2021 Pinnacle Lecture: Don Kennedy

Date: March 10, 2021

Presenter: Don Kennedy, P. Eng.
Vice President, Transportation Structures, Associated Engineering

How can we turn these lessons into new insights in our daily practices?

Engineering & Human Factors in Forensic Analysis

SEABC’s Pinnacle Lectures epitomize high calibre topics on themes that shape the future of our profession. 

As structural and bridge engineers we strive to design safe, economic and sometimes innovative or elegant structures for a better-built environment. Especially when designing more challenging structures, our expertise and skills should be informed by the sometimes harsh lessons of past structural failures. But are these lessons merely mechanical in nature, or are human factors just as important? Too few of these failures are properly documented or shared among engineers, but recently some failures have been widely reported on in the media and within the engineering community.

The 2021 Pinnacle Lecture provided an overview of these failures and issues, the engineering and human lessons, how we might apply these to our own engineering careers, whether working in design, management or risk management roles. 

One of these failures is the Florida International University (FIU) pedestrian bridge that tragically collapsed in March of 2018. This is among the most-documented bridge collapses in history and yet the engineering, human and process-related causes are still not as well understood as they could be. There are many lessons and recommendations documented in the NTSB report, but there is more in this collapse for engineers to understand.

Other structural failures with inevitable lessons include: the Nipigon River Bridge tie-down failure in Northwestern Ontario in 2018, the  Arecibo radio telescope antennae collapse in November of 2020, the I35W bridge collapse in Minnesota in August of 2007, the I5 Skagit River  Bridge collapse in Washington in 2013, the Polcevera Viaduct collapse in Italy in 2018, and the Caprigliola concrete arch bridge collapse in Italy in  April 2020. Not all of these have run their course of study or litigation yet, and more lessons will emerge.

  • How can we turn these lessons into new insights in our daily practices?
  • Are we hard-wired to overlook foreseeable risk?
  • As engineering practices, can we ensure adequately against these risks?
  • Are there gaps in our design codes or approaches? Join for more. 

Meet our Keynote Presenter

Don Kennedy, P. Eng.
Vice President, Transportation Structures, Associated Engineering

Don has over 35 years of experience in bridge, structural and seismic engineering. His experience includes the design and construction of new bridges, bridge and structure rehabilitation and seismic retrofit, and forensic investigations into bridge failures. Don worked on the design and construction of many major BC bridges, has international experience in earthquake engineering and has authored many papers on seismic codes, design, retrofit and rehabilitation. In 2019, Don received the RA McLachlan Memorial Award from Engineers and Geoscientists BC.


Don Kennedy P. Eng. VP, Transportation Structures, Associated Engineering

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A video recording of the presentation can be found here. Please note the video recording is restricted to members only.

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