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Citicorp Center Tower: how failure was averted Essay

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In 1977, Citicorp tower was built in New York City, Manhattan costing approximately 195 million dollars. It was the seventh tallest tower in the city. [3] Citicorp was easily identified. It had forty-five degrees tip, and had 59 stories. [3] It was the seventh tallest tower. The speciality about the tower was that it rested on four legs which were 9 storeys tall. [1] What’s more is that instead of the corners, they were located at the centres. It was built next to a church (St. Peter’s Lutheran) under the condition that the church was conserved and didn’t have to be demolished. [2] The condition imposed by the bank on the sale of the church’s property to it was that the bank would have to build a new church on the same corner of the block without any connection to the Citicorp building. [2] Besides that, in order for the church to support the bank’s building, no columns were permitted to pass through the new. The conditions imposed presented a significant architectural and engineering obstacle to construct a well-designed high-rise building on the site, and required a team equal to the challenge.

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The Citicorp headquarters was located in Manhattan. It was too small for the expansion and growth of the company. At the Same time the church was in need of serious repair. They were considering to sell the property on the 54th street and northeast corner of Lexington. [2] The church was located across the street from existing offices of the banks Citicorp spent 40 million and 5 years to purchase one part of the entire block. The financial institution began planning to establish a new building on the church’s block. The design started on a napkin by one of the best architects of those times Le Messurier, it was a chevron pattern of structural bracing in order to transfer loads to columns at the mid span of the exterior walls of the building. The building rose 114 feet in the air as the columns would act as stilts and open space was left at the ground level. [2] His idea was to cantilever 72 feet, into the northwest corner of the property whilst maintaining the entire lot for Citicorp. The top was designed to face the west. A permit was refused to be granted for residential use. [2] Therefore, it was re oriented to the south to use the solar power technology. Due to the fact that technology was not advanced, the idea was abandoned. The angular top had become signature of the design. [2]

LeMessurier’s idea permitted each corner of the building to cantilever out 72 feet, which allowed Stubbins to delicately nestle the new church building into the northwest corner of the property while maintaining the use of the entire lot for Citicorp. [2] Although the 160-foot angled top was originally conceived to face west and provide for residential penthouse setbacks, the City refused to grant a permit for residential use. [2] As a result, the configuration was re-oriented to the south to maximize the potential for generating solar power. Unfortunately, due to the lack of technological advancement of solar collectors at that time, the solar plan was abandoned. [2] However, the unique angular top had become a signature of the design, and it was retained as housing for most of the mechanical equipment. Due to the swaying of the lightweight building a turned mass damper was used to reduce the building’s wind induced movement by approximately 50 percent and it proved to be very useful. [2]


The architect was Le Messurier, the problem is that the design was approved and everything was fine until he received a phone call from an architecture student warning that the building would topple if stroked by quartering winds on the corners instead of the faces which indicated that quartering winds produced significantly higher stresses than those produced by winds hitting just one face of the building. He only considered wind loading normal to the faces of the building. [2] Wind from all direction should be considered as all buildings in New York city were build based on considering the effect of quartering winds even though not explicitly stated, i.e., to resist horizontal wind pressure from any direction though the building code of New York City didn’t take into account the so-called quartering winds. It will not be able to withstand storm every 16 years that could blow over the building. [2]

The name of the student was Mrs.Hartely. Diane Hartley was a senior undergraduate student, a year was taken till the problem finally emerged. [3] She was from Princeton university. She made her own calculations. She made him revise his own calculations. She requested the plans and calculations from one of the junior engineers. When she told the junior engineer of the issue, he assured her that the building was more efficient than her calculations. She submitted the thesis with her findings and flaw in calculations and response from junior engineer and accepted the conclusion drawn by junior engineer. [2] The one who had to act was the architect and had to come up with the solution. On being informed about the student’s report, He was very confident about his calculations that the building will withstand any quartering winds. [2] However, what he missed out is that he didn’t calculate from all the directions and the most dangerous winds of about 70 mph could topple the building. [2]

The moral nature of the problem is lack of management and effective regulation and relying on him without thinking that before constructing it was the duty of his team to check if there was any major flaw in the construction of especially with new and innovative feature which was overlooked by Hugh Stubbins and Citi group vice president John Reed who had good knowledge of engineering. [2] They said that the construction was good to go and was very safe. Multiple engineers should have checked the construction of the building and confirmed the safety of the building as safety should be the first priority. [3] The moral problem statement is what should Le Messurier do, should he trust his calculations and leave the Citicorp tower or should he do the changes to the Citicorp tower and amend the flaws.


The stakeholders for this case would be Citicorp group of companies, Le Messier with his team of engineers. [2] This includes the general public whose security and well-being depends on the safety of the building and continued success of the companies they invested in by investing in the resources. Before the issue was resolved, the stakeholders who profited were the Citicorp group of companies and Le Messier along with his team of engineers. [2] The lives of the public and people working in Citicorp were at stake. After the issue was resolved, the stakeholders who profited were everyone. [2] Everyone was happy in the end. The moral values which were exhibited by Le Messurier were integrity, due to his good character towards the public and truthfulness as well as honesty as he owned up to his mistake. [2] Some of his actions are well justified. He was right in owning up to design flaw by whistleblowing himself. [2]

Some facts in his findings he found out that chevron beams had bolted joints, had bolted joints instead of welded joints. Materials were cheap. They were used, though not strong enough. The stress on the pillars would increase by about 40 percent due to the quartering winds. [3] On top of that the Citicorp tower will not fall on its base but it will fall over adjacent buildings and due to the fact mentioned that it will not withstand winds above approximately 70mph, which will end about 200,000 lives collapsing dozens of blocks, an event having 1/16 chance of happening every year.[3] He didn’t give enough thought or revisions as to what catastrophic can happen and no one viewed his blueprints either.[3]

We can say that according to the ethical code of conduct, his actions were not completely right. He never warned the workers and the public living in that area as well as the people working in the Citicorp tower. [3] The fact that the public was instead told the bank wasn’t in any danger, this violates the ethical code of conduct that engineers shall avoid omitting or misinterpreting a material fact.[3] Cheap Chevron joints were used by engineers without letting the chief engineer know which violates the code of ethics that without the permission of all the parties interested practice in connection with a specific project and arrange/promote for new employment for which the engineer has gained knowledge, i.e., using sub-par material. [3] If he had gone through beforehand, the calculations, the entire incident could have been avoided. [3]

Options for Action
Taking a portion of the accompanying activities would have explained the problem. LeMessurier ought to have assessed his figuring’s precisely since it was his duty. Being a structural engineer, it was his business to consider the quarterly breeze amid his estimation and manufacture the pinnacle in like manner. The organization, before settling on the choice of changing the joints ought to have sat down with the partners, kindred specialists, and the expert before rolling out any improvement in the building plan. The basic designer ought to have been counselled before any progressions were made the basic architect ought to have experienced all the important standards and tests and thought about more situations previously assembling the pinnacle. The issue of many hands is fundamental because of the circulation of data over the different actors. Because of the way the data was circulated, neither LeMessurier, nor the temporary worker nor the approver could sensibly have realized that the really fabricated development was basically insufficient. This issue could have been fathomed by utilizing the circulation of duty among the individuals from a system. The organization ought to have instantly halted their development function when they realized their fault. The Citigroup could have orchestrated a departure framework to evacuate individuals in the area to maintain a strategic distance from a mishap. The organization could have taken choice remembering the welfare of general society. [2]

However, in the Citicorp Building case the disaster was prevented from happening and the mistake was rectified.
LeMessurier on understanding his brutal mistake moved toward the architect (Hugh Stubbins) and Citicorp. He exhorted them to make the quick remedial move. At last, he convinced Citicorp to repair the working without advising the public. For the following three months, development groups working during the evening welded 2\” steel plates over each of the high rise\’s 200 catapulted joints. A month and a half into the work, a noteworthy storm (Hurricane Ella) was off Cape Hatteras and heading for New York. Nonetheless, as a safeguard, Citicorp worked out crisis departure designs with nearby authorities for the quick neighborhood. The design fault was corrected permanently. Thus, he kept the disaster from occurring. [2]

Ethical Evaluation

Now moving on to evaluating this case based on Normative Ethical Theories. LeMessurier utilized a quick, drastically offbeat structural frame in the Citicorp tower. He announced considering just breeze stacking typical to the building faces. The Building Code of the City of New York did not call for the examination of supposed quartering of winds and Le Messurier had expressed that he didn\’t look at the impacts of quartering of winds until after Citicorp tower was involved. An understudy\’s report influenced him to find them out of the blue high anxieties they delivered on the structural frame.

This activity does not abide by an architect\’s export duty. The duty depends on the part as an expert specialist in as far it remains inside the points of confinement of what is ethically permitted. In a few regards, the outline of for all intents and purposes each building is a model. In any case, when a noteworthy take off from customary practice is mulled over for a key component influencing the wellbeing of a tremendous urban structure, the expert has a commitment to guarantee that the examinations go past the normal systems created for structures. Applying the Universalism hypothesis that expresses that there is an arrangement of standards and qualities that is applicable to everybody, irrespective of time, place, or culture, the basic architect should take after the standards and be more cautious with his estimations to shield the general population from any hazard. [1]

It was the obligation and duty of the lead structural engineer to confirm every one of his estimations and precisely consider every one of the impacts of the urban development; these set least prerequisites and not the cutting edge. LeMessurier did not consider people in general security first.

LeMessurier\’s outline and the tower\’s development illustrations called for five, full-penetration welded joints in each of the eight-story-high inclining steel individuals. Offering Citicorp, a credit of $250,000 the basic steel fabricator proposed substituting blasted joints. The welded joints were along these lines supplanted by bolted joints. In any case, LeMessurier revealed that it was his partners in New York who contemplated the proposition and endorsed the change and he was absolutely ignorant of the progressions until the finish of the Citicorp tower. This, nonetheless, is an unsuitable approach. There ought to be an appropriate correspondence of choices taken by the expert. At the point when a noteworthy take off from the development records are proposed for a basic framework influencing the wellbeing, security, and welfare of the general population, the choice should include the key people associated with the outline of the framework. the progressions ought to be endorsed by everybody and not in the last-minute choice. Applying the Utilitarianism theory here, the deciding authority ought to have weighed out the outcomes of activity against one esteem: public welfare and in like manner evaluated their activities. Prior to rolling out any improvements in the basic plan of the disaster, a consent from the head architect ought to be taken. The company here applied the theory of capitalism i.e. they chose the way that would help them expand their gross profit. [1]

Other architects were not informed about the problem and solution for two decades. The common-sense ethics can be applied here i.e. the engineer should have immediately reported the fault in their design and tried to fix it right away. Since continuing to build the tower despite the design fault was extremely disastrous and unethical. Right on time in the repair procedure, the proprietor intentionally issued a terribly deceptive proclamation to the press darkening the truth of the danger the building postured to the general wellbeing, security, and welfare.

Engineers are expected to live up to a standard of reasonable care. LeMessurier was very well aware of the false open explanation. None of the other structural, building and lawful experts engaged with turning away the calamity ventured forward to reveal what they knew to be the false news discharge. This is an exploitative approach to an expert specialist and establishment. The announcements were set out intentionally deceive the general population. People, in general, should not be kept in dim about the circumstance of knowing the truth would help counteract fiascos. LeMessurier\’s and alternate dictators approach conflicted with the Duty morals which expresses that an activity is ethically right on the off chance that it is in concurrence with a specific good run the show. In here, it was an ethically wrong activity to keep the public in dark about the dangerous consequences of the tower. [1]


The issue of many hands demonstrates that it is here and there difficult to meet both prerequisites without any delay. In cases like the Citicorp case, it appears to be ethically uncalled for to hold one of the actors in charge of the auxiliary lack. However, this appropriation of duty, or rather its nonattendance, does not appear to be exceptionally viable in maintaining a strategic distance from harm. LeMessurier’s action was the right way to deal with this situation since it dealt with rectifying the mistake and thus safeguarding the public welfare and an ethical principle of an engineer. For some specialists, LeMessurier\’s activities with respect to the Citicorp building represent the most astounding virtues of the designing field. Since it was his expert obligation to report faults to the authorities, much valor was expected to report the blunder, despite the fact that not detailing it would have been exceptionally unpardonable. The report could have harmed his reputation immensely. LeMessurier not just detailed the issue, he additionally proposed a solution for it, which is characteristic of a virtuous engineer in Pritchard’s opinion.

Thus, LeMessurier\’s action is the most ethically acceptable solution in this case.

[1] Eugene Kremer. (2002). Re-examining the Citicorp case. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://www.crosscurrents.org/kremer2002.htm.
[2] Michael J. Vardaro, (2013). LeMessurier Stands Tall. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://www.theaiatrust.com/whitepapers/ethics/study.php
[3] Carelli Dani, Ahmed Hassan, Narayan Jagan, Haytham Rami, Genet Simeret. (2017). Engineering Case Study: Citicorp. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://prezi.com/m/ols0tmnxdofm/citicorp-building-engineering-ethics-topic/
[4] Souza Selkra. (2016). Citicorp Building Engineering Ethics Topic. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://www.academia.edu/17050579/Citicorp_Case_Study

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