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What Can Condos Do to Help Residents Feel Safe?

Fla.’s condo residents and buyers have new concerns in light of the Surfside disaster. Engineers hired by Surfside recommend 3 tests that can assure stability.

MIAMI – After the town of Surfside requested that some older buildings begin safety inspections following the Champlain Towers South collapse, an engineering consultant released additional recommendations Thursday. They call for property owners to hire engineers to study their building foundations and the condition of concrete holding up the structures.

KCE Structural Engineers, a firm hired by the town to investigate the June 24 collapse, said in a memo that it recommends multi-story residential and commercial buildings to:

  • Bring on a geotechnical and structural design engineer to conduct geophysical studies of the foundation
  • Use ground-penetrating radar to analyze the concrete and steel that make up the building
  • Take samples of the concrete for strength testing

The firm, led by engineering consultant Allyn Kilsheimer, also advises that engineers hired by the buildings review the structural drawings used for construction and the “original geotechnical report for the original building design and confirm that it is consistent with what was built.”

The recommendations “are intended to serve as an interim methodology to afford residents some peace of mind” until investigations into the deadly collapse go further, wrote Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett in a letter to residents and building caretakers that accompanied the KCE memo.

Burkett said the recommendations should be followed by all beachfront buildings in Surfside, regardless of their age.

“While we do not yet know the results of the investigation, after consulting with Mr. Kilsheimer and Town administration, we believe it is important to understand the extent to which the conditions that may have contributed to the apparent structural/foundational failures at Champlain Towers South are occurring elsewhere among the Town’s beachfront properties,” Burkett wrote. “Accordingly, we want to promulgate basic recommendations to assist you in assessing the structural safety of your property.”

The recommendations build upon a letter circulated last week by Surfside Building Official James P. McGuinness. The letter requested that:

  • Buildings over 30 years old and taller than three stories high begin assessing their buildings for recertification
  • Hire a geotechnical engineer to inspect the foundation and subsurface soils of the building
  • Hire a structural engineer to inspect what’s above ground

Miami-Dade County rules require older buildings to hire an engineer or architect to inspect the electrical and structural components of the building after it turns 40 years old and every 10 years after that. The letter asked that property owners submit “action plans” within 30 days.

Surfside Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said the building collapse was a “wake-up call” that more government action was needed to ensure condo associations are properly maintaining their buildings.

“If people aren’t gonna do it for themselves,” she said, “we have to make them do it.”

© 2021 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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