4 Recent Infrastructure Disasters Remind Us of the Critical Opportunity for Infratech

Infrastructure projects play a vital role in society— connecting communities, enabling the economy, and supporting people's everyday needs. However, aging infrastructure, increasingly volatile weather patterns, and the increasing demands of an urbanizing planet, underscore the critical need to develop new solutions to ensure the safety and performance of these structures.

Observing just a few recent infrastructure disasters serves as a powerful reminder of the immense responsibility held by AEC professionals to ensure the resilience and dependability of their projects. As we look to the publication of our annual Emerging Infrastructure Solutions List, this piece will explore four recent infrastructure incidents, shedding light onto the opportunity for implementing leveraging technology to improve designs, enhance safety measures, aid the performance of rigorous inspections, combat the effects of extreme weather patterns, and address other critical risks to safeguard the future of our infrastructure.

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1) I-95 Overpass Collapse Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (June, 2023)

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 11: In this handout photo provided by the City of Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, smoke rises from a collapsed section of the I-95 highway on June 11, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to reports, a tanker fire underneath the highway caused the road to collapse. (Photo by City of Philadelphia via Getty Images)


A heavy fire from a vehicle severely weakened the northbound overpass in Philadelphia, leading to its structural failure. The incident occurred as driver exiting the interstate, rounding the exit ramp, when it crashed and ruptured its tank. This ignited a fire that melted the steel girders that served as a main support for the bridge above it. These girders have a melting point of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit---the tanker fire compromised their strength to support the bridge, leading to the devastating accident. In June of 2023, Governor Josh Shapiro announced a plan for the reconstruction of the collapsed portion of the overpass, proposing the use of recyclable glass aggregate to fill the affected area.

2) Champlain Towers Surfside, Florida (June, 2021)

Miami Beach, FL, USA - June 24, 2021: aftermath of the Champlain Towers collapse this morning showing building rubble


This tragic infrastructure accident killed 98 individuals and is likely attributed to the improper construction practices within the condo's concrete columns and pool deck. The construction of this was in non-compliance with the building's safety codes, as the casting of the concrete was susceptible to corrosion by water. This weak reinforcement, along with heavy items being placed on vulnerable points of the pool deck caused the collapse of the site. In June of 2023, a plan was submitted by DAMAC International to construction a 12-story condominium building on the property, which is still pending approval by the Surfside Planning Commission.

3) Metro Collapse Mexico City, Mexico (May, 2021)



The Metro collapse in Mexico City stemmed from one a crucial oversight— the failure to remove the protective ceramic rings encircling the studs. According to preliminary reports, this error caused the structural integrity of the overpass to be weakened and inconsistent. It can be cited as a result of both poor site management and unskilled workers. The mere weight from a routine elevated passenger train caused the overpass to buckle and collapse, taking the lives of 24 people.

4) Xinjia Express Hotel Quanzhou, China (March, 2020)



Prior to the collapse of the Xinjia Hotel, there were incidents reporting illegal reinforcement and renovations. This illegal welding reinforcement project included the addition of three floors, exceeding the building's load-bearing capacity and increasing the likelihood of collapse. This accident killed 29 individuals and injured over 40 people, making it one of the most devastating incidents within the country's recent history.