonic testing were the most
commonly used methods for inspection. Inspection costs for typical commercial
buildings ranged from $800 to $1,200 per connection. This cost did not include
cases where asbestos had to be removed. In such instances, the cost could double
or triple. a
Ed Note: Poor quality welds, poor quality
weld joints, poor quality inspections. Does this not indicate a lack of ownership
by the mangers or contractors? Someone could write a web site on this subject.
When fracture develops through the welds or flanges of the moment
connections, related damage was found about half the time in the non-seismic (gravity)
frame connections. The damage ranged from partially torn shear tabs to cases in
which all of the bolts at both ends of the beam's gravity connections had failed,
leaving the beam resting on the shear tab or supported from the floor slab above
by the shear studs. The ratio of observed moment connection to gravity connection
damage ranged from 3:2 to 20:1. There is one documented case of progressive crack
propagation with time in an 11-story high rise building that was designed to 1.5
times UBC Zone 4 requirements. Over the period from July 1994 through December
1994, the cracks have propagated from the welds into the bases metal of the column
or beam flanges. The engineers involved postulate that the crack propagation may
be due to continuing relaxation of original residual stresses and readjustment
of strains in the frames induced by the earthquake.
There is no common
definition or repairable damage vs. damage that requires retrofit strengthening.
The decision varies from engineering office to engineering office. There
appears to be no real guidance from either the building department in the local
community, the engineering profession, or the welding society on this matter.
(Similar significant ramifications are implied in future earthquakes if ductile
flange buckling and yielding develops in the moment resisting frames due to seismic
overload. When should the connection be repaired to compensate for damaging plastic
distortions or replaced to restore the structure its original elastic strength?)
Guidelines and standards are needed by the engineers to identify the acceptable
level and extent of damage before repair procedures are converted to retrofit
Ed Note: Why look for guidance from
people who have no expertise on the subject.
Engineers have proceeded
with repair and retrofit strengthening based on judgment and common sense. They
feel they are operating on their own, without specific guidelines
as to scope of required repair and/or retrofit and without sufficient test data
to substantiate the repair and/or retrofit schemes that they are using. The
repair schemes typically consist of putting back a welded joint that more closely
conforms to what the engineers thought they were specifying in the first place.
Retrofit strengthening generally consists of adding plates or tees to the bottom
and top flanges of the beam at the column joint to increase the connection capacity.
There is little attempt to balance the design out by adding similar stiffness
and strength to the undamaged connections of the WSMF. However, there is widespread
concern is the engineering community that such an unbalance in stiffness and strength
could result in less favorable performance in future earthquakes. Few owners are
going beyond the simple repair process (i.e., putting the damaged connection back
as it was before the Northridge earthquake). Only where FEMA or some other agency
is picking up the cost of repair and retrofit are the owners requesting seismic
upgrade. Repair costs for damaged connections in typical commercial buildings
range from $3,000 to $20,000 per connection. The typical costs are in the $5,000
to $8,000 range. If asbestos has to be removed, the costs may increase by an additional
$2,000 to $3,000 per connection. The owner's hidden costs associated with tenant
expenses an lost rent may range from $0 to $45,000 per connection. Costs for retrofit
strengthening may be comparable to those for repair in typical commercial construction.
In residential and institutional construction, these costs may double or triple
to $15,000 to $30,000 per connection for construction and $15,000 to $60,000 per
connection for owner hidden costs if lost rental income is included. SAC Home
SAC Steel Project/o Earthquake Engineering Research Center1301 South 46th Street.
Richmond, CA 94804(510) 231-9477FAX: (510) 231-5664
to this welding screw up we now have FEMA who showed their incompetence in New Orleans,
providing weld guidelines for the structural steel industry, click
summary from Lincoln Lawyers web site: Lincoln
supplied welding electrodes used to construct Special Moment Resisting Frames
for buildings in the Los Angeles area. Certain of those buildings suffered damage
in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and Lincoln was sued by building owners proceeding
on their own behalf and on behalf of a putative class of owners. Class certification
was defeated and about 20 cases proceeded individually. The lead case was tried
to a Los Angeles jury for over two months. Plaintiffs in that case originally
sought over $800 million in damages under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and
at trial sought $100 million in damages on their fraud, products liability, and
consumer protection claims. The jury returned a defense
verdict, (a not guiltily verdict for Lincoln). In the only other case that
went to trial, the jury returned factual findings on the identity of the welding
electrode used in the building that led the court to grant summary judgment for
Lincoln. The remaining cases were settled for nominal sums.
Note: Remember the jury also said OJ was not Guilty.
Ed: In 2005 now that
the concrete dust and law suits have settled. The following is what Lincoln now
states on it's web site for those intending to use the infamous, not the cause
of the collapsed buildings E70T-4 weld wire.
The very first recommendation
Typical Application for E70T-4 wire.
Use E70T-4 For structural fabrications where "no seismic requirements
2005: Ed's Conclusion on this
great weld fiasco:
I first read this
Greg Brouwer. 1999. LA Weekly News story on the web.
This remarkable story is again an indication of the skewed
legal and political system in this country, and of course it also highlights some
of the major problems with the competence of engineers and the welding industry.
This story has it all, from the end users and their lack of management
weld ownership. An incredible naive believe in so called pre-qualified sales driven
weld data. A gullible belief in the "AWS, don't hold me responsible weld
guide lines and specifications".
not forget throughout this fiasco the universal lack of weld process expertise
and too obvious overruling influence of salesmanship on engineering judgment.
From Lincoln Electric we have the recommendation for a weld consumable that they
knew would not meet the weld mechanical properties of the intended application.
Of course we also had the opinions of politicians and lawyers that could not recognize
a weld consumable if they fell over it.
notable in this report, the lack of weld ownership and weld responsibility and
fundamental process apathy shown by the managers and engineers who made the electrode
wire selection. Why would any engineer rely to any extent on sales driven advice
or AWS weld specifications that often provide incomplete or inaccurate weld data.
As an AWS committee member who helped write the MIG gas mix specifications, I
am well aware that most of the AWS specifications are influenced and tarnished
by biased advice from weld spec committee members who just happen to work for
a weld consumable manufacturer. There is a reason at the start of every weld specification
you will see a paragraph saying something like this. "Use this welding information
at your own risk".
While in contrast to all the data that found fault with the self
shielded weld wires utilized, Lincoln maintained it's poor weld consumables were
not the issue. I could be wrong, but it looks like they did not provide any metallurgical
evidence to show that the self shielded consumables they recommended would actually
meet the application mechanical requirements. After all if Lincoln was right,
all it would have taken is a few hundred dollars to do weld mechanical tests that
would have proved their E70T-4 met the weld requirements.
had to do was have an outside, none biased metallurgical test lab do the E70T-4
welds and provide the weld and metallurgical data to support their claims. It
seems to me that the weld qualification tests would have been a little cheaper
than the millions they spent going around the fundamental issue. Of course they
did not offer this as they knew the weld wire would not meet the weld mechanical
properties required for the L.A buildings or for any quality welds that have impact
must have many engineers and technicians that have been aware for decades of the
self shielded consumable disadvantages especially from a weld quality / mechanical
properties perspective. These same Lincoln personnel also knew that in contrast
to the self shielded flux cored wires, the common SAW consumables and very common
"gas shielded flux
cored weld wires" supplied by Lincoln and
many other suppliers would have met this applications needs.
notable point in this report was the complete lack of discussion on the superior
gas shielded flux cored weld wire alternatives, products that have been available
for at least 30 years. With these products a few hours training is all that is
required for anyone to make high deposition, sound welds.
WHEN THE RIGHT PEOPLE DONT ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY
WE END UP WITH THE BLAME GAME
Why Lincoln? Lincoln designed
the self shielded flux cored wire to meet the AWS E70T-4 designation, a designation
that clearly spelled out that this weld wire would not have to meet even minimum
impact properties. Why then would a company loaded with so called weld experts
recommend the E70T- 4 wire for structural weld loads subject to seismic activity?
Weld strength, ductility and impact properties are
fundamental properties for a seismic application.
to the AWS self shielded wire spec and ASME Section 11. SFA -5-20. The
E70T- 4 self shielded flux cored wire. requires
NO IMPACT STRENGTH REQUIREMENTS.
In contrast the world's most common MIG steel wire E70S-6 , (nobody sells more
wires than Lincoln), requires by the same code, minimum impact weld properties
of 20 ft/lb at - 20 F.
The logical E70T-1 gas shielded flux cored wires and the all position
gas shielded wires for the seismic application are of the shelf common products
that are easy to use and sold by many wire manufactures. In contrast to the E70T-4
wire the E71T-1 wire provides the required weld strength and ductility, far superior
weld control, superior weld penetration potential and and minimum impact properties
of 20 ft/lb at - 0 F. Also
available are wires that could
provide 20 ft/lb at - 40 F.
an organization that
for decades employed Mr. Omer W. Blodgett, one of the world's leading experts
on design and structural steel applications, recommend the worst possible electrode
for this critical, structural application?.
Mr Blodgett wrote the 832 page international book "Design of Welded Structures"
would Lincoln keep pushing
ridiculous, over the top weld deposition rates that are rarely attained when weld
quality and weld heat input consequences are part of the key criteria.
would Lincoln want to sell a weld product that many of their
own engineers knew could not meet the fundamental weld mechanical properties?
an ex-product and marketing manager for some of the world's largest weld product
suppliers, I am well aware that it's a common sales ploy in the weld industry
for a major weld consumable manufacturer to recommend one of their so called "unique,
good or bad weld consumables" for a large account so other weld consumable
companies can not offer a lower cost or competitive alternative.
is not alone in accountability for the weld issues. The lack of Weld Process Ownership
shown by all those contractors and state agencies and engineers involved in the
weld decisions indicated in this report, is a major issue today throughout all
Irrespective of common so called "qualified weld
specifications" available today for weld joints, no company building a critical
welding application should select a weld consumable for that application without;
For the managers: Take ownership
and responsibility for the weld process and consumable selection for the application,
ensure at minimum the following is carried out.
For the engineers: Select the
consumables based on meeting the requirements of the application. Look at different
consumables from different wire manufacturers. Qualify the desired weld process
and consumables with appropriate test pieces that will be similar to the intended
applications. Ensure the welds meet the actual weld joint and weld mechanical
properties criteria. Use destructive and NDT weld tests for the weld joints. In
the welding industry we do this every day its called a Weld Qualification Procedure.
For the engineers. After
the WQP establish a "Weld Procedure (WP)" based on the WQP and the actual
weld joints and site influence. Provide in the WP the preheat or weld heat interpass
controls if necessary. Provide single pass weld size limits. Provide the exact
welder technique required. Provide the required techniques for all positions.
Provide root gap limits and resolutions for over/ under sized gaps.Provide minimum
/ maximum wire stick out recommendations along with a narrow wire feed / voltage
range. For the welders and supervisors arrange both hands on skill training and
process control training.
For the supplier of weld consumables.
Be more than aware of the fundamental weld requirements for a critical life or
death application. Offer a weld consumable that you know readily meets those requirements.
If the weld consumable you offer does not consistently
meet the requirements, then get off the pot and get out of the deal.
WQP, WP NDT and Destructive Tests for the weld consumables would have required
minimal costs. The simple, easy to do weld tests would have shown to any that
were interested that the E70T-4 Self Shielded Weld consumables utilized would
not have met the building designers fundamental design and weld specification
criteria, a fact that any metallurgist or process application engineer who understands
weld consumables would have known before the tests.
Update. WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND:
As reported by Lincoln
Electric in the SEPT 2007 Welding Magazine from Penton.
"The AWS published
in 2006 a supplement to it's standards on welding structures that are designed
to resist seismic loading and Lincoln Electric is now offering training for unions
and associations on these new requirements. The
AWS developed the D1.8 Seismic Welding Supplement. The subcommittee that developed
this standard was chaired by Duane Miller of Lincoln Electric.
Lincoln reports that the earth quake drastically altered the industries understanding
of how welded steel building behave during major earth quakes. (Note from Ed.
No mention of the Lincoln weld wires influence). Lincoln also reports that "FEMA
provided funds for studies to determine the cause of the unexpected damage and
to provide recommendations". (Note from Ed. No mention of Lincoln's involvement
with FEMA or the reasons that incompetant organization is involved in the buisness
if you spend 5 minutes on this site you will be aware of what I think about the
influence of salesmanship and designers and engineers who are too often saturated
in weld process BS and apathy. Last but not least.
As an ultra hard working taxpayer, I can understand why lawyers will stoop to
any level to earn a buck, however when I see the politicians and government agencies
more concerned with the protection of a corporation rather than with the protection
of its citizens it makes wonder how great this country really is.
Ed's Note: As you can see from this report. Building owners
are confused, jury members will be confused, lawyers are confused but that works
for them and last but not least too many apathetic engineers who lack the ability
to research a simple two control weld process are confused.
a project of this scope, accountability for the structural failures in L.A is
of course difficult to place on one persons shoulder yet one unnamed Lincoln person
has a lot of involvement and a lot to say.
The process information presented
on this subject would have bewildered any jury, as it appears to have bewildered
many of the engineers involved.
I believe the LA engineers process confusion
may have been a great plus for Lincoln and it's lawyers as the design / process
confusion circumvents what should have been a simple "unbiased" examination
of the E70T-4 weld capability and suitability for a seismic structural applications.
The fact that Lincoln or was it the lobbyist for Lincoln that included FEMA, into
the chaos and into the weld / design decision making process, was I believe a
brilliant legal move.
Create confusion with technical facts. Bring in
experts who are not experts or bring in experts that receive your remuneration.
Always deny ownership, accountability and responsibility. Ensure you have a large
wad of cash available for lobbyist, now that's a great and continuing lesson for
other large global corporations who want to avoid large liability consequences
when they make mistakes that cost life.
that Lincoln choose
Jones Day Reavis & Pogue, the firm that represented R.J. Reynolds
in the Great American Tobacco Wars.
It makes a strong
207: Foot Note: The AWS Published in 2006 a supplement to its Standard on Welding
Structures Designed to Resist Seismic Loading. This AWS D1.8 supplement was written
by a committee that was chaired by a Mr. Duane Miller of
Lincoln Electric. Mr. Miller is presenting a work shop on the new seismic
standards to the American Institute of Steel Construction AISC at a conference
in April in New Orleans. I
would be surprised at this work shop if Mr. Miller lays any responsilty for the
weld failures on Lincoln's weld consumables. I also find it ironic that this work
shop is to be held in New Orleans, the location of FEMA'S greatest incompetence.
from Ed. Maybe I will change the name of my new welding movie
"The Fox is finally in the hen house"
Castro Associates Law Office:
HAS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS EXPIRED
STEEL MOMENT FRAME STRUCTURES?
Northridge Earthquake struck Los Angeles on January 17, 1994. Owners of steel
moment frame buildings were shocked to learn, after the earthquake, that moment
frame connections, critical for seismic resistance, had suffered brittle fracture
failures. On January 16, 1997, Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro filed a class action
lawsuit naming all steel frame owners as members of the putative class,
and presumably tolling the statute of limitations. On February 4,
1998, the class action allegations in the Pacific Design Center et.al vs. The
Lincoln Electric Company, (LASC number BC 164 229), were dismissed. No notice
period was provided by the court in entering the dismissal. Are owners of steel
frame buildings who did not file their lawsuits during the pendency of the class
action or before the dismissal now barred by the three year statute of limitations
Inspections After the Northridge Earthquake
The Northridge Earthquake challenged the assumption that welded steel moment frame
connections were automatically capable of extensive yielding without a loss of
strength. SAC 1.2. Thousands of welded steel moment frame connections fractured
during the earthquake. SAC 1.2. Once such a fracture formed, the beam-column connection
experienced a significant loss of flexural rigidity in capacity. SAC 1.2. It fractured
when its strength was needed most.
astonishing 99% of these failures in the beam-column connection occurred with
self-shielded flux-core weld metal. (National Institute of Standards
and Technology, NISTIR 5625 A Survey of Steel Moment-Resisting Frame Buildings
Affected by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake).
March 1, 1995, the City of Los Angeles adopted a mandatory ordinance that required
the inspection and repair of buildings with moment frame connections in designated
earthquake damaged areas. Los Angeles Cal. Mun. Code §91.8908(a). In 1996,
the City of Los Angeles banned the further use of flux cored weld metal, including
E70T-4 weld metal, because it could not meet required toughness standards.
Studies After the Northridge Earthquake Found that Brittle Weld Metal Was a Substantial
Factor For the Failures.
studies have confirmed that self-shielded flux-core electrodes were a substantial
factor of brittle weld failures during the Northridge Earthquake.
for Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems at Lehigh University published
findings in 1996, concluding that the welds deposited with E70T-4 electrodes (self
shielded flux-cored arc welding electrodes) had very low fracture resistance to
moderate earthquakes and were likely candidates for brittle fracture failure.
Id. at 31. 
The Lehigh study found that brittle weld fractures developed in installations
that used E70T-4 welding electrodes with backup bars. The fracture origins were
identified at the weld root adjacent to the notch introduced by the backup bar
at a location with inadequate root penetration. Kaufmann at 33. In contrast, when
a ductile weld metal was used to fabricate a joint (such as E7018 stick electrode),
no weld metal cracking occurred and the ultimate strength of the beam plate was
developed, that is, it became a moment frame. Id.36.
Dynamic testing showed a much improved performance in strength and ductility (toughness)
when the E7018 stick electrode was used. The Lehigh testing concluded that acceptable
connection performance is obtainable by using a higher toughness weld metal, such
as E7018, with the removal of backup bars. Id. at 39.
of Limitations Defense
Will dismissal of the class action lawsuit cause the loss of viable claims against
the manufacturers of the E70T-4 weld materials? Generally, the statute of limitations
for discovered injury to property is three years. CCP §338(b).
The three year statute does not begin to run until the plaintiff is aware of the
injury and its negligent cause. Jolly v. Eli Lilly & Co. (1988) 44 Cal.3d
1103, 1110; 245 Cal.Rptr. 658. The fact that the earthquake caused damage to a
steel frame building may not start the running of the statute of limitations absent
evidence that the owner was aware of the negligent cause of the injury.
Since the City of Los Angeles did not require inspections until after the adoption
of the ordinance on March 1, 1995, the accrual date for the statute of limitations
will likely commence from the date the owners received inspection reports from
expert consultants. Simply stated, the commencement of the three year statute
of limitations will vary from building to building and ultimately will be determined
on a case by case basis.
Finally, the filing of the class action tolled the statute of limitations from
the date of the filing of the lawsuit to the date of dismissal of the class allegations
(Pacific Design Center et.al vs. The Lincoln Electric Company). Whether this tolling
period can be used depends of the facts of each case.
Thus, it may not be too late for steel frame owners to file their steel frame
Lehigh concurred with published studies by the University of Texas at Austin and
the University of Southern California which showed brittle fracture failures in
laboratory configurations for self shielded flux-core (E70T-4) weld
metal connections. Following the earthquake, the City of Los Angeles issued interdepartmental
memos calling for weld metal toughness of 20 foot pounds at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
(July 16, 1996, City of Los Angeles Interdepartmental Correspondence re Requirements
For The Repair of Welded Steel Frame Connections In Existing Buildings.)
for other Lincoln Self Shielded Wires that also should never have been used. Self
shielded weld Consumables recommended by Lincoln and Chrysler. Consumables that
for more than a decade have been costing the Auto / Truck Industries Millions
More on weld specifications I would never use. FEMA Specifications