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The question then which confronts us is whether the faulty structures reported are due to qualities inherent in reinforced concrete precast basement stairs; or whether they are due to defects in design and methods or concrete construction which may be amended in the future; or whether they may be considered simply as accidental failures to which all engineering structures are occasionally liable. In other words, shall we condemn the building of bulkheads of reinforced concrete precast basement stairs, or may we disregard the comparatively few actual failures as accidental, or shall we approve of building concrete precast basement stairs, at the same time insisting that, to be sure of permanence, the- methods of design and concrete construction must be in some cases radically changed? My investigations and examinations of bulkheads have led me very decidedly to the third alternative.

In other words, the writer is convinced that reinforced concrete precast basement stairs can be built which are entirely safe and practically indestructible, while recognizing that many have been erected with an utter disregard of the fundamental principles which have proved essential in all other classes of reinforced concrete precast basement stairs concrete construction.

In the first place, as we consider the problem, two principles must be recognized which may be termed axioms in engineering science. Namely, failures do not necessarily throw doubt upon any class of concrete construction unless the causes for failure are incapable of remedy. On the other hand, the fact that one structure or many structures have not failed is no proof that they are properly designed and built, since they may not have met with the most severe conditions or may be already stressed to a point so near breaking as to be liable to future deterioration from heat and frost and continued vibration. In reviewing the subject, therefore, the examination must be especially directed to the causes of the occasional failures and defects reported, with the object of determining if possible whether the conditions which have produced the troubles may be present in other bulkheads and how they may be corrected in the future to prevent recurrence.

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Eight bulkheads have been reported which have either blown over or have been taken down because they were defective, and ten or twelve others have been heard from in which cracks have developed which cause serious apprehension. In nearly every case of failure the bulkhead has been rebuilt by the concrete construction company. One of the failures most widely known is that which occurred at Peoria, Ill., in 1906. The bulkhead had been completed about three weeks when it gave way at the offset or projection, the upper part crumbling as it came down, and the concrete precast basement stairs breaking into small chunks.

The T-shaped steel stripped clean from the concrete precast basement stairs. The cause is stated to be a poor batch of concrete precast basement stairs at the offset, although the manner of failure would indicate that the concrete precast basement stairs in the upper portion also was not of the best quality. Another case is cited in which the bulkhead stood for nearly two years, and then blew over in a wind storm of about forty-five miles per hour.