Design of collapsed Amazon warehouse coming under scrutiny | St. Louis News Headlines

EDWARDSVILLE ( — An OSHA investigation into the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville that was heavily damaged by a tornado last week could take up to six months. In the meantime, an association for builders who use the construction style used in the Amazon warehouse is defending what’s known as “tilt-up construction.”

Many large warehouses constructed in recent years use the tilt-up style. The method uses large, pre-formed concrete sections that are tilted into place to form the building’s exterior walls. Sometimes, the sections of wall are 40 feet high, 11 inches thick and can weigh up to 300,000 pounds.

OSHA investigating after 6 killed in Amazon warehouse collapse

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation into the deadly collapse at the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville.

In response to media inquiries in the wake of the Amazon warehouse collapse, the Tilt-Up Concrete Association released a statement that reads in part:

“We mourn the lives lost in the tragic storms that recently ravaged a great swath of our country. Our hearts and minds are with the families, friends, and communities — all lives affected.”

The statement went on to say there are misconceptions about the tilt-up design and that very few structures have been designed to withstand tornadoes. 

“The design and construction of all buildings, regardless of construction methodology or material, is directed by local, state, and national building codes that set minimum standards for design loads, including the level of force from high wind events based on a period of probability,” the statement also said.

The Tilt-Up Concrete Association’s website says its design is “applicable for any building type, geographic location, or climate.” 

When an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin in 2011, it caused a Home Depot store to collapse, killing six people. The store had been constructed using the tilt-up design.

The wife of one of the Home Depot workers who was killed in Joplin sued the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, but the lawsuit was eventually dismissed. The judge ruled there was a lack of evidence that Home Depot had done anything wrong when constructing the building. 

Katrina Richards was an attorney on that case and told News 4 that Joplin learned from the tragedy. The city strengthened building codes, improved warning systems and access to storm shelters.

“So we would expect in the future if a major tornado came through town, I don’t think we would have the same level of loss of life,” Richards said.

When the Home Depot in Joplin was rebuilt, a reinforced room was added where employees could go in the event of a storm.

'A tragic day in Illinois history': 6 killed in Amazon warehouse collapse identified

Six people died after part of the Amazon warehouse collapsed in Edwardsville when storms rolled through Friday night, police said.

Currently, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) building codes for the U.S. are being updated and will take effect in 2022. Some buildings will be required to be built to a standard that would make them tornado resistant, according to Associate Professor of Structural Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology Dr. Grace Yan. She said large warehouses, as a rule, will not but commercial buildings where there are hazardous materials will.

“We do not want to see more severe tornadoes in the future, but if we do, we want to avoid this kind of disaster due to the building failure,” she said.

Yan suggested that builders take steps during construction that are not cost prohibitive to make large warehouses safer in the event of a storm. She recommended stronger roof structures, better connections between the roof and the walls, more interior walls and better anchoring of the walls to the foundation.

Yan also said more research needs to be done on the effects of high winds on large commercial structures.

Copyright 2021 KMOV. All rights reserved.

Marcy Willis

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