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Concern about parking garage safety in Mass. in wake of deadly collapse in New York City

Concern over parking garage collapses in Mass. after deadly collapse in NYC
Concern over parking garage collapses in Mass. after deadly collapse in NYC 02:16

BOSTON - Devastation in New York is leaving questions here in Boston, after one person was killed in a parking garage collapse in Manhattan Tuesday.

Northeastern University Professor of Structural Engineering Mehrdad Sasani told WBZ there is a possibility something similar could happen right in our backyard.

"A structure collapses when demand is more than capacity," explained Sasani in a Zoom interview.

The 98-year-old, four story, garage collapse left several others injured. Professor Sasani said the age of the building is likely a factor in the collapse, along with the weight of the cars packed on the roof.

"The demand on the structure is higher than what it was designed for, in this case parking more and heavier cars," said Sasani.

With so many parking garages across the state that residents rely on, WBZ is getting answers on signs of a potential building or a garage collapse. According to Sasani, aging, deterioration, corrosion of steel and building cracks, are signs of a potential serious problem.

Sasani continued, "If cracks are larger than one eighth of an inch, they could be alarming." He said it's not an overly common occurrence. "In general buildings are designed to have low probability to collapse."

A spokesperson with Massachusetts Inspectional Services told WBZ all garages in the state are required to be constructed under the guidance of a licensed engineer who must take into consideration the load of the cars and dimension of the structure. There are, however, no yearly requirements for inspections, with the owners responsible for maintenance and safety.

"Visual evaluation would not be strong enough to know a building would collapse. A more in-depth evaluation would be needed," said Sasani.

Initial reports indicate the weight from the number of vehicles parked on the roof deck, plus the age of the building, contributed to the NYC collapse. The official cause will be looked at by a forensic engineer. 

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