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Here’s How Surfside Condo Collapse Brought About The Latest Changes To 40-Year Recertification Inspections

Written By
John Souffront
Last Updated - August 22nd, 2022 1:14 PM

The partial collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, in 2021 had shaken the entire United States and many other countries, raising the topic of whether or not poor governance played a factor in the tower’s failure. The 40-year recertification inspections were underway while this incident took place.

Is it because the condo board members have a short-term vision towards maintenance? Or is it because the communities of individual owners, the vast majority of whom do not have any training in real estate management, cannot successfully supervise the administration of a complex asset such as a high-rise building?

The fatalities ranged in age from one year old all the way up to ninety-two years old, and it took the search and rescue personnel an entire month to discover and identify all the 98 victims. The tragedy had a significant and lasting impact on families worldwide, especially a Jewish community in South Florida.

What Do We Know About the Surfside Condo Collapse?

40-year recertification inspections

A little over a year has elapsed since the terrible and tragic partial collapse of the Surfside building. It took the loss of 98 valuable lives for the authorities to realize that there should be rigorous rules in place to prevent any future mishaps of a similar nature.

In addition, memorial services were held on June 24, 2022, exactly one year after the tragic event, followed by a private gathering with the victims’ family members. The event timing was the exact time of the collapse, which was at 1:22 in the morning.

Despite the numerous hypotheses and investigations that have been conducted, the reason for the collapse is still a mystery. Here is what we know about the Surfside collapse.

Survivors of the Collapse

The Champlain Towers collapse occurred at 1:30 in the morning, and shockingly, it happened in just a matter of minutes. While this happened, most residents were asleep, and it was reported that there were only three survivors from the initial collapse.

Despite the efforts of global rescue teams, who collaborated and worked around the clock for approximately two weeks, there weren’t any survivors found. However, residents from the other half of the building, which was still standing, were able to escape.

The officials counted 98 deaths in the condo collapse, and this event is amongst the most destructive building collapses in the history of the United States.

A 40-year Recertification Inspections Were in Progress

In 1974, a property in the Miami area collapsed. Post this incident, commercial and residential buildings (40 years after their construction) had to undergo a compulsory inspection, as per the law enforced by county legislators.

The 40-year recertification inspections were still happening when a part of the Champlain towers building tumbled. The condo club hired a home foundation structural engineer firm for this process. Their reports stated concrete structural damage to concrete structural slabs on the pool deck because of failed waterproofing. Even a $9 million estimate was provided for the repairs, but they never got completed.

Reasons Behind the Collapse

Nobody knows what caused the collapse of the residential building. Many potential avenues have been suggested, all of which are now being investigated. The basement parking garage most likely experienced long-term structural damage due to water intrusion and corrosion of the steel supports.

Much like every other one, the property in Champlain Towers South was subject to the effects of coastal elements. The building experienced damage as a result of previous tidal occurrences as well as the salty, corrosive ocean.

Severe weather might have brought about the building’s downfall. It’s also likely that the tower’s location was affected by the erosion of a nearby barrier island. Because it is located on a barrier island, Surfside is vulnerable to the wind and water that hurricanes and tropical storms might bring. Coastal erosion may have caused the building to become more unstable.

Multiple factors contributed to the tower’s instability, as stated in the complaint lodged on behalf of the victims’ families in the class-action case. These include inappropriate pile-driving, digging, and construction at a neighboring 18-story condo structure, which brought structural issues to a skyscraper that was already susceptible to damage.

Many have blamed the faulty design and poor construction of the Champlain Towers for the collapse. Underfunding and inadequate inspections and repairs by the condo association may have deteriorated the tower. This has rendered it more susceptible to the elements. Numerous factors likely triggered this tragic event.

Compensation for the Victims’ Families

A grant of $1.02 billion was approved as a settlement for the victims’ families. The family attorneys mutually decided to reach an agreement than invite extensive court procedures, which could have taken years to deliver results.

Furthermore, this grant of $1.02 billion comes from various origins like engineering firms, insurance companies, and a luxurious condominium constructed recently. Apart from that, billionaire Hussain Sajwani, the Founder and Chairman of DAMAC, bought the 1.8 acres of land at a $120 million bid. That amount will also be leveraged towards compensating the families of the victims.

Changes to the 40-year Recertification Inspections

40-year recertification

The county sends a letter to the property owners informing them of the requirement for recertification at the appropriate time. Thereafter, they have a total of ninety days to finish the procedure and hand in the material relating to the report.

Every participating county has enforced the modifications to the 40 year structural inspection and recertification program due to an increase in the number of unsafe building assessments. The county of Miami-Dade has been the leader in terms of the number of programme modifications that have been put into effect.

Legislation passed in February of 2022 will provide residents of condos in Miami-Dade County with an additional layer of security. The existing code for building recertification will get updated and given additional reinforcements thanks to this ordinance. It includes 30-year recertification inspections instead of the 40-year mark, an inspection every ten years thereafter, a notice period to the residents before inspection (two-year period), and a provision for electrical disconnect when the building is declared unsafe.

Revisions Made to the 40-year Recertification Program

Board of Rules and Appeals (BORA), Miami-Dade County, approved the revisions to the current 40-year recertification inspections program.

  • Include an infrared thermography inspection for any electrical systems that use more than 400 amps of current. To get licenced as an infrared thermographer, one must complete the program and receive a Level II certification or above. This makes them competent in detecting and documenting thermal anomalies in electrical components. They are required to have experience in business inspections that is greater than seven years in length.

(Note: To know more about Infrared Thermal Inspection, click here.)

  • A new sub-division of building facade inspection has been added, which entails inspecting the entire exterior facade of a structure to ensure that the various components of the facade that are mechanistically or inherently connected do not become disconnected and fall off. The previous program did not consider a wide variety of building accessories, but the new one does.
  • An inspection for the structural glazing of the curtain wall system must take place every six months. This is applicable for the first year after the installation gets done. Follow-up inspections need to be conducted at least once every five years and regularly for structurally glazed curtain wall systems installed on threshold buildings.
  • Analyze any documents and permits previously handed to the local jurisdiction. This should be of assistance concerning the overall inspection of the structure. Suppose the design specialist demonstrates a strong knowledge of the structural system, the construction materials, and the proposed design. In that case, they may be tasked with analyzing a few important construction areas.

The Impact of the Revised Ordinance on South Florida

40-year recertification

 

As a result of new legislation that governs the recertification of facilities after 40, 50, and 60 years, the owners of buildings in South Florida may face lengthier response times or higher prices for these inspections in the future.

The process of Level II Infrared Thermography should only be entrusted to an engineering firm with the necessary technical capabilities and previous experience working in this field by the building owners. If property owners miss the deadline to renew their certification, the Unsafe Structures Section will be referred to, and an enforcement case will be opened against the owners’ property.

By gearing up for such assessments beforehand, which will be crucial considering the expected rise in demand and turnaround times, South Florida will be able to cut costs and tip off potential issues in the future.

Final Words

The Champlain Towers collapse has created a scar on many families. It goes down in the history of the United States as one of the worst building collapses ever. Such tragic events make us realize why it’s necessary to take precautions, and in this case, a 40 year building recertification is absolutely necessary, not an option.

For recertification purposes, always trust someone who’s licensed in the state you live in. Having a team of certified professionals will eradicate any uncertainty concerning work quality. The 40-year inspection cost includes many factors, and you want to ensure you pick the right people.

Souffront Construction and Engineering specialize in providing a world-class service regarding 40 year recertification inspections and concrete restoration. We have a power-packed team of structural engineers, Level II certified infrared thermographers, general contractors and recertification experts. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you require a comprehensive home foundation inspection.¬†

John Souffront

John Souffront is a seasoned leader in the construction and engineering industry, with over a decade of experience at the helm of Souffront Construction & Engineering. Known for his unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation, John has propelled his firm to the forefront of the field, delivering cutting-edge solutions for complex projects around the country.

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