Vacant buildings can easily become major hazards, especially if the stability of the structures is not accounted for. The condition of a building can change rapidly when it is uninhabited because there is nobody to keep a close eye on it and ensure it is stable. The problem is worsened if the buildings are left in a state of disrepair.

One of the biggest causes of problems is leaving windows uncovered. This allows the wind to blow into the structure and changes the load on walls and supports. The additional loading can easily lead to a collapse and create danger, particularly if the building is already unstable due to insufficient maintenance.

This problem has been seen recently in West Baltimore, Maryland, US. In the Matthew Henson neighbourhood some 325 vacant houses, almost a third of those in the area, are boarded up. The uninhabited properties are in various states of disrepair and a number of them have become unstable over time. When heavy winds struck the city at the start of April several of the buildings experienced partial collapses because of the loading. One of these fell on a car, taking the life of the driver in the process.

The response to the collapses has been swift from both the residents of the neighbourhood and the city. Local people contacted local agencies to organise an emergency meeting to address the risks to public safety the uninhabited properties present. As a result of this meeting, local authorities conducted demolitions to bring down some of the unstable buildings safely. Plans are being put in place to accelerate demolition work and to ensure that properties are periodically monitored to determine their condition and safety.

The collapses show just how much damage the wind can cause to inhabited properties, particularly when they are left with insufficient structural supports to retain them. Temporary works should be utilised to support buildings, whether they are set for demolition or are intended for regeneration. The supports will give the structure the additional stability it needs and dramatically cut the risk of an unexpected collapse occurring. We are dedicated to upholding high standards of competencies of temporary works in the UK to avoid situations such as the one in Baltimore.