Building defects in new iconic structures

The technical challenge and the economic impact of restoring the Jubilee Church in Rome


The evolution of architectural designs and technology has underpinned the basis of evolution in components with non-standard geometries and innovative technical solutions. For instance, the Jubilee Church located in the eastern outskirts of Rome, Italy. The Church, featuring spherical walls in post-tensed precast concrete masonry, saw the use of self-cleaning reinforced concrete for the first time. Despite the Church being opened only 16 years ago, it is suffering from extensive and premature decay in its structural and cladding components.

Procedurally, development of these buildings required extensive use of innovative construction systems and non-standard parts, often bespoke for each structure. As a result, these non-standard buildings presents high rate of premature technical failures of these unique structures. To avert such failure, it is desired that new approaches to assess how such new building systems and components perform over time should be developed. On this account, Dr Luciano Cardellicchio from the University of New South Wales developed a novel approach for assessing building defects, particularly in new iconic structures. His work is currently published in the research journal, Architectural Engineering and Design Management.

In his approach, Dr Luciano Cardellicchio calculated the economic impact of a building’s premature decay; specifically, the ordinary maintenance of the building and the technical practicability of its restoration. However, the author found out that the accelerated decay of such contemporary buildings was due to several factors, including: construction detailing and ignorance of local weather characteristics. In his view, architects, engineers and construction companies ought to be obliged to procure their construction details on technical defects so as to keep the economic effect of repairing recently completed non-standard structures.

In summary, the study presented a novel approach developed with the aim of investigating the rationale behind premature failure of the Jubilee church in Rome. To this end, the author reported that the premature decay of the building was due to a cascade of reasons, including ignorance of local climate. It is worth noting that structures, such as the Jubilee Church are considered to be of national heritage and important tourist attractions. In a statement to Advances in Engineering, Dr Luciano Cardellicchio mentioned that his work emphasized on the need for recording the construction process of an innovative building using a holistic approach, comparing archival information such as architectural and structural drawings with comprehensive construction pictures, covering every single task of a site, including information contained in minutes from meetings between professionals involved. He further added that this form of recording construction was fundamental to trace back the potential responsibilities for failing systems or processes.

Jubilee Church in Rome-Advances in Engineering


Luciano Cardellicchio. Building defects in new iconic structures: The technical challenge and the economic impact of restoring the Jubilee Church in Rome. Architectural Engineering and Design Management; volume 17, 2021 – Issue 1-2.

Go To Architectural Engineering and Design Management

Luciano Cardellicchio, Paolo Tombesi. Learning from Failures: Reflections on the Role of Project Design and Design Management in the Procurement of Non-Standard Buildings. Buildings 202111, 253.

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