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"What Caused the Collapse of the Nicoll Highway, Singapore?"

by: Andrew J. Whittle, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, MIT 


In April 2004, the catastrophic failure of a 30m deep braced excavation for the new Circle Line in Singapore led to the collapse of the adjacent Nicoll Highway and the deaths of four construction workers.  This lecture will summarizes the forensic investigations that have been carried out to understand the underlying causes of the failure.  Contributing factors include details of the structural connections for the bracing system, and original design errors in the evaluation of lateral earth pressures.  The lecture will provide a personal view of the lessons learned from this investigation and the consequences for future design of deep excavations.


Dr. Andrew J. Whittle is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a specialist in the field of geotechnical engineering.  Dr Whittle received his Sc.D in Geotechnical Engineering from MIT and his B.Sc(Eng.) in Civil Engineering from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London.  He joined the MIT faculty in 1988 and was promoted to full Professor in 2000.  Dr. Whittle has received several awards for his work from ASCE, including the Casagrande Award (1994), the Croes Medal (1994), Middlebrooks Prize (1997, 2002, and 2005) and Huber Research Award (1998). 

Much of Dr. Whittle’s research work deals with constitutive modeling of soil behavior and applications in predicting the performance of foundations and underground construction projects.  He has worked extensively on problems of soil-structure interaction for urban excavation and tunneling projects.  In 2004 he was an expert witness for the Land Transport Authority in Singapore investigating the Collapse of the Nicoll Highway.  He currently serves on the National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering (NRC/NAE) Committee on New Orleans Hurricane Protection Projects, and an Independent Safety Review Advisory Panel for the Governor of Massachusetts.


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