Canadian Consulting Engineer

Abbotsford church floor collapses under weight of enthusiastic worshippers

May 5, 2008
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Lang Engineering has been brought in to investigate the collapse of the floor of a church in Abbotsford, B.C. durin...

Lang Engineering has been brought in to investigate the collapse of the floor of a church in Abbotsford, B.C. during a Christian rock concert on April 25. The city of Abbotsford has hired the engineers to determine what might have caused a large portion of the floor in front of the stage area of the Central Heights Church to collapse.
Scores of people and speaker equipment were thrown down into the basement several metres below. Forty people were sent to hospital, and two were seriously hurt. There were no fatalities. Over 1,200 people were in the audience for the concert by a Winnipeg band called Starfield.
News reports and web bloggers have speculated that joists in the church floor gave way because the fans were jumping up and down in their enthusiasm, which put excessive live loads on the floor joists.
CCE asked David Harvey, P.Eng. of Associated Engineering and a director of the Structural Engineers Association of B.C. (SEABC) if he had any thoughts. He replied:
“Neither SEABC nor I can comment on the nature of this incident and will not be able to do so until details of the collapse are uncovered.
“Fortunately, as a result of the standards and procedures that are in place for the design and construction of buildings, structural collapses of this nature are rare occurrences.
“When people jump on floors, a dynamic component is added to the static load, which has the effect of increasing stresses on the structure. Whether or not this aspect played a part in the Abbotsford church floor collapse remains to be seen. There could be one or several root causes, which will most likely be determined by the investigation currently underway.”
Until the seven-metre gap in the floor of the worship space is repaired, city officials have allowed the church staff to use the offices and classrooms. The large church was built in the 1980s.
The church pastor, Chris Douglas, said the church has held concerts with more people in the audience before and there had been no problem. The Central Heights Church is affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren.


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