According to emails, nearly three years ago, an engineering firm had estimated that major repairs would cost more than $9million for an oceanfront building near Miami.
Morabito Consultants’ email was one of a number of documents that Surfside released as rescue efforts continued at the scene of the building’s collapse. More than 150 people remain unaccounted for. Five people died in the collapse.
After the publication of a previous document by the firm, which showed that the ground floor pool deck was on a concrete slab with “major structural damage” that needed extensive repair, the 2018 cost estimate was released. The report also revealed “abundant cracking, spalling” in concrete columns, beams, and walls within the garage.
The report didn’t warn of imminent danger and it is not clear if any of these damage was responsible for the collapse at Champlain Towers South.
Repairs to the entire building would have cost over $9.1million. The garage, entrance, and pool deck costs alone will amount to more than $3.8million. It was not completed when the building collapsed.
An earlier report stated that the waterproofing had failed under the pool deck and had been incorrectly laid flat rather than sloped to prevent water from draining away.
“Failed waterproofing is causing severe structural damage to concrete slabs below these areas.” The report stated that failure to replace the waterproofing within the next few years will result in concrete deterioration exponentially.
The firm suggested that the slabs damaged in the major repair be replaced.
The concrete damage in the parking garage was mostly minor. However, other columns had exposed and deteriorating bars. It was also found that previous attempts at fixing the columns or other damage with epoxy had been marred by poor workmanship, and failed.
The report stated that beneath the pool deck, “where the slab was epoxy-injected”, new cracks radiate from the previously repaired cracks.
These were problems that needed to be addressed quickly, according to Gregg Schlesinger who is an attorney specializing on construction defects and a former project engineer.
“The building speaks to me. “It is telling us that we have a serious issue,” Schlesinger stated in a Saturday telephone interview about the new documents. “They (building managers), kicked the can down to the road. Maintenance was poor. These were red flags that had to be addressed. They weren’t.
Morabito Consultants released a statement Saturday confirming that its report had “detailed significant cracks in the concrete, which required repairs for the safety of residents.”
Champlain Towers South hired the firm again in June 2020 to start the 40-year recertification process. This would outline what work was required.
The statement stated that roof repairs had been underway at the time of the collapse but that concrete restoration hadn’t yet started.
Abi Aghayere is an engineering researcher at Drexel University. He said that the engineering report showed significant damage. He noted that there were possible problems below the pool and that several areas over the entrance drive showed signs of deterioration. These should have been fixed immediately.
After reviewing the report, he sent an email to the AP asking for clarification. “Were there any other areas of the structure that were not noticed or badly damaged?”
The building was still in the middle of its 40-year recertification, which involves detailed structural and electrical inspections. Charles Burkett, Surfside Mayor, said Friday that he was not sure if the inspection had been completed but said that it could contain crucial clues.
Burkett stated, “It should’ve been very simple.” Buildings in America don’t just collapse like this. There’s a reason. We must find the reason.
Questions have also been raised about whether similar buildings may be at risk after Thursday’s fall of the 12-story tower.
Schlesinger stated, “This is a wake up call for people on the beach.” The scary part is the other buildings. This is a unique view. “No.”
Surfside Town Clerk Sandra McCready stated in an email that details of the building’s 40 year recertification inspection would be made public when they are complete.
Already, lawsuits have been filed against Brad Sohn, an attorney representing the condominium’s homeowners association. He seeks damages for negligence and other reasons that affect all residents of the tower.
According to the lawsuit, the association “could have prevented Champlain Towers South’s collapse through the exercise of normal care, safety measures, and oversight.”
Ken Direktor, an attorney representing the association, did not reply to an email seeking comment.