Forensics and Failure Investigation

Structural distress can occur long after a structure or project is complete. The cause and origin of that distress can be due several factors such as subsurface failure of the soil, sinkhole formation, poor workmanship, substandard materials, vehicle damage, fire damage, long-term moisture exposure and even natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, wind storms, lightning damage, hail storms and flooding. Our Forensic Investigation Division is staffed with experts all licensed in their field of expertise that include Engineers, Geologists, Certified Industrial Hygienists, Mold Experts, Scientists, and Environmental Professionals with a broad range of expertise. Shield’s combination of skill and experience allows us to provide our clients with cost-effective forensic failure engineering solutions.



Shield’s engineers have extensive experience providing Property Condition Assessments (PCA) for lenders, commercial property owners, purchasers and real estate investors. PCAs are important for clients seeking to know the condition of a property or real estate they may be purchasing, leasing, or simply maintaining.

Shield’s PCA team adheres to the ASTM E2018-15 industry standard for baseline Property Condition Assessments; however, we can customize our PCAs to each client’s specific needs and concerns. Shield recognizes that clients have different needs, expectations and budgets. Our team can customize PCAs to include extremely thorough building inspections as well as Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments. Or conversely, we can provide a general condition assessment utilizing one or two qualified engineers.

Shield’s diverse team of structural engineers, building inspectors and environmental experts allows us to provide clients with comprehensive PCA services in-house; reducing costs (little to no subcontractors) and increasing productivity.

PCAs are a valuable asset to clients when calculating the rate of return on a potential real-estate investment. If you are in need of a PCA give our team of experienced engineers a call today!


Foundation and Retaining Wall Failures

Foundations can settle and crack for a number of reasons whether due to poor subsurface preparation, sinkholes, inadequate engineering design, or poor construction workmanship. Shield’s Forensic Engineering Team, coupled with extensive geotechnical, structural and construction expertise, can determine the cause and origin of foundation and retaining wall failure.

If the evaluation calls for repair, Shield can help design a structural remediation for foundation failure to include transferring the load of the structure through soft soil to a harder layer below, adding another component to soft soil to increase its firmness, or chemical modification of the soil itself. We routinely conduct failure investigations for law firms, insurance companies, and private individuals as well as project managers and developers themselves.

Read 5 Things You Should Know About Retaining Walls>>


Structural Evaluations

Structural distress in a building is not always caused by failures related to the foundations. The framing style and techniques, incorrectly designed loading conditions and poor placement of load bearing elements can affect the performance of a structure as well as damage to structural elements from fire, moisture, and material defects. Shield’s experts have extensive engineering experience needed to evaluate structural failures. Through a wide variety of different failure analyses, we’ll assist you in efficiently determining the cause and origin and together develop a cost-effective solution.


Construction Material Defects

If construction materials are not prepared to the industry standards or project specifications, failures often follow. From minor cracking to catastrophic collapse, Shield’s team of experts can use the extensive knowledge to determine the cause and origin of the damage as well as analyze the materials in our accredited, in-house physical materials laboratory to determine deficiencies and risks. Shield also maintains a shortlist of qualified specialty materials experts to assist in specific materials analysis of various metals. Shield will break down the materials’ properties using innovative scientific techniques to help you document and remedy a structural failure.


Slope Failures

Slope failures can be naturally occurring or come as the result of poor subsurface conditions created during site grading, alterations of surface and groundwater conditions or a change in loading conditions to a slope. Regardless of the origin, the result can be catastrophic. Shield’s team of experts will work quickly to investigate the cause and origin of the slope failures and provide various options for repair.



Large catastrophic failures of sinkholes have captured the media’s attention over the last several years and raised awareness of the problems associated with the resulting structural distress and property loss from the ensuing damage. Not all dropouts are due to the geology of a site and can be caused by other man made problems such as collapsed storm drain pipes, septic tanks, water line ruptures, buried construction debris, mine collapses, trash pits and trees. Knowing the difference between an actual sinkhole and an induced dropout can be important to identify possible repair methods and financial responsibility. Shield’s staff of experts utilizes a combination of literature reviews of published topographic maps, geologic maps, project drawings, local GIS resources as well as geophysical studies and subsurface drilling to characterize the soil and rock profile to better understand site conditions and determine if a sinkhole is present.


Dam Failures

Common causes of dam failure include:

  • Sub-standard construction materials/techniques
  • Spillway design error 
  • Geological instability caused by changes to water levels during filling or poor surveying 
  • Poor maintenance, especially of outlet pipes 
  • Extreme inflow
  • Internal erosion, especially in earthen dams 

Failures can range from creating a minor inconvenience to catastrophic event. Shield's Forensic Engineering Experts will work quickly to investigate and document failures and provide various options for repair.


Roofing Damage

Hurricanes, tornadoes, and violent wind and hail storms can wreak havoc on a community causing widespread damage to roofs. The extent of the damage is not always easily assessed and an expert in roofing materials is needed to make a final judgment. Shield’s roofing experts are trained engineers and certified roofing inspectors that can evaluate damage to both residential and commercial structures. Sadly, fraud is often prevalent following a storm and predatory contractors often try to take advantage of insurance companies and well as owners. The worst damage is easy to identify, Shield’s trained staff has the knowledge and experience to investigate roofs that are not easily evaluated and obvious clues are not visible. This knowledge is the difference in paying out an unnecessary claim or preventing a home owner from replacing a good roof.


Shield has you covered

Experiencing an on-site failure or forensics issue can grind any project to a screeching halt. Whether you’re in the aftermath of a disastrous slope failure, cleaning up after a hurricane, or need to find out more about whether or not the cement mixture you’re using is adequate, contact us today.