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Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases 6th Edition

Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases (6th Edition)

Book Edition6th Edition
Author(s)Harris, Pritchard
ISBN9781337554503
PublisherCengage
SubjectEngineering
Section C4: Case 4
INTEXT QUESTION
Section C5: Case 5
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Section C7: Case 7
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Section C8: Case 8
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Section C9: Case 9
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Section C10: Case 10
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Section C14: Case 14
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Section C15: Case 15
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Section C16: Case 16
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Section C17: Case 17
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Section C18: Case 18
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Section C20: Case 20
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Section C21: Case 21
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Section C23: Case 23
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Section C26: Case 26
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Section C29: Case 29
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Section C30: Case 30
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Section C34: Case 34
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
Section C35: Case 35
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
Chapter C, Section C4, INTEXT QUESTION, Exercise 01
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Citicorp6

 

William LeMessurier was understandably proud of his structural design of the 1977 Citicorp building in downtown Manhattan. He had resolved a perplexing problem in a very innovative way. A church had property rights to a corner of the block on which the 59-story building was to be constructed. LeMessurier proposed constructing the building over the church, with four supporting columns located at the center of each side of the building rather than in the four corners. The first floor began the equivalent of nine stories above ground, thus allowing ample space for the church. LeMessurier used a diagonal bracing design that transferred weight to the columns, and he added a tuned mass damper with a 400-ton concrete block floating on oil bearings to reduce wind sway.

 

In June 1978, LeMessurier received a call from a student at a nearby university who said his professor claimed the Citicorp building s supporting columns should be on the corners instead of midway between them. LeMessurier replied that the professor did not understand the design problem, adding that the innovative design made it even more resistant to quartering, or diagonal, winds. However, since the New York City building codes required calculating the effects of only 90-degree winds, no one actually worked out calculations for quartering winds. Then he decided that it would be instructive for his own students to wrestle with the design problem.

 

This may have been prompted by not only the student s call but also a discovery LeMessurier had made just one month earlier. While consulting on a building project in Pittsburgh, he called his home office to find out what it would cost to weld the joints of diagonal girders similar to those in the Citicorp building. To his surprise, he learned that the original specification for full-penetration welds was not followed. Instead, the joints were bolted. However, since this still more than adequately satisfied the New York building code requirements, LeMessurier was not concerned.

 

However, as he began to work on calculations for his class, LeMessurier recalled his Pittsburgh discovery. He wondered what difference bolted joints might make to the building s ability to withstand quartering winds. To his dismay, LeMessurier determined that a 40 percent stress increase in some areas of the structure would result in a 160 percent increase in stress on some of the building s joints. This meant that the building was vulnerable to total collapse if certain areas were subjected to a 16-year storm (i.e., the sort of storm that could strike Manhattan on average once every 16 years). Meanwhile, hurricane season was not far away.

 

LeMessurier realized that reporting what he had learned could place both his engineering reputation and the financial status of his firm at substantial risk. Nevertheless, he acted quickly and decisively. He drew up a plan for correcting the problem, estimated the cost and time needed for rectifying it, and immediately informed Citicorp owners of what he had learned. Citicorp was response was equally decisive. LeMessurier s proposed course of action was accepted and corrective steps were immediately undertaken, although the public was not informed of the problem. As the repairs neared completion in early September, a hurricane was reported moving up the coast in the direction of New York. Fortunately, it moved harmlessly out over the Atlantic Ocean, but not without first causing considerable anxiety among those working on the building, as well as those responsible for implementing plans to evacuate the area should matters take a turn for the worse.

 

Although correcting the problem cost several million dollars, all parties responded promptly and responsibly. Faced with the threat of increased liability insurance rates, LeMessurier s firm convinced its insurers that because of his responsible handling of the situation, a much more costly disaster may have been prevented. As a result, the rates were actually reduced.

 

Identify and discuss the ethical issues this case raises.

Explanation

It is clear that LeMessurier did not take enough care while working on the initial design. It is surprising that he learnt later while the project was underway that it had bolted joints instead of welds. He should have been all the more diligent when finalising the design as it was an innovative one. Luckily he found out the fault before it was too late and averted a possible disaster, and the damage was increased costs. Though it was not made public, LeMessurier's reputation might had taken a hit in the engineering circles.

However, LeMessurier's prompt action to rectify the mistake could be seen as a measure to save his reputation than saving the project if viewed critically.

LeMessurier was ethically wrong for not preparing a safe design, but was ethically correct in admitting the mistake.

Answer

As given below

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