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Theatre roof was on the brink.

Byline: Elias Hazou

THE ROOF of the Nicosia Municipal Theatre was so close to caving in that a fall of snow would have been enough, according to the fact-finding report on the collapse, which was released yesterday.

Design flaws were behind the collapse of the renovated roof in June last year, said the report completed last month but released only yesterday. It said the steel substructure of the renovated roof was on the threshold, and even a small addition of weight would have caused it to cave in.

"The steel structure of the roof was in a state of marginal adequacy. A relatively minor additional load would be sufficient to cause it to fail," the report said.

For example, the weight of snow on the roof would have been enough to make it collapse, it added.

The renovation of the theatre cost near e1/46 million and lasted two and half years before the roof caved in on an empty auditorium on June 11, 2008, just one night before it was booked for a schoolchildren's play. The theatre has 1,200 seats, most of which would have been filled by children, families and teachers.

The overall architectural study had been awarded to the company of Pefkios Georgiades, the late Education Minister. The actual renovation works were undertaken by the A.Panayides company.

"The steel structure left no margin of safety, that is, no margin for the difference between the strain and resistance. This may be considered as the main cause for the collapse," the report said yesterday.

At the critical moment, some of the suspenders failed, causing one of the metal trusses to give way and setting off a chain reaction that brought the entire roof down.

Moreover, the configuration of the original roof "suffered from serious disadvantages" and deviated from "accepted norms of craftsmanship which are applied in structures of a similar nature."

The million-dollar question is why the steel structure was found to be wanting. The report answers this in part.

It reads: "Neither the coordinating architect's office, nor the municipal authority [Nicosia municipality, the contractor] demanded detailed structural calculations from the civil engineersC*concerning the loads acting on the roof in order to ascertain the adequacy of the structure's components according to the relevant regulations."

In short, the structure, as it was initially designed and built, conformed to strain requirements, but only barely. Whenever a building is to be renovated, it is standard practice to carry out a new structural study because the modifications impact its configuration. In the case of the municipal theatre, this was not done.

The highly technical probe sticks to the facts and does not apportion responsibility for the incident. Earlier this week, the Attorney-general said that no criminal liability can be established from the report.

And last month, the head of the investigative team George Ioannides said the report did not apportion blame to particular people. Ioannides said no single person was ever to blame "100 per cent" and that for every percentage of responsibility there were other facts that excused that person.

Meanwhile the Nicosia Municipality plans to sue all those implicated as holding responsibility in the report.

One of the municipal engineers interviewed by the experts mentioned he had heard that, inside the false ceiling, in addition to the standard spotlights, there had been placed robotic spotlights as well as loudspeakers of "a significant weight".

The same engineer testified also that on the day of the collapse, a crew of the Cyprus Theatre Organisation had climbed up into the false ceiling and removed some spotlights, which were to be used in outdoor plays. The floor collapsed later that evening, at around 9pm.

Speaking to the Mail on condition of anonymity, a Nicosia-based architect said that calculating the safety factor for the weight a structure can hold is standard procedure. It is the job of the civil engineer to do this calculation, and the civil engineers signs off on this document. The question that begs is why no one asked for this second calculation in the first place.

The source speculated that perhaps the metal trusses within the structure were too few and far between them.

"There's no way this is a case of wear and tear. It sounds more like human error," the source said.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2009

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Mar 27, 2009
Words:727
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