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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools


FROM:             Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner


DATE:             September 8, 2004


RE:                   Roof Collapse in New York Attributed to U-Shaped Steel Joists


On August 1, 2004, a roof collapsed at the Taft Elementary School in Washingtonville, New York.  The collapse was attributed to a U-shaped steel joist used in schools between 1900 and 1950, but it may also have been used in buildings after 1960.  The U-shaped joist is not a commonly used joist; however, Maine engineers have informed us that they are aware of a few instances of use in Maine.


An engineer could quickly determine from architectural drawings whether the school was constructed with the U-shaped bar joists.  If drawings do not exist, a quick inspection would determine whether they are present.  If a building is constructed with the U-shaped bar joists, the joists should be inspected on a periodic basis to assure that water has not leaked into the joist’s channel.  If moisture is not present, the bar joist does not pose a risk.


I would encourage you to have an engineer inspect your buildings if there is a chance they have U-shaped bar joist construction.  If you have any questions, please contact Scott Brown, Director of School Facilities, at 624-6883 or  What follows are links to several news articles on the roof collapse in New York.


Times Union Albany New York – Collapse of school roof prompts warning


WNBCState Urges Inspections After School Roof Collapse


The Journal NewsSchool districts inspect buildings after roof collapse


CNN:  Officials:  School roof may be at risk