The mid-rise condo building that collapsed two years ago and left nearly 100 people dead in Surfside, Florida, had a defective and weak pool deck among other code violations, according to federal investigators.
Investigators presented their preliminary findings related to the Champlain Towers South collapse on Thursday to an advisory committee that reports to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is leading the probe. While officials are still looking into several hypotheses that could explain the cause of the deadly June 2021 collapse, investigator Glenn Bell said the building’s pool deck was especially egregious.
“The conditions that existed in the pool deck slab at that time represented a serious safety concern for the building,” Bell said at the meeting.
The pool deck, which sat between the part of the tower that collapsed and the swimming pool, had a significant strength deficiency at and between many of its supporting columns. Investigators believe the deck’s design only provided half of the strength required under the original codes and standards.
Investigators are also looking into signs of corrosion in some parts of the deck’s steel reinforcement, which was buried deeper in the concrete slabs of the deck than the initial designs. There were also signs that the pool deck was showing distress before the collapse, including cracks in a planter and sagging concrete slabs, according to investigators.
The tower collapse was one of the deadliest building failures in U.S. history, resulting in rescue teams searching for survivors for weeks. The building was constructed over 40 years ago, and owners had long faced warnings about structural problems they fought to avoid paying for.
In 2018, an engineering report raised the alarm about the pool deck’s issues. The deck was resting on a concrete slab that had “major structural damage” and needed to be repaired, according to the report. The oceanfront building’s parking garage was also teeming with concrete columns, beams and walls that had “abundant cracking and spalling.”
Officials are still working to see whether the building’s weakened pool deck is what triggered the collapse that killed 98 residents, and said at the meeting that it is currently “somewhat a leading hypothesis.” Investigators are also looking into whether the collapse began in the tower, where there were heavily loaded columns that showed construction deficiencies.
The probe has included looking into videos and images of the collapse, witness interviews and structural analysis. Investigators said they expect to complete the technical work next year, and will issue a report on the cause and subsequent recommendations in 2025.