What Caused the Miami Condo to Collapse?

Posted June 29, 2021, under Blog

Photo Credit: Twitter

Last week we saw one of the deadliest accidental building collapses in our history.

The 13-story condo outside of Miami in Surfside, FL crumbled to the ground early Thursday morning. And to-date, there have been 9 confirmed deaths while more than 150 people remain missing.

While we’ve seen bridges, construction sites, and even overpasses collapse due to structural weaknesses, we’ve never seen an inhabited structure like this fail, and fail so quickly, with such little warning.

So, what caused the building to collapse? Most likely, foundation damage.

According to new reports, the underground parking garage appears to be the site of the structural failure.

“It does appear to start either at or very near the bottom of the structure,” Donald O. Dusenbery, a consulting engineer who has investigated many structural collapses, told the New York Times. “It’s not like there’s a failure high and it pancaked down.”

While the building seemingly fell to the ground without reason, a report conducted three years earlier concluded that the building had “alarming evidence of major structural damage” to the concrete slab that sits below the pool deck, in addition to “abundant cracking and crumbling of the columns, beams and walls” of the parking garage below the building.

And according to the video surveillance footage, the area of the structure that first fell appears to be from a failure in the support columns beneath the southern edge of the building.

Dusenberry, along with several other structural engineers who have examined the collapse and the video footage, believe the failure was the result of a “foundation-related matter,” pointing to “corrosion or other damage at the lower level.”

What caused the foundation to fail? It could be a combination of factors. But most likely the age of the building (which is nearly 40 years old), the water damage from the pool, and the proximity of the structure to the beach and rising sea levels oversaturating the soil, each played a role in the weakening and cracking of the foundation and its support beams, thus causing the collapse.

We saw similar foundation failures in and around Los Angeles during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, when apartment buildings split in half and collapsed from the shaking.

Sometimes referred to as “Soft Story” structures, these apartments were constructed with an open parking garage on the ground level with housing units above. Lacking additional support columns and beams, the open ground space created a “soft story” too weak to withstand shaking from an earthquake.

The Miami condo collapse highlights the importance of maintaining a structure’s foundation.

If you own a home in or around Los Angeles, it’s important to have the property inspected for foundation damage, and to make any needed repairs in a timely manner.

Most older homes built in Los Angeles, especially those before 1985, are lacking the modern structural reinforcements to withstand the shaking from a large earthquake.

Luckily, you can reinforce a home’s existing foundation by adding extra hardware to make it more resistant to sliding off its foundation during an earthquake.

If you think your home is in need of foundation repair, contact Julian Construction today and we will send one of our foundation specialists out to conduct a free, thorough inspection with a quote for repair.

We have extensive experience serving our Los Angeles community and nearby regions. In fact, Julian Construction has inspected over 30,000 structures in the area!

Julian Construction was formed in 1994 and our focus has always been on building foundations, doing foundation repair and replacement, earthquake retrofitting, and house leveling.

When you work with Julian Construction, you get the principles of the company and the workers of Julian Construction under your home.

And in order to keep foundation repair affordable for our customers, we offer a price guarantee — because we know our quote for repair will represent your very best value.

Give us a call at (323) 733-3377 to schedule your free inspection or complete the inspection request form. 

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