No. 237 . 27 April 2005 
ArchitectureWeek
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Paris Air Terminal Collapse Report

by Christian Horn

On May 23, 2004, a portion of roof at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris collapsed, killing four travelers and injuring three more. Ten months later, an investigation of the innovative vault construction has resulted in a report citing probable causes.

In what amounts to an indictment of the French process for executing complex public projects, the technical investigation, led by independent engineer Jean Berthier, identified two likely reasons, both procedural and structural, for the partial roof collapse at the 2100-foot- (650-meter-) long concourse.

Pierre Graff, the president of Aéroports de Paris (ADP), the authority that operates the facility, confirmed that several solutions for repair have been studied but that none of them offered a complete guarantee for the security of personnel and passengers. So, the entire vault of Terminal 2E will be pulled down and rebuilt. ADP expects reconstruction to be complete by 2007.

Structural Scheme

The airport's Terminal 2E consists of a main passenger building, the fated concourse parallel to it, and an "isthmus" connecting the two buildings. A concrete and glass form rises from the second floor of the concourse and bulges out from its base, forming a flat arch. To allow movement from thermal and other forces, the roof is not fixed rigidly to its supports.

The roof's length is made of 10 sections separated by glazed strips, and each section is further divided into 13-foot (4-meter) bays. The vault supports for each bay are 12-inch- (30-centimeter-) thick precast, perforated, reinforced concrete elements.   >>>

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