Winds blamed for collapse of Cumberland building under construction

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CUMBERLAND — Strong winds the night of April 4 are being blamed for the collapse of much of a 20,300-square-foot-building at 197 Gray Road.

The project’s framing was nearly complete, with installation of the roof having just begun for the new home of Casco Systems.

“The high winds caused a structural failure of some sort, which caused a cascading failure, and unfortunately a good portion of the structure was damaged,” Casco Systems President Kevin Mahoney said in an interview April 5.

The building is being designed and built by Green SIP Construction, Mahoney said.

Casco Systems, an engineering and system integration firm based in a 4,000-square-foot building at 160 Longwoods Road (Route 9), plans to house manufacturing and research and development operations in the new Gray Road structure.

“I would like to be clear that Casco Systems has not been directly involved in the structural design or construction,” Mahoney also said by email. “We simply plan to purchase the building after it is completed by Green SIP.”

“I’m very optimistic that the project will continue and be completed this summer,” he added.

Project manager Jim Schmidt in an email April 5 said, “the clear instigating cause was the high winds last night. Some of the roof trusses were solid for fire code and, as a result, were subject to very high wind loads. The failure point appears to be at one of the exterior wall panels. Whether the truss tipped over or the wall wavered may never be known, but once the first failure happened, a domino effect happened and multiple trusses rolled over.”

“This type of construction, with (structural insulated) panels, there’s a lot of exposed area for wind to hit,” Schmidt also said in an interview on the site earlier that day, noting that winds reached 60 mph. “… It was very braced inside and out, but it’s a very vulnerable system until it’s complete.”

The damaged trestles have to be removed and replaced by new ones. Schmidt said he expects the structure to be delayed two weeks.

“It’s a $3 million building; (the impact is) 1 percent,” he said. “It looks like a bigger mess than it is. It’s certainly not something we would have wanted to build into the schedule.”

Casco Systems is still completing its interior plans, “so we were going to have a little delay anyway until that stuff got finalized,” Schmidt noted. “We have a little wiggle room now to be able to get it caught up.”

Another commercial building and five, four-unit residences are also planned at the Route 100 site.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Heavy winds the night of April 4 caused the collapse of much of a 20,300-square-foot building under construction at 197 Gray Road in Cumberland.

This photo shows the Cumberland project shortly before high winds significantly damaged it April 4.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.