New forensic technique: Sit, look and think

I was sitting and watching people walk back and forth at an accident site while recording some measurements I had taken earlier. The walk included stepping up and down at a change in level. It was a hot day and good reason to sit in the shade and do this. It came to me how valuable this was: Just sitting and looking and thinking. A real soft, empirical forensic technique.

I’ve done this before during a forensic investigation – look at something unfold – but it was during a re-enactment of an accident. This simple looking and thinking was different. It was natural not a re-enactment. It also was repetitious – happening over and over and over. It really helped me think through how the accident happened.

It occurred to me as I was doing this that it would be helpful to have a drone hovering above capturing the look from that angle. For that matter maybe several drones at different angles and elevations. But then that simple sit, look and think element would be gone. The walkers would get self conscious about being looked at and it would no longer be natural but more like a re-enactment.

I’ve done something similar during re-enactments of accidents in the pre-drone era – several repetitions – but the naturalness was missing. It doesn’t compare to watching one or two dozen walkers go back and forth.

Getting back to the sit, look and think experience, I didn’t even make notes in my field book, I just soaked up the scene as it unfolded before my eyes.

I’ve not seen a forensic technique like this in the manuals. Sitting in the shade watching people go back and forth. It was valuable but also relaxing. Should I have booked my time against the investigation – sitting, looking and thinking? Hmmm.

(Posted by Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng. Consulting Professional Engineer, Forensic Engineer, Geotechnology Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, September 28, 2023.  

Your eye-glazing education

I was struck by how educational a good read of the National Building Code (NBC) can be, and how easy a read. Your eyes might glaze over sometimes but you’ll learn a lot about buildings and their components where most failures and accidents occur. Buildings are the most frequently built structure in the world.

You’ll get this education from generally quite good writing – small paragraphs (not fat), short declarative sentences, concrete words and good punctuation. For example, simple commas placed so the nuance is well understood – this really stood out for me.

The NBC sets out technical provisions for the design and construction of new buildings. It also applies to the alteration, change of use and demolition of existing buildings.

If nothing else, you will note that the NBC documents the minimum way a building and it’s components should be designed and built to achieve the objectives of the NBC – not necessarily what should be done.

Was the building or component built to the minimum standard as required by the NBC? Was the minimum adequate? Or was the requirement of the standard of care and a reasonable person applicable? (Refs 1, 2)

I know, just reading my suggestion that you take an interest in the NBC might cause you to nod off. But, understanding the building where your clients accident or failure occurred can help resolution of a dispute or settlement of a claim. If nothing else, you’ll talk in a more informed way.

The Appendix contains some excepts from the NBC. There’s one long, fat paragraph but that happens. The NBC still reads okay in my opinion.


The NBC in its present, objective based format was first published in 2005 and is updated every five years by dozens of specialists in different fields.

You can get the Code online like I do when reviewing it’s requirements during the forensic investigation of a failure or a personal injury.


  1. A Bundle of Blogs: On assessing the standard of care. Posted August 12, 2023
  2. How the standard of care is determined when a failure or accident occurs in the built environment. Posted June 28, 2014. Updated October 30, 2020


The following examples were taken from the National Building Code (NBC) Volumes 1 and 2. I was reviewing the Code at the time for some work I was doing:

The NBC establishes requirements to address the following five objectives, which are fully described in Division A of the Code:

  • Safety
  • Health
  • Accessibility for persons with disabilities
  • Fire and structural protection of buildings
  • Environment

Code provisions do not necessarily address all the characteristics of buildings that might be considered to have a bearing on the Code’s objectives


Because the NBC is a model code, its requirements can be considered as the minimum acceptable measures required to adequately achieve the above-listed objectives


Where a door at the top of a stair within a dwelling unit swings away from the stair, no landing is required between the doorway and the stair. (I personally don’t think this is adequate. Eric E. Jorden)


Except for dwelling units, the occupant load of a floor area or part of a floor area shall be the number of persons for which such areas are designed, but not fewer than that determined from Table, unless it can be shown that the area will be occupied by fewer persons. 2) The occupant load for dwelling units shall be based on 2 persons per bedroom or sleeping area.


(Posted by Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng. Consulting Professional Engineer, Forensic Engineer, Geotechnology Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, September 13, 2023.