The Status of the Florida Residential Building Collapse

TL;DR (2-minute read)

  • On June 24, 2021, a condominium collapsed in Surfside, Florida.
  • Currently, 64 people are confirmed dead, 11 injured, and 76 missing.
  • The cause of the building’s collapse remains unclear — the leading hypothesis is that long-term water damage to steel inside of a concrete slab or column caused the structural integrity to deteriorate.

What Happened and Casualties

Champlain Towers South, a condominium in Surfside, Florida, partially collapsed on June 24, 2021. The collapse happened in stages, beginning in the early morning when the center of the building crumbled to the ground. Three seconds later, the north-facing central section collapsed, followed by the east-facing section. Altogether, these three stages took no more than 12 seconds. 

After spending the past two weeks scouring the rubble for survivors, crew members are now “focused solely on recovery efforts.” As of July 8, 2021, a total of 64 people are confirmed dead, 11 injured, and 76 missing. The uncollapsed portion of the building was demolished on Sunday as a “safety precaution due to the approach of Hurricane Elsa.”

Source: Google/BBC

Potential Causes

The cause of this building’s collapse remains unclear. Officials mentioned that the building was undergoing a standard “recertification” process and mandatory repairs. A 2018 report of the building flagged the “abundant cracking…of columns, beams and walls [in the garage]” and the concrete platform beneath the swimming pool deck as “major structural damage.” Structural engineer, Greg Batista, hypothesizes that concrete damage is a possible cause for the collapse. “The reinforcing steel inside the concrete…rusts and it expands up to seven times its volume. The concrete that surrounds it breaks and that causes significant deterioration in the structural integrity of that…beam or column. All it takes is one beam or one column to fail and it causes a domino effect,” says Batista. 

Professor Shimon Wdowinski, a researcher at Florida International University, also highlights that the Champlain Towers had been sinking into the wetlands it stood on at a rate of 2 millimeters (0.079 inches) per year since the 1990s. However, Professor Wdowinski also cautions that “land subsidence alone was not likely to cause a building’s collapse.” 

Source: The Contractor

Current Action

On June 26, Mayor Levine Cara ordered an inspection of all high-rise buildings older than 40 years, as well as those built by the developer of the Champlain Towers, in Miami-Dade County. An article published by The New York Times claims that the collapse of the Champlain Towers South prompted a review of hundreds of other buildings in Florida which had “ignored or delayed action on serious maintenance issues.”

Furthermore, a task force has been established to investigate Floridan condominium laws and provide legal reform suggestions to the governor’s office and state legislature. The aim of this task force is to “determine whether regulatory changes could minimize the likelihood of another tragedy.”


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