At Harms Engineering, Inc. (HEI) we practice a philosophy we call bilateral engineering. We believe that understanding why things fail makes us better designers, and doing design strengthens our failure analysis.
Forensic engineering is a special niche which we have been carving out for 30 years. In fact, it started for HEI in Washington DC, way back when 13 year old Len would take his little red wagon down to the army surplus store and bring home nonworking radios and appliances, which he then took apart to figure out why they had failed.
Today HEI's failure analysis services are more sophisticated, but just as practical and "hands on" as they were then. The process today still includes physical inspection as well as data collection (measurements and photography), testing when appropriate, personal interviews, consultation with specialists and subconsultants, literature research, report preparation, depositions, and testifying in court.
Investigations can be as simple or complex as the nature of the failure demands. Results can be given verbally or in letter or written report form. The client determines the extent of the investigation and report.
Earth Movement: Warehouse Foundation Wall
A 9' tall, below grade concrete foundation wall of an apple bin storage building failed and buckled inward. Assignment was to determine if cause of failure was due to loss of eave guttering and subsequent hydrostatic earth pressure.
Product Failure: Gas Stove Explosion
Assignment: Determine the cause of a gas explosion that occurred inside a Napoleon freestanding fireplace heater while it was being lit.
Natural Disaster: Lightning Damage
HEI was called to conduct a structural assessment and repair plan for a single family residence where wood trusses were randomly burned and damaged by a lightning strike.
Structural Failure: Cold Storage Building
An insurance company insured a 2-story, 24,000 sf freezer building built in 1914. When the ammonia line piping supports along the wall failed, the subsequent loss of ammonia due to a fractured fitting resulted in loss of building refrigeration. The insurance company commissioned HEI to do an investigation and determine the cause and origin of failure.
Earth Movement: Hillside Settlement
A new 2,800 sf single story residence built on a hillside started to move and settle within 1 year of occupancy. Multiple 3" wide cracks appeared in the ground along the front foundation, and front porch steps dropped 5" on one end. A porch foundation pier dropped 10". Assignment: determine cause of earth movement and resulting house settlement.
Personal Injury: Fatal Fall
A 4 year old child climbed onto a 64 lb. tubular steel frame protecting a commercial gas meter. The frame tipped over onto the child, resulting in a fatal injury. The plaintiff's attorney requested an investigation to determine cause of the accident, and if the installation complied with industry safety codes and standard of care.
Product Safety Compliance: Hot Liquids
A child reached for her mother’s freshly filled coffee cup—spilling it. Parallel temperature tests were done on the coffee maker and exemplar to determine what the coffee temperature was at time of spilling, and if the temperature met industry standards.