Archive for Sunday, March 24, 1996


March 24, 1996


A Feb. 23 deck collapse in Lawrence may prompt the city to draft regulations governing the construction of decks and stairways.

Mother Nature had a hand in a balcony collapse last month at a Lawrence apartment in which three people suffered minor injuries.

Gene Shaughnessy, the city's chief building inspector, found no code violations were involved in the collapse of a third-floor balcony at Colony Woods Apartments, 1301 W. 24th.

Shaughnessy said the collapse was caused by shrinkage and separation of the wooden joists that held the deck's flooring to the building.

"When it's exposed to nature, lumber shrinks over a period of years from getting wet and drying out, getting wet and drying out," Shaughnessy said. "Over a period of months and years, you will get this separation from the shrinkage.

The shrinkage weakened the deck's connection, he said.

Four men were on the balcony Feb. 23 when the floor dropped away from the side of the building, sending them tumbling onto the second-floor balcony.

That second-floor balcony also collapsed, dropping the men onto a concrete pad outside the ground-level apartment.

The collapse, Shaughnessy said, demonstrates the need for regular inspections and maintenance of balconies and decks.

"There are maintenance programs that could have been completed that would have given some indication that there needed to be some maintenance," he said.

Julie Gibler, manager of Colony Woods, said no "permanent decisions" had been made on any changes in the maintenance program for the 374 apartments at the complex.

"We are working on hiring an engineer," she said. "We are still doing our inspections. At this point we are still gathering information."

She said balconies at the two apartments remained closed and would not be repaired until the investigation was completed.

Changes in the city building code are now being considered that may help prevent similar balcony collapses in the future.

Shaughnessy said that within 90 days, he will ask city commissioners to approve an amendment to the Uniform Building Code establishing building requirements for decks on homes and apartments.

The current code has no specific requirements for such structures.

The city's building code board of appeals has recommended that building permits be required for decks that are more than 30 inches above the ground. The new code also would require that joist hangars and screws be used to attach the deck's floor joists to the building.

That would help prevent separations like the one that occurred at Colony Woods, he said.

The board began its review of the building code last fall, Shaughnessy said. Board members decided to add deck regulations to the code after learning of deck collapses in other parts of the state and the country.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.