Hashash and CEE alumni named to Surfside collapse investigative team

8/27/2021 9:33:56 AM

In this July 2, 2021, photo, a NIST staff member tags and photographs a building element that has been identified for preservation as evidence in the staging area near the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse. Credit: NIST
In this July 2, 2021, photo, a NIST staff member tags and photographs a building element that has been identified for preservation as evidence in the staging area near the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse. Credit: NIST

CEE professor Youssef Hashash has been named to a team of forensic engineering experts who will conduct a technical investigation into the June 24, 2021, partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced Aug. 25, 2021. Also serving on the NIST team will be CEE at Illinois alumni James R. Harris (MS 75, PhD 80) and Jack P. Moehle (BS 78, MS 78, PhD 80).

The team’s goal will be to determine the likely cause or causes of the collapse and make recommendations that will improve building codes and standards in the future. Under the National Construction Safety Team Act of 2002, NIST has primary authority to investigate the site of building disasters in the U.S. The technical investigation will be organized around a number of focused projects.

Youssef Hashash
Youssef Hashash

Hashash will co-lead the Geotechnical Engineering project with Sissy Nikolaou, leader of the Earthquake Engineering Group in the Materials and Structural Systems Division in the Engineering Laboratory at NIST. Hashash has an extensive background in the field of geotechnical, earthquake and tunnel engineering. His expertise includes underground structures, deep excavations, numerical modeling, earthquake engineering and static and dynamic soil-structure interaction analysis, visualization and application of information technology, deep learning and artificial intelligence in geotechnical engineering. He has co-led or was a member of post-disaster reconnaissance teams documenting built infrastructure response to earthquakes, floods and explosions.

Alumnus Harris will co-lead the Building and Code History project. Harris has worked as a structural engineering consultant in Denver, Colo., and served as a research structural engineer at NIST (then the National Bureau of Standards) from 1975 to 1981.

Alumnus Moehle will co-lead the Structural Engineering project. Moehle is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He is active professionally both as a consulting engineer and as a contributor to development of structural engineering standards and guidelines.

The projects named this week and their leads are:

  • Building and Code History: Jim Harris and Jonathan Weigand
  • Evidence Preservation: David Goodwin and Christopher Segura
  • Materials Science: Ken Hover and Scott Jones 
  • Geotechnical Engineering: Youssef Hashash and Sissy Nikolaou 
  • Structural Engineering: Jack Moehle and Fahim Sadek 

Full biographies of the team members and descriptions of each project can be found on the NIST Champlain Towers South investigation webpages. Projects and team members may be added as needed.

The investigation is expected to last several years.

Visit the NIST website to read their press release about the technical investigation.