We all make mistakes every once in a while. “Learn from your mistakes” is what one is usually comforted with after messing something up. Some mistakes, however, can be found to be quite expensive, costing even billions of dollars or could be even worse with lives at risk. Architecture and construction are some of those fields where even a minimal inaccuracy can end up calamitous. 

Let’s have a look at 6 of the most expensive construction mistakes made across the world.

1. Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington

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The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Washington_©sites.lsa.umich.edu

In the state of Washington, USA, spanned across the Tacoma Narrows strait, a twin suspension bridge known as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built in 1940. During its time it was the third-largest suspension bridge and the very first cable suspension bridge to incorporate a series of plate girders as roadbed support. The entire overall construction cost was estimated to be around $6 million, and considering today’s value with inflation it is equivalent to 1 billion. However, the bridge that all that money was spent upon, lasted only 4 months and seven days.

Due to engineering flaws, in dangerous winds, the bridge would dangerously buckle and swaying could be seen even with normal winds. On the day of its collapse, the speed of the winds was about 19m/s and primarily due to ‘aeroelastic flutter’, both halves of the bridge twisted in opposite directions causing it to collapse into the river. 

Fortunately, no human life was harmed. This engineering flaw became a popular topic to date and post-investigation brought in a new theory for construction: wind theory oscillations. 

2. The Aon Center

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The Aon Center, Chicago_©www.loopnet.com

The Aon Center built in 1974, known back then as the Amoco building, is one of Chicago’s tallest structures today. Initially, the structure was an architectural wonder to the city. A simple, rectangular, tubular steel-framed structure. What made it stand out was its cladding with Carrara marble imported from Tuscany, making it the world’s largest marble-clad building. 

But this beautiful and distinct feature in the building facade began to form numerous cracks due to the material being very thin, making pieces of the slab detach and crash down below as well. This led to the structure having a makeover in the 1990s, with the marble being replaced with a more suitable granite though at a very high expense. The construction mistake ended up being worth a whopping amount of $80 million.

3. The Walkie Talkie turn Walkie Scorchie

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The Walkie Talkie, London_©londonist.com

20 Fenchurch street is a commercial structure in London nicknamed “The Walkie Talkie” due to its unusual shape. Completed in 2014 and costing over 200 million pounds, the expensive skyscraper revealed itself to be an expensive construction mistake. The building’s glass facade and its radian resulted in the structure being an enormous concave mirror reflecting sunlight onto the street in front for about 2 hours a day. 

Due to the extreme heat of about 72℃, there have been reports of cracking tiles, charred carpets, and melting of paint and even cars! These incidents brought another name to the tower: The Walkie Scorchie. A sunscreen was placed across its curved face to reduce the glare but fixing this architectural mistake cost about 10 million pounds.

4. Sydney Opera House

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The Sydney Opera House, Sydney_©www.flickr.com

The Sydney Opera House is adored across the globe but even though you can’t tell from the look of it, it ranks as one of the world’s failed projects in terms of planning as well as construction. The structure was supposed to be completed in 4 years with a budget of AU $7 million but instead took 14 years and a total cost of AU $14 million. Along with this, the opera house ended up becoming a place where the musicians couldn’t hear their music due to acoustical flaws as well as improper planning. 

The opera house and stage production halls somehow were switched and housed wrong, leading to another high expense of nearly AU $300 million to rectify the acoustics. 

5. Seongsu Bridge Collapse

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The Seongsu Bridge, South Korea_©www.flickr.com

In 1994, the central section of the Seongsu Bridge, located in Seoul, collapsed into the Han River, costing the lives of 31 people. The bridge was designed to take on a load of 36.3 tonnes per car but vehicles of 47.3 tonnes would commute using the bridge as well. 

With the bridge taking on extra load combined with an engineering flaw discovered in certain joints post-investigation, it cost the state council 185 thousand dollars to compensate for the lives tragically lost along with 2 million dollars worth of repairs. Later on, it was also discovered that a couple of repairs and scheduled maintenance were not followed through.

6. Lotus Riverside Disaster

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Lotus Riverside, Shanghai_www.thestar.com

Lotus Riverside is a residential complex located in Shanghai. In 2009, one of the 13-storeyed buildings collapsed, missing its neighbouring structures that could have caused a domino effect. Though most people evacuated in time, the life of one construction worker was lost that morning due to the fall. The cause of the collapse was found to be due to shoddy foundations as well as noncompliance construction standards that also had the developers accused of sacrificing quality for quicker payments. The developers faced losses of up to $30 million as compensation to the homeowners as well construction expenses.


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Anjali is an aspiring architect from Hyderabad, with a bubbly, inquisitive outlook on life. She loves to explore and travel, whether it be on land or through literature. Someday her designs will solve social issues. Till then, if feeling muddled, penning it down or dancing it out is her answer.