Office of the Secretary of Public Works


Avianca is the flag carrier airline of Colombia. Located in the country’s capital, its thirty-eight-story headquarters was constructed of reinforced concrete with precast prestressed joists, mild-steel reinforced solid slabs, and cast-in-place post-tensioned beams and girders.


The team, including WJE, performed an extensive visual examination of the fire-damaged structure. Based on the investigation, the team identified three design characteristics to which the building’s fire resistance could be attributed: the massiveness of the concrete members of the main structural system, which absorbed heat to maintain comparatively low temperatures in the strand and conventional reinforcement; the steel tubing and grout that helped to protect the strands and tendons; and the good detailing and structural continuity of the precast elements that allowed for load redistribution.

Because the structure and its contents were typical of office buildings in cities around the world and the building included concrete in several forms, the project offered a unique opportunity to collect real-world performance data on each form’s behavior through fire. This allowed investigative results to be used for the validation of the Rational Design Method for fire endurance—a newly developed approach at the time that challenged the traditional reliance on fire tests.

The project revealed much about concrete systems’ performance during a fire, providing engineers with practical information to develop safer, more fire-resistant structures.