Lucas wants structural inspections of Kansas City high-rises after Florida disaster

Kansas City may begin inspecting the structural integrity of city-owned and city-leased buildings in response to the abrupt collapse of a condominium building in Florida last week.

Currently Kansas City only requires periodic inspections of parking garages, underground caves and broadcast transmission towers. That means high-rise buildings in Kansas City do not undergo any routine checks by the city for structural soundness.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is expected to introduce a measure on Thursday that, if approved, would have City Manager Brian Platt study city policies on building inspections and make a report in 45 days with recommendations on safety protocols.

The resolution only applies to buildings Kansas City owns or leases, not private structures.

Eighteen deaths have been confirmed and 145 people remain missing after a 12-story condominium building partially collapsed last week in Surfside, Florida.

The building was scheduled to undergo a county-mandated recertification, a process required every 40 years in Miami-Dade County that involves an inspection for structural integrity.

An inspection in 2018 by a consultant found the Surfside condominium building showed signs of significant structural problems, a risk for buildings located along the coast where salt water can erode concrete and rebar.

In the Kansas City area, Overland Park also does not conduct structural inspections for its high-rise commercial buildings.

Sean Reilly, a spokesman for Overland Park, said that responsibility belongs to the building owner.

“However, if there is a valid concern, anyone can notify city officials with their information and we will follow up,” Reilly said in an email.

Most cities do not require ongoing periodic high-rise inspections, according to an engineer who spoke with The Star.

Thomas Rewerts, a forensic engineer in Kansas City, said high-rise buildings along coastal areas face risks that similar buildings in the Midwest do not. He said the cycle of wetting and drying from ocean salt water can pose problems for concrete support structures, which has been considered a possible culprit for the Surfside collapse.

The presence of salt in the air in coastal regions also can threaten building structures.

“We don’t have either one of those problems here in Kansas City,” Rewerts said. “The need to inspect buildings down there is much more severe.”

Rewerts suggested that Kansas City consider inspecting building exteriors, where materials like bricks and terracotta can and do loosen and pose safety risks to pedestrians and property down below.

He said cities like New York and Chicago require exterior facade inspections.

I don’t believe we’ve ever had someone here get hit but I think it’s probably a matter of time,” Rewerts said.

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