deck had collapsed into the ….
deck had collapsed into the underground garage. She took her two children and fled the building.
Some experts have said that they doubt that a collapse in the pool deck could have resulted in the collapse of the entire building, while others say that it, combined with other factors, may have set off the wider catastrophe. Most agree that the failure occurred at the lower levels of the structure.
It is known that at the time of the building’s collapse, the complex had been preparing for the recertification that state law requires of such buildings in the area that are 40 years old. Major repairs would be necessary to pass inspection, which had not been started prior to the collapse.
Speculation about the collapse has centered on the pool deck area because three years before, engineer Frank P. Morabito was hired by the condominium association to perform an inspection of the building as part of its recertification process. He said that the building, and particularly the pool deck, would require timely and expensive repairs.
Specifically, “The waterproofing below the Pool Deck & Entrance Drive as well as all of the planter waterproofing is beyond it useful life and therefore must be completely removed and replaced. The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.”
He said that the main issue with the building structure and the pool deck also showed damage, with “abundant cracking” in the concrete columns, beams and walls. Although he said the concrete deterioration should “be repaired in a timely fashion,” he did not suggest that the building was under threat of collapse.
Corroborating this report were the findings of an unnamed commercial pool contractor, who visited the building 36 hours before it came down. The contractor was asked to visit the building to put together a bid for cosmetic pool restoration and equipment replacement, which was part of a multimilliondollar restoration project that was just beginning. The contractor told the Miami Herald that while the pool area itself seemed to be in OK shape, the basement garage and the pool equipment room, located under the pool area, were another story. He said he observed cracking concrete and severely corroded rebar under the pool and he was struck by the lack of maintenance in the lower level. After the building’s collapse he said he wondered if this was going on in other parts of the building to cause the collapse.
Particularly troublesome to the contractor was the amount of standing water all over the parking garage.
He mentioned this to a building staff member, who was showing him around. The staff member said that he thought it was waterproofing issues. The staff member also said that they pumped the pool equipment room so frequently that the building had to replace pump motors every two years.
Reports don’t make it clear whether any of the water came from a leaking pool or ocean water, or both of these sources. Similarly, it’s not clear whether all of the water came from overhead or perhaps some came through at a garage entrance or both; however, a Champlain maintenance manager from the late 1990s did say that ocean saltwater would make its way into the underground garage and that “pumps never could keep up with it.”
The question of whether deterioration of the pool area caused or contributed to the collapse will no doubt play a major part in the investigation over the next several months.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated the aftermath of September 11, 2001, is sending a team to the Surfside site to make an assessment.
Their findings will likely inform future building codes.
Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida. Photo credit: Zillow.com.