While still facing many daunting decisions, a group representing four major engineering associations in Florida are coming to consensus on structural engineering recommendations designed to keep another tragic building collapse like the one in Surfside from happening again.
The group has decided to recommend requiring inspections throughout the state of buildings of a certain size or threshold, including both seaside buildings and those inland. However, the members have not yet reached a decision on the specifics of the inspections.
The group of Florida engineers are looking at a system requiring either two or three levels of inspection. The first level is a simple visual inspection, looking for readily apparent problems such as those that could be found with balconies or columns. If problems are observed, the inspections would advance to a second level or even possibly a third level, which could involve what Allen Douglas, the Executive Director of the Florida Engineering Society and American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida, calls “Destructive Inspection.” A destructive inspection includes drilling holes, testing rebar, and tearing things apart to determine the seriousness of an apparent problem.
The group is still determining the appropriate timeframe for the recommended inspections. Miami-Dade County currently has a 40-year recertification program for multiple story buildings. But even with this plan, the unthinkable happened — a beachside high-rise condo collapsed, killing over 100 people in the middle of the night. Many counties have little to no inspection of these buildings. Douglas said the new recommended inspections could be required as often as every seven years or possibly over a longer period.
It is the intention of frequent inspections to catch problems early enough to avoid the major repair costs that come after a problem has sat for years and years.
Douglas said the members of the groups meeting twice a week and are taking their time to get their recommendations right but he expects they will have those recommendations ready in time to present to the Florida Legislature’s leadership prior to the start of meetings in September.