Gentlemen and Goddesses:
I wanted to provide an update on some interesting activities in Japan that might support Jonathan's previous post about his concerns with quality control and abuse thereof.
About the middle of last month, the same day I arrived in Tokyo, in fact, the news media began screaming about concrete "mansions" (RC concrete condos) that had construction defects resulting from 'forged" structural calculations. Apparently, a structural engineer named Aneha had, over a number of years, submitted falsified structural calculations for the design of several tens of buildings in the Tokyo area, including hotels and high-rise reinforced concrete condominiums. He may or may not have been pressured by the contractor and/or developer. Lots of finger pointing in progress.
The result of this falsification was the reduction in the quantity of rebar such that the "experts of the moment" say a building that must withstand a magnitude 7 quake would fail during a 3-5 quake. The first hint of the problem was sagging balconies and unusual cracking. Many people have moved out of their condos in fear for their lives. Three hotels had shut down as well. No buildings in question have actually failed.
The QC issue in all this is that the fact that the government had delegated its responsibility for checking the structural calcs to private companies in order to speed up review/approval time. The parties that should have checked the falsified calcs failed to do so adequately, it is said. Pretty poor QC.
Consequently, hundreds of existing buildings approved under this system are being rechecked for adequacy, and buildings currently under review have been put on hold. The chaos has delayed many building schedules, and is expected to shut down large-scale construction in the Tokyo area for the near future.
My company does a great deal of RC mansion condo development in the Tokyo area, but the services of this structural engineer and the problematic contractor where not employed on any of them. However, new sales have stopped dead, and prices are expected to fall horribly as smaller, weaker developers without the resources to endure for long, go bankrupt and their stock comes onto the market at fire-sale prices.
So here we see an actual case of established QC procedures easily circumvented for the most disgusting of purposes putting human lives at risk and damaging, through association, the reputation of all the members of at least three honorable professions. Were there bribes involved? I don't know, but the potential motives appear limited.
For what it is worth.