We were contacted to evaluate distress for a residence that was constructed using unusual construction practices for the area. The house was built up into the side of a hill and the house was dug into the hill so that a portion of the house was below ground. The design created a number of retaining walls and basement walls. We performed an investigation of visible distress and documented that distress varied based on the side of the house. The sides located perpendicular to the building experienced much more distress. Based on a widely known problem with unbalanced earth pressures for one-sided basements along with patterns of distress, it appeared clear that the cause of the distress was inadequate design of the basement walls and retaining walls.
After receiving the analysis results, the client needed a higher level of certainty. So, we performed a combination of destructive investigation and infrared thermography to document existing conditions, then used the data gathered to perform additional analysis of the framing system. We analyzed various potential mechanisms that the original designer could have used to resist the forces. It was determined that no proper lateral-load resisting system was designed or constructed and major repairs were required.