Condo collapse spurs calls to require foundation, subsurface building inspections in Florida code


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that he will wait for more forensic study of the Champlain Towers South collapse before responding to calls for an overhaul of Florida’s building inspection laws.

Condominiums in Florida are “kind of a dime a dozen, particularly in southern Florida,” he said after a briefing on Tropical Storm Elsa at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, noting Champlain Towers South “had problems from the start.”

“We obviously want to be able to identify why did this happen,’‘ he continued. “Is this something that was unique to this building? Is it something that was unique to the person that maybe developed it – because obviously there are sister properties? Is it something that buildings of that age, that would have implications beyond that whether southern Florida or the entire state of Florida? I think we need to get those definitive answers.”

The 12-story, 136-unit beachfront condominium in the Miami suburb of Surfside collapsed on June 24 at 1:25 a.m. As of Wednesday afternoon, 46 bodies had been recovered with 94 people still missing.

The condo collapse has put state building inspection codes and practices under scrutiny with structural engineers and architects pointing out that Florida law requires only visual inspections to determine building safety.

Routine structural evaluations of high rise buildings are commonplace nationwide but not in Florida, where there is no statewide requirement to test the integrity of concrete, waterproofing and reinforcing steel in foundations and subsurface conditions.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties are the only Florida counties that require high-rises be inspected at 40 years of age. Champlain Towers was undergoing that process when it collapsed. No other Florida counties mandate routine inspection after a building is built.

Miami-Dade architect Kobi Karp told CNN Tuesday that just as Hurricane Andrew led the state to update building codes, Champlain Towers’ collapse can do the same for building safety inspections.

“The opportunity that we have to learn from this is that we have a new day. We have that technology. We just need to implement it,’’ Karp said.

Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, said he is working with engineers to update Florida’s building inspection law in a bill he will introduce in September pre-session committee meetings.

“The problem with our recertification process is it considers where a building is standing in a vacuum. It does not consider where it is located,’’ he said, adding with Florida’s high water table and rising sea levels, the update is long overdue.

“You don’t buy a raw piece of ground anymore without doing very simple soil borings to see if there’s contamination,’’ he said. “We should do the same thing with buildings.”

Miami-Dade County and several cities have launched their own reviews of older buildings.

On Friday, the cities of North Miami Beach and Miami Beach ordered beachside condo complexes evacuated after structural inspections.

On Tuesday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava ordered a study to “look closely at every possible angle on this issue” to “develop a set of recommendations for changes that need to be made at all steps in the building process to ensure a tragedy like this will never, ever happen again.”

The Champlain Tower collapse is already having a fallout in the state’s troubled insurance and red hot real estate markets.

Insurers, including Sampo, Great American Insurance, American Coastal Insurance and ICat Insurance, are demanding owners of condominiums 40 years and older provide proof their buildings have passed all inspections or they will lose coverage.

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