University Village Collapse
2:25 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

2008 report recommended demolition of University Village apartments

The University Village Apartments walkway collapse on February 22, 2014.
Credit Miranda Metheny / KBIA

A draft of a master plan in 2008 by MU’s department of residential life recommended vacating and demolishing the University Village apartment complex by 2011, citing various “building shell deficiencies.”

A screenshot from the 2008 MU Residential Life Master Plan

The plan says that all but the more recently remodeled 702 and 703 buildings had sustained “significant structural damage and deterioration.” Along with other problems such as leaky roofs, settling, and termite damage, the plan also specifically calls out “deteriorating metal decks” as a “public safety hazard.”

The deck connecting upper-floor apartments in the 707 building collapsed on February 22, displacing the building’s residents and killing responding firefighter Lt. Bruce Britt.

MU Spokesperson Christian Basi says that, in response to the 2008 report, they shut down two of the buildings, one because of safety concerns and one because it would be cost-prohibitive to restore it. He also says that immediately following that report, the university hired structural specialists to look at the walkways and ended up adding steel supports to several of them. 

He says the buildings weren't vacated because "We have had a lot of demand, and that area is extremely popular with graduate students and married students. And we felt that it was in our student' best interests and we wanted to continue serving them to keep providing them with that option as a housing option. That area – University Village – has many benefits for students. It is low cost, it is very convenient and close to campus, and the community down there is very welcoming and very tight knit. And so that has always been a popular place for students to request housing and we wanted to keep that open as a potential option. We have been spending a lot of money making sure that we did maintenance on those buildings as often as was needed."

A cause of failure report written by Trabue, Hansen & Hinshaw structural engineer Patrick Earney on March 4 indicated that “freeze-thaw action” and water and chlorides had deteriorated the concrete so much that it could no longer bear its own weight.

He wrote that the metal deck and support beams were “heavily corroded” and portions of the concrete was delaminated and severely weathered.

Basi says that the decks had passed yearly inspections, and that the engineers said that even if they had inspected the walkway a week before the collapse, they would not have been able to predict the structural failure. 

The day after the collapse of the 707 deck, Trabue, Hansen & Hinshaw, an engineering firm often hired by MU, wrote an evaluation of the decks of the other buildings in the complex.

Of the 14 buildings at University Village, the report recommended that the decks of all but the newer 702 and 703 buildings be immediately reinforced. Three buildings were listed as being in danger of “imminent” “catastrophic collapse,” not counting the already collapsed building 707. Three other buildings were described as “very questionable.” A third category listed five buildings that were unlikely to experience a catastrophic failure in the next year, but also noted that three of the five would be in the category of most risk if they were not currently vacant.

Basi explains this by saying that, after investigating the collapse at 707, engineers knew exactly what to look for in terms of safety concerns in the other buildings:

"When we consulted with the engineers one of the other things that they told us was that they were able to learn quite a bit about how the decks, how the support of the decks works, and how the structural steel works, and the various forces at work, based on the collapse. They had more information when they were looking at the other decks, and that was factored into their report."

Basi says that, in light of this incident, MU has relocated any residents who need to or wish to leave the complex, is conducting a thorough inspection of all University owned buildings around the state, and is currently looking at options and hoping to make a decision about the future of University Village soon.

An image from the March 4, 2014 Trabue, Hansen & Hinshaw structural engineering report

The day after the collapse of the 707 deck, Trabue, Hansen & Hinshaw, an engineering firm often hired by MU, wrote an evaluation of the decks of the other buildings in the complex.

Of the 14 buildings at University Village, the report recommended that the decks of all but the newer 702 and 703 buildings be immediately reinforced. Three buildings were listed as being in danger of “imminent” “catastrophic collapse,” not counting the already collapsed building 707. Three other buildings were described as “very questionable.” A third category listed five buildings that were unlikely to experience a catastrophic failure in the next year, but also noted that three of the five would be in the category of most risk if they were not currently vacant.

Residents say they have been told by ResLife that the collapse could not have been predicted. However, the ResLife master plan and other documents obtained by KBIA show that MU officials had been aware of the poor condition of the walkways for years.

The University also released other reports Wednesday regarding University Village Apartments. Three documents (here, here, and here) detail work orders at the complex in recent years. Three other documents (here, here and here) contain internal emails regarding decking at the complex, including photos of past work. There is also a 2012 master plan for university facilities that did not include University Village Apartments.