In wake of Surfside disaster, Florida contractors create building safety task force

In wake of Surfside disaster, Florida contractors create building safety task force

Phil Puccio

Dive Brief:

  • A Florida contractors group is taking steps to address building structure safety in the wake of the Surfside, Florida collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building in June that killed 98 people.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida has appointed an internal advisory panel of industry experts who will play a critical role in discussions relating to building safety, including having a voice in upcoming legislative developments related to the disaster, according to a press release shared with Construction Dive.
  • “While we do not yet have all the facts of what caused the Champlain Tower to collapse, we know that the ongoing safety and integrity of older buildings will be a topic of discussion during the 2022 legislative session,” said Gary Griffin, ABC Florida board of directors chair. “We want to be a constructive part of any discussion moving forward and be ready and able to offer industry input and feedback in real time.”

Dive Insight:

Members of the group represent the five chapters throughout Florida that make up the statewide association. They are: 

  • Mike Gruber – ECS Limited
  • Jonathan Knudsen – Universal Engineering
  • Mark LeBlanc – Specialty Engineering Consultants
  • Steven Lockhart – Finfrock
  • Noman McMillan – CSI Contracting
  • Scott Olthoff – Core Construction
  • Franky Rygiel – Walbridge
  • Steve Sanko, P.E. – Dash Door & Glass

“We hope to provide industry input to our legislature and assure that we never see another tragedy like this again,” Griffin said in the release. 

While the group hopes to have a say in upcoming legislation, laws in some of areas of the state have already changed to include new inspection requirements for older condos in Miami-Dade County and Boca Raton.

State lawmakers are also considering a list of recommendations from a Broward County task force that would require better maintenance of older condominium buildings, according to Florida Politics.

While the incident is still under investigation, it appears that multiple points of failure could have led to the tragedy, experts say.

For instance, there were several issues that occurred during construction that could have contributed to the building’s collapse, including problems with the concrete coverage in the structural slab on the ground-level deck and with the amount of rebar in the columns in the parking garage, Gregg Schlesinger, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and former construction engineer and general contractor, told Construction Dive.

Another point of failure appears to be in the steel columns in the underground garage that supported the deck. There were failures where the columns in the parking garage connected with that structural slab, according to Schlesinger.

“Failure to have the steel between the columns and the structural slab and having the proper coverage is a general contractor failure,” Schlesinger said.

Ultimately, these columns, which didn’t have the required shear caps on top, punched through the structural slab.

“It is sort of like resting of paper on top of a sharpened pencil and pulling the paper down,” Schlesinger said. “It popped through.” 

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