Investigators are currently at work determining how a 12-story condominium in Surfside, Florida collapsed this past week. This last Wednesday, a rescue team was out searching for survivors in the building’s rubble, which killed 16 people and left 150 completely unaccounted for.
As of now, investigators are looking to find out what caused the Champlain Towers South to “pancake” in the small Surfside town this past Wednesday around 2 in the morning.
According to Danielle Levine Cava, the Miami-Dade County mayor, the building has 130 units in total and more than half of them were affected by the collapse. As for why the building collapsed, investigators are still unsure.
According to documents that were released this past Friday by Surfside, an engineering consultant that was hired by the condo association back in 2018, there was “major” concreted damage, failing waterproofing, and design flaws. The consultant noted there would be “exponential damage” if nothing was done to fix the issues.
On October 8, 2018, a letter was written to the condominium’s treasurer, which included a list of repair recommendations. Within the letter, the consulting engineer noted that the failed waterproofing would result in major structural damage on the concrete slab, which rests over the garage.
The letter read, “Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete damage to expand exponentially.”
The collapse created large piles of debris surrounding the condominium and left cars as far as two blocks around the scene completely coated in dust.
Engineers and researchers are looking at a wide variety of reasons as to why the building may have collapsed. Some of these potential reasons include the corrosive effects of salt water, the rise in sea level, and the instability of the ground surrounding the bottom of the building. They also point to the fact that the accident could have been a result of oversight or shoddy construction.
While the town of Surfside made a number of documents public related to the building collapse, none of them were thorough enough to determine the true reason why the building collapsed. However, the documents did reveal several serious problems.
According to Jennifer Huergo, a National Institute of Standards and. Technology spokeswoman, engineers and federal scientists are now heading out to Champlain Towers South to see whether or not a full investigation should go into play.
After the 9/11 attacks, this federal agency was given more authority to investigate buildings that had collapsed. This same organization investigated several important cases over the years, including the Rhode Island nightclub fire and the Kansas City hotel collapse.
A full investigation from the organization would be to try and determine any technical issues that led to the collapse. In doing so, they would work to change building codes in the area and beyond.
According to a Florida International University researcher, this building, which was constructed on Florida wetlands, was said to be unstable more than a year ago. In the 1990s, the building was already sinking at a rate of more than 2 millimeters each year.