The partial collapse of the Champlain Towers building in June 2001 in the Surfside community remains unanswered. The tragedy, which shook the Florida Real Estate industry and left 98 casualties, is under investigation and it seems that the work to identify the causes of the collapse will take a long time. The Champlain Towers condominium was built in 1981 and faces the ocean in a prestigious area of Miami, the Surfside neighborhood. The building had 12 floors and 136 apartments, of which about 50 were affected by the collapse. The tragedy left 98 casualties. Victims’ family and friends are eagerly awaiting answers. According to authorities, the work to identify the causes of the episode is “well underway”.
The delay in searching for answers is not surprising. A detailed work of investigation related to a landslide of such proportions not only seeks to bring answers to console the victims’ relatives and friends, but mainly to prevent similar episodes from occurring in the future. Despite being an isolated fact, the collapse of the Champlain Towers shocked the local community and the world, as many residents and tourists who died were foreigners. Among the victims were the sister of the First Lady of Paraguay (Sophía López-Moreira), her brother-in-law (Luis Pettengill) and the couple’s three children.
Speculation on the cause of the Champlain Towers collapse
Without official answers about the possible causes of the collapse, what remains is speculation. The first is that the building was built in 1981, a time when Miami did not yet have a strict procedure for inspections by local authorities. There are also rumors that the start of construction in 2016 on the luxury mega condominium Eight Seven Park, adjacent to the Champlain Towers grounds, has emitted intense vibrations that could eventually have shaken the already fragile structures of the crumbling Champlain Towers building, which it lacked maintenance and renovations at that time.
It would be unlikely, however, that vibrations emitted in 2016 have contributed to the building’s collapse in 2021. On the other hand, in a building already with maintenance problems and in a state of deterioration, any vibration could have deepened some structural problem. All of this is being investigated.
In an interview with the Commercial Observer newspaper, Gil Dezer, one of the largest builders in Florida and a partner at Dezer Development, explains that the tragedy, from an engineering and construction perspective, is an isolated and unique event. “A building that was designed in the 70s and built in the 80s, without the use of computers, without the supervision of local inspectors in the way we have today and without the current methods we work (….) I mean, it is an animal ( sic) completely different”, compares Dezer.
“You really can’t compare what was happening back then, back in the days of the Miami Cocaine Trafficking Cowboys, to what happens today. I’ve heard all kinds of theories about what happened, from not using enough steel in the building’s structures and not following the architect’s guidelines, to the building next door having influenced the local soil (…) ”, he adds.
Dezer also comments on the soil issue. A seasoned builder and responsible for the delivery of some of the most luxurious buildings in the world, such as the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach, Dezer explains that the supporting structures of buildings are usually placed in the ground to a depth equivalent to one third of the height of the building. building. “In the case of the Champlain Towers, with only 12 floors, the drilling would be 40 feet (12 meters), meaning the structures would be in the sandy part, floating on the sand. They are not touching anything (harder). Our stakes descend 40 to 50 meters to reach the upper layer of the earth’s crust. In this way, (…) we drilled our structures into the rock”, explains Dezer.
Dezer Development’s Sunny Isles Beach constructions gained worldwide headlines for the solidity of the structures, including hurricane-proof technology. Learn about Florida’s new anti-hurricane methods and construction
Video showing the exact moment of the crash at the Champlain Towers in Surfside
New preventive measures
After the collapse of the condominium in Surfside, Miami authorities decided to create a new procedure with preventive measures and inspection of the condominiums in the city.
Miami-Dade County, which includes Surfside, has some of the strictest building inspection rules in Florida. Miami requires building owners to hire an engineer to inspect their structures every 10 years after they turn 40.
The Champlain Towers condo would turn 40 this year. Until they complete 40 years of age, the only inspections made refer to individual licenses, the so-called “permits”. The structural part, within this period, is under the responsibility of the condominium itself, which must follow rules, but is not subject to periodic inspections.
In one of the inspections carried out at the Champlain Towers, one of the engineers found alarming damage in a report prepared in 2018. In that same year, some repairs were carried out.
Florida authorities are now considering requiring all large buildings within a 3-mile radius of the sea to be subject to inspection within the first 20 years of occupation. Inspections would be carried out within 7 years.
The Surfside community in Miami borders the neighborhoods of Bal Harbor to the north and North Miami Beach to the south. The Bal Harbor neighborhood is already well known to Brazilians due to the luxurious Shopping Bal Harbor Shops. Near Surfside is also the community of Bay Harbor Islands, which has been emerging in the city with very high luxury launches and the so-called low density condos (condominiums with few residents).
Invest in new, safe condos in Florida
As mentioned, the Champlain Towers case is an isolated event, a fatality, that will probably never happen again. New builds adopt updated and secure technologies, including many with anti-hurricane technology.
AMG International Realty is an international real estate company specialized in Florida. If you want to know more about the new technologies implemented in Florida constructions, contact me right now and chat with me on WhatsApp: +1 (305) 318 6968 (Heloisa Arazi).