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Engineering company warned about systematic issues with condo buildings in the Miami area before the catastrophic collapse

In 2018, an engineering company warned the Champlain Towers South Condo Association in the Miami area. Partially collapsed building This week there was a “serious error” in the design that could cause water to collect near the base.

According to the company’s report, installing waterproofing on a flat deck surface rather than a sloping surface that allows water to drain was a “systematic problem with this building structure.” The town of Surfside, Florida, the scene of the incident, published a report on its website late Friday, along with other documents about the 40-year-old building.

More documents released on Saturday show that Condominium Association officials sent a report mentioning these issues to Surfside Building officials in November 2018. Evidence that at least one of the town governments was aware of these issues.

However, according to the town of Surfside, the same engineering company produced another report, citing inspections from about the same time in 2018, giving the building the highest grade by some criteria. The town said it took the unusual step of adding a comment to the report on its website posted on Friday and did not receive this additional report until the building collapsed.

Engineers and real estate experts who reviewed the report pointed out serious problems that could have contributed to the collapse, but at the time no wording was found indicating that the structure was in imminent danger. There wasn’t.

A duo of reports from an engineering company provides a seemingly contradictory message about the urgency of addressing a problem. Even the report with the phrase “serious error” had that information on page 7 of the 9-page report and did not explain the potential consequences of not addressing the issue immediately.

Rescue teams combed debris on Friday while searching for survivors at a partially collapsed 12-story condominium tower in Surfside, Florida. Families of unexplained people continue to wait for news about their loved ones.Photo: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue / Associated Press

“The main problem with this building structure is that the waterproofing of the entrance drive / pool deck / planter is placed on a flat structure,” said the Maryland-based company Morabito Consultants in October 2018. The report states. “Reinforced concrete slabs are not tilted for drainage, so the water is kept waterproof until it evaporates.” The report was addressed to the Treasurer of the Condominium Association at the time.

The report said that waterproofing of this flat surface was a major mistake in the development of the original document for the 12-story building by architects and consulting engineers.

“In the near future, failure to replace waterproofing will exponentially increase the degree of deterioration of concrete,” the report said.

In a statement on Saturday, the engineering company said it was deeply plagued by the collapse of the building and is working closely with authorities to understand why the structure broke.

The Morabito consultant, referring to the report sent to the Condominium Association in October 2018, said, “In particular, serious cracks and breakage in concrete have been reported in detail and repaired to ensure the safety of residents and the general public. Was needed. “

Nonetheless, another 14-page report, which began on August 1, 2018 and cited inspections completed earlier the following month, called the structural condition “good” with five measures, with the following obvious issues: Pointed out that there was no. Bulge and calm. The report also cited the issue of waterproofing, but called the cracks in the concrete frame system “not important.”

Search and rescue experts searched for survivors in the rubble at Champlain Towers South Condo on Friday.


Photo:

The Wall Street Journal Alexia Fodere

The town of Surfside said it didn’t receive this 14-page report until Thursday night, when the town said it had been sent to town officials by the president of the engineering company, Frank Moravito, after the building collapsed. .. The town called it an “unconfirmed report” in a memo on a document published along with other documents on the history of the building, which was not formally submitted or approved by the owner. The report did not have a date.

A Morabito Consultants spokesman declined to comment on the 14-page report. Kenneth Director, a condominium management lawyer, did not respond to requests for comment on the report. The person who answered the reporter’s call to the number related to the former accounting of the Condominium Management Companies declined to comment.

In a previous interview, Direktor said the Condominium Management Companies plans both structural and electrical work related to the 40-year recertification of the building.

It is not clear whether the problem identified by Mr. Moravito’s company is related to the catastrophic breakdown and collapse of the building around 1:30 am on Thursday, killing at least five people. Engineering experts warn that it can take months or even a year or more to fully understand what caused a building to collapse.

On Friday, the town released an email chain showing that the current condominium secretary forwarded a nine-page report identifying suspected design errors to Motomachi building official Rosedo Prieto in late 2018. I couldn’t ask for comment late Saturday.

Surfside Mayor Charles Barckett, who was not the mayor of 2018, said late Saturday:


Fire at the site of the collapse of the condominium hinders the search

Florida officials have been pushing for efforts to find survivors out of 156 unexplained people.

Members of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue Team searched for potential survivors on Sunday at the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South Condominium building in Surfside, Florida.

Giorgio Viera / Agence France-Presse-Press / Getty Images

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Eliana Salzauer, the town’s commissioner, said Surfside brought in a disaster-experienced engineering company to evaluate what happened to the building and that others in the town were structurally sound. He said he had confirmed. This includes the twin-structured Champlain Towers North near the South Tower grounds.

Jesse Keenan, an associate professor of real estate at the Tulane School of Architecture in New Orleans, said from a report in October 2018 that it was clear that the structural elements of Champlain Towers South were “completely degraded in water.” He said he believed it “dangered structural integrity.”

Roberto Leon, a construction engineering professor at Virginia Tech and a structural failure expert, points out that the water intrusion problem outlined by the engineering company is part of a set of factors that endangered the building. Said there is a possibility. He also said the report did not represent a concern for imminent failure.

Meanwhile, Miami realtors and lawyers said inspection reports revealing such a serious threat to the structure of buildings of this era were rare, and some said they were potentially concerned.

Mr Barckett said the city might propose to relocate residents wishing to evacuate from the nearby condominium tower, Champlain Towers North. Barckett said the North Tower was “basically identical” to the collapsed one, with safety concerns.

Neisen Kasdin, managing partner of Akerman LLP’s Miami office and former mayor of Miami Beach, said buildings in the area were regularly inspected around 40 years ago, and such inspections caused structural problems. He said it was rare to be revealed.

Surfside Mayor Charles Barkett spoke with a family member who is still looking for a family member in connection with the collapse.


Photo:

The Wall Street Journal Alexia Fodere

“Usually it doesn’t include the main structural components that support the building, but it can,” he said.

However, if the report contains this type of wording, the condominium board is often unable to respond urgently, says one engineer.

Nat Oppenheimer, principal of Newyork-based Sylman Structural Engineering Company, said:

Nelson Gonzalez, senior vice president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty, said he would have advised clients not to buy units in such buildings. Hook valuations of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Gonzales said his son, who works for him, was showing a unit in the building about four weeks ago and noticed that the balcony was aging in a way that suggested it was flooded. It was. Some of the photos in the engineering report showed photos of degraded materials on balconies.

“Many balconies were concerned that he didn’t want to go out,” he said.

Alberto and Isabel Aguero, who purchased a one-bedroom unit on the 11th floor in 2019, said a few months ago they were informed that they would have to pay a $ 80,000 valuation for repairs and upgrades of various buildings. .. Aguero, 67, said owners of larger units were said to be in debt of more than $ 100,000.

Aguero said he was unaware of Moravito’s coverage and structural concerns until he saw the news coverage on Saturday.

Agueros, who still lives in New Jersey, planned to move to the surfside full-time for retirement, but the pandemic kept them away until March of this year. The couple’s 42-year-old son and his family were inside the building when it collapsed and fled.

“I could see something in need of repair, such as a few bricks missing from the wall near the pool,” Aguero said. But overall, he said, “I didn’t have much concern.”

Florida condo collapse

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Write to John Kamp jon.kamp@wsj.com, Will Parker will.parker@wsj.com And in Deborah Acosta deborah.acosta@wsj.com

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Engineering company warned about systematic issues with condo buildings in the Miami area before the catastrophic collapse

Source link Engineering company warned about systematic issues with condo buildings in the Miami area before the catastrophic collapse

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