Following the March 2, 1973 collapse of Skyline Plaza in Baily’s Crossroads, VA that resulted in the death of 14 construction workers and the injury of 34 others, 12 engineering laboratories along with local building officials came together to develop strategies and implement programs to prevent a Skyline Plaza tragedy from ever happening again.
The result was the formation of the Washington Area Council of Engineering Laboratories (WACEL) and one of the most effective public-private sector partnerships in the history of North American construction. After the Skyline Plaza collapse, WACEL member firms, working side by side with Fairfax County, VA officials, developed the world’s first Special Inspection Program.
Fairfax County’s Critical Structures Program (as it was known at the time of its inception) required technicians and companies to demonstrate competency to perform assigned tasks by individual certification and laboratory accreditation. WACEL created the industry’s first construction material technician certification programs in 1975 and accredited its first laboratory in 1976.
Critical structures-type program quickly were adopted by almost every jurisdiction throughout the metropolitan Washington area and because of their effectiveness in improving communications between all parties to a construction project and mandating baseline minimum qualifications for individuals and laboratories and inspection agencies, these programs evolved into Special Inspections, which are now required by the International Building Code (IBC).
Today, WACEL offers 12 different technicians certification programs, conducts in excess of 2,000 certification exams annually, and accredits laboratories and audits inspection agencies to meet the requirements of ASTM E329, D3740 and C1077.