A major condominium complex collapsed in Surfside, Florida this Thursday, leaving one dead and over 100 individuals missing. Miami-Dade County authorities are currently investigating the Champlain Towers South Condo specifically to try to figure out what exactly caused the collapse.
While the official cause has yet to be determined, an area expert has compiled a list of possible reasons that this building collapsed and shared it with the media. Gary Slossberg is the founder of the South Florida construction company, National Home Building And Remodeling Corp.
“In a general way, there are many things that could happen. Construction defects or engineering defects. I’m not suggesting there were any construction or engineering defects, but simply pointing out the possibility. I think there is some value, and it makes some sense to do periodic inspections,” he explained.
Engineering inspections happen every five to ten years normally, and these inspections typically involve removing drywall or other external materials so that experts can inspect the steel beams or structural aspects of a building to make sure they’re not eroding away.
Slossberg also explained that the “salt in Miami’s coastal air could potentially facilitate the erosion of steel, and evidence of that could appear in the form of rust stains or exposed rebar, which is like a cancer for a building, by the time you see it, it could be too late.”
“While salt can have a severe impact on coastal buildings, I’m not sure how long it would actually take for salt to completely erode a building’s materials to the point of collapse.”
Solssberg also suggested “if the building were constructed with a post-tension slab, or a concrete slab that has cables running through it, and one of those cables came loose, that could have led to its destruction. It could take down a whole building.”
The condominium was built in 1981, back when Florida and Miami-Dade County specifically had completely different construction codes.
“With every hurricane, new construction codes come out. New engineering codes…This is 40 years later [since the building was constructed]. The codes have changed at least a dozen times. I know they have. So, some of these older buildings are not really built to withstand the type of same weather conditions as when they were built originally.”
Another possibility, he said, is that the “building’s balconies may have had some constructional issues. Many Miami-area buildings are built with concrete balconies that are back-pitched, meaning they don’t allow water to escape properly after it rains.”
“There’s a lot of concrete restoration going on, and this is where you see a lot of that rust and rebar coming through the slab between the water sitting there and the salt air — it’s just not a good combination,” he said.
“But again, I don’t know if that would take down the whole building. We just still don’t know what happened.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.