In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ike, 25 engineers from nine Thornton Tomasetti offices converged on Houston, Texas, to provide emergency response services, undertaking damage assessments of more than a dozen structures, including the state’s largest sports and entertainment facility, focusing on the specific mode of failure for the retractable fabric roof structure.

Professionals from Thornton Tomasetti’s structure, performance and skin practices worked together to assess damage to the NRG Park Complex, a 36-acre, 4.2-million-square-foot facility compromising NRG Stadium, the Texas Astrodome, NRG Arena, NRG Conference Center and numerous ancillary structures. The damage assessment process included a review of the original structural design and connection details and the effects of hurricane-force wind and rain, a materials analysis and an investigation to determine the cause and origin of the unanticipated roof failure.

To accomplish this task, Thornton Tomasetti developed an initial material testing program, determined the wind loading parameters and performed an independent analysis to determine the tensile strength of the fabric, cable stress levels and maximum/minimum deflections, including 3D modelling of the steel structure to gauge the interaction behaviour of the steel and fabric.

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Image credit: © Thornton Tomasetti