Flat collapse spurs inspections, questions about other towers


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Dive Brief Local officials are ramping up inspections and audits of Florida’s tallest buildings, while national insurance companies and residents as far away as California are reconsidering the implications for tower life in the wake of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South complex. Miami-Dade County has reportedly increased its scrutiny of buildings currently undergoing the municipality’s 40-year re-certification process, while residents of the Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach were ordered to vacate last week, after reviewing a six-month-old engineer’s report that warned of safety concerns, according to the 10 local news in Miami. In San Francisco, there have been renewed concerns about the safety of the 58-story Millennium Tower, which has tilted and sunk 18 inches since it opened in 2009. But Ronald Hamburger, the architect of the current building, said there were significant differences between the two buildings, and the comparisons were “reckless.” Dive Insight “The Millennium Tower is built to strict seismic standards and is a form of construction that’s more stringent than typical Florida buildings, which do not have to be designed to withstand earthquakes,” Hamburger told CNN. “I can say with confidence that the settlements witnessed by the Millennium Tower did not endanger its stability and safety.” The Champlain Towers South tragedy, which garnered worldwide attention and prompted President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden to visit Surfside to see its aftermath last week, has had further commercial ramifications. The Miami Herald reports that insurers, already concerned about the effects of hurricanes, tropical storms and climate change, issued letters to several apartment associations shortly after the Champlain South collapse demanding proof of existing inspections. “This has opened everyone’s eyes,” Mike Clarkson, president of National Insurance Brokerage Help Group in Florida, told the New York Times. In San Francisco, some residents who had bought into the “luxury city within a city” that Millennium Tower claims are on its website, have moved after discovering the building was sinking and tilting, incurring losses on their multimillion-dollar units. Attention to this problem increased in 2016, after 50th-floor residents Frank Jernigan and Andrew Falk posted a video of a marble rolling on the floor, changing direction and multiplying again on itself. This was followed in 2017 by a segment on “60 Minutes” titled The Leaning Tower of San Francisco. Now, after years of litigation, a $100 million repair is due to be completed in 2022. It will involve shoving piles into the rock under the softer soil of downtown San Francisco and attaching them to the building. Much of the city’s waterfront area was built on fill that was pumped from the bottom of the bay in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “The structural upgrade currently underway at the tower is aimed at preventing further stability, and restoring some of the building’s tilt, rather than repairing damage or providing reinforcements,” Hamburger told CNN. “The building is still safe and is not in danger of collapsing.” In Florida, The New York Times reported that Miami-Dade County officials had been prioritizing 24 multi-story buildings that had failed inspections for 40 years, or had not provided documentation at all. The newspaper also reported that lax enforcement of existing rules contributed to this number – 17 of those cases have been open for a year or more. Now, in the wake of the Champlain South meltdown, that trend is beginning to reverse course, just as the Jernigan and Faulk marbles have rolled across the floor. Kilsheimer, a structural engineer hired by Surfside to help investigate the collapse of the Champlain Towers, told the Times: “All concrete cracks – made to crack.” “The problem is understanding what a crack is, what might be causing it, and then making sure it doesn’t cause more problems.”


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