On June 24, a 136-unit apartment in Surfside, Florida collapsed. With many victims still missing, this heartbreaking tragedy serves as a serious alarm clock for property owners and developers across the country. According to AP News, the collapse of Surfside led to an investigation that has led to the evacuation of a nearby building with 156 units.
Many things can go wrong with the construction, renovation and maintenance of a building, but building collapse is a particularly catastrophic and frightening result.
The possible causes of building collapse
When buildings and other structures collapse, defects in the original building design may be the root cause. Natural disasters and environmental conditions can also contribute, as can a lack of maintenance and repair work. Buildings can collapse decades after construction, as is the case in Surfside, but collapses are also possible during construction and renovation.
Business Insider consulted design engineers who identified poor maintenance, soil erosion under the foundation and construction defects as possible problems. which contributes to the collapse of a building.
The cause of the Surfside collapse is still being investigated, but some evidence has been presented. According to the BBC, a 2018 inspection identified a "major flaw" in the building's design on the ground floor pool deck that resulted in water not draining. The report also stated that the water seal under the basin must be replaced as it caused "major structural damage to the concrete slab."
Other building collapses
The surfside collapse was particularly devastating, but it is not the only building collapse that has occurred in the United States in recent years.
- According to NOLA.com, the owners of a Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans have sued contractors and subcontractors for the fatal collapse that occurred in 2019. The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the calculations of the correct load have not been performed.
- Click2Houston reports that six construction workers filed a lawsuit after being injured in a partial building collapse at a Holiday Inn hotel. The trial claims that the workers were not properly trained, did not receive the right protective equipment and worked in a dangerous environment.
- The Daily Hornet reports that false deaths have been filed in response to a partial collapse at Marathon Oil Corporation's headquarters in Houston. Three construction workers were killed when a molded concrete staircase collapsed.
Liability after a building collapse
CNN reports that at least two lawsuits have already been filed. The second lawsuit alleges that the tenant-owner association failed to address the "major structural damage" that had been described in the 2018 report, and also refers to alleged "inappropriate material used during the construction of the building."
So far, the condominium association seems to be the target of lawsuits involving the Surfside collapse. However, contractors and subcontractors can also take responsibility when a building collapses. A Florida real estate attorney told Reuters: "Whether it's architects, engineers or contractors who have been involved in this building, we will look at everyone to hold each party accountable for their negligence."
Prevent building collapse
When designing, constructing, repairing or maintaining a building, strong safety measures must be taken to prevent the risk of collapse. Cutting corners or ignoring warning signs can lead to disaster.
If you are a property owner or manager, accurate records must be kept to document inspections, maintenance reports and maintenance decisions.
If you are an entrepreneur, subcontractor or supplier involved in new development, it is important to ensure that everyone follows high standards, and that correct contract terms and insurance are in place.
BNC Insurance is an insurance resource for countless property owners and developers in the New York area. contact us if you want to review your insurance and risk management processes.