Experts weigh in on Florida building collapse

The stunning collapse of a Miami Beach condo, which sent 12-stories pancaking to the ground without warning and left more than 150 people missing, is unlikely to happen again, experts said.

Though the exact cause of the collapse of Champlain Towers South is still under investigation, officials say there’s no reason for condo dwellers in Florida or elsewhere to worry the same thing will happen to them.

“It’s less likely than a lightning strike,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told reporters Friday. “It just doesn’t happen. You don’t see buildings falling down in America.”

A Miami-area civil engineer said what happened at Champlain Towers South was very unusual.

“It’s extraordinarily rare for a building like that to collapse, especially in the U.S.,” Fred Bloetscher, a professor of civil engineering at Florida Atlantic University, told The Post Saturday. “We have extensive building codes used by engineers with built-in factors of safety. This just doesn’t happen here.”

But Bloetscher said he watched the video more than once and believes the problem stems from the foundation of the condo building.

“It looks as though something gave way under the building,” he said.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett argues buildings shouldn’t catastrophically collapse in the United States.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett argues buildings shouldn’t catastrophically collapse in the United States.
Michele Eve Sandberg/Shutterstock

It’s too early to know, but the foundation would either have been built on heavy concrete pilings extending 50 feet down under the sand, soil and limestone — or would have been more of a shallow foundation with what are called “concrete footers,” he said.

“Whatever it was sitting on, it collapsed,” Bloetscher said. “It shifted and moved. And it wouldn’t have had to move much to cause the collapse.”

Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters Saturday the county was unaware of a 2018 report citing “major structural damage” in the collapsed building. Both Champlain Towers South and its sister building, Champlain Towers North, were due to be recertified for structural and electrical safety under Florida law, a process which first takes place in buildings at the 40-year mark, then every 10 years after.


Leave a Comment