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Engineers call for more inspections after condo collapse

The Associated Press
Engineers call for more inspections after condo collapse

MIAMI —The state of Florida should consider requiring highrise buildings near the coast to undergo safety inspections every 20 years, according to a coalition of engineers and architects that formed after a Miami-area condominium collapsed in June, killing 98 people.

The recommendations, released four months after Champlain Towers South collapsed in Surfside, are based on “preserving the long-term health of buildings by assessing environmental and other degradation of structures and their systems over the life of a building,” the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida and the Florida Engineering Society said in a news release.

Seven of the state’s engineering and architecture associations formed the Surfside Working Group to come up with ideas to prevent another tragedy like the partial collapse of the 12-storey beachfront property.

The group also said nearly all large buildings in Florida should be inspected for structural problems within their first 30 years, with follow-ups every 10 years. Buildings within five kilometres of saltwater should be inspected within their first 20 years, with follow-up safety inspections every seven years, the group said.

“Our recommendation is not really to tell the condos, or owners of other buildings, how to maintain your property. It’s just to put a mechanism out there that these buildings need to be looked at every so often to identify any structural problems,” said Allen Douglas, executive director of the Florida Engineering Society and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida.

“We don’t know exactly why the tower fell. Whether it was a design error, whether it was a construction problem or whether it was just lack of maintenance,” Douglas said. “But I think as an industry they felt a responsibility to put something out.”

The report has been put forward to Florida legislators, he said.

The report calls for inspections on a wide range of buildings, including condominiums, offices and other structures that exceed 10 occupants and are covered by the state’s building code.

Only Broward and Miami-Dade counties require mandatory inspections of tall buildings.

Champlain Towers South was undergoing its 40-year inspection when it crumbled in the middle of the night. A 2018 engineer’s report noted “major structural damage” caused by lack of proper drainage on the pool deck.

The condominium board’s discussions over how to pay for the repairs delayed work on the building.

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