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Millennium Tower – Fixed or Failure?

In 2021 we discussed the initial sinking of the Millennium Tower located at 301 Mission Street, San Francisco, and how engineers were racing to complete remediation plans for the tower as quickly as possible. First noticed in 2016, the tower’s sinking has only increased despite efforts to halt it, bringing in more expenses and liabilities for the architects and builders of the Millennium Tower. Construction efforts have been made since 2021 to halt the sinking of the tower, but more tilt has been triggered during the construction.

Increasing Tilt and Increasing Risk

The engineering fixes in the first phase of remediating the lean of the Millennium Tower showed initial promise, but as of June of this year, the state of the tower is worse than before the project was started.

“Despite initial progress in the first phase of the so-called fix earlier this year, the sinking and leaning Millennium Tower in San Francisco is now tilting more to the west than ever, according to monitoring data reviewed by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative unit,” states NBC Bay Area news.

With the Millennium Tower imitating the Tower of Pisa, there is a very real risk that it could be red-tagged following a major earthquake in the Bay Area, which is any earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 or higher. The U.S. Geological Survey states there is a 51% chance of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake and a 20% chance of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake happening in the Bay Area in the next 30 years which would be devastating to the area, buildings like the Millennium Tower, and lives of individuals in the area and buildings.

Veteran geotechnical engineer Bob Pyke has always doubted the efficacy of the $100 million remediation plan for the tower, stating, “As far as remedial work goes, this is just a mess,” and further states that there is no way of knowing if the plan will work as hoped and stop the tower from tilting once some of the load is shifted to bedrock foundations.

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

For buildings as tall as the Millennium Tower, they must have a solid foundation, ideally resting on bedrock. Unfortunately for those involved, the San Francisco city code does not require buildings to be anchored to bedrock, which left the Millennium Tower with a foundation system of central-core reinforced concrete mat bearing on piles over deep dense sand. As part of the remediation process, there have been 52 additional perimeter piles socketed 250 feet down into the bedrock to distribute the load and try to balance out the tilt to halt and pull it back.

The remediation process has cost over $100 million to try to resolve the growing tilt of the Millennium Tower, while according to one engineer, anchoring the tower to bedrock initially when it was first being constructed would have only increased the project cost by about $4 million.

A Sinking Situation for All

While lawsuits inundated the courts once the sinking was detected, involving the homeowners’ association, city, developer, contractor, and Transbay Transit Center, the suits were settled partially by the plan to stabilize the building and to compensate the residents and those involved for the building defects.The whole situation surrounding the Millennium Tower and the construction defects of the initial building project serves to highlight the need for expert construction attorneys like those of Furukawa Castles on the side of your business as soon as any issues arise, reducing your risk exposure and potential damages costs.