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Nine months before the large section of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, came down, an engineering company called Morabito Consultant had “severely degraded” concrete throughout the building, including a load-bearing structure called Corbel. I found.
A study conducted between June and October 2020 found even more serious problems than previously identified, according to documents obtained by NPR from an anonymous source. 2018 study Of a condo made by the same company.
Based in Maryland, the company is hired by the board of condominium associations and is widely respected in the construction industry. Help save another Florida condo From the collapse 10 years ago.
A Morabito Consultants spokesman refused to answer a detailed list of questions asked by NPR about the company’s work on the condominium site.
A spokesman for the Surfside Condominium Association Board of Directors said the company had never issued a clear warning to its leaders or residents of Champlain Towers South. Town officials said they were not notified of all findings.
On June 24, he believed that a 12-story structure had collapsed in seconds, killing at least 60 people and missing 80 people in a dense pile of debris.
“Exploratory dismantling” found a serious problem
NPR previously reported that Morabito consultants produced a nasty report in 2018 and shared it with surfside town officials.
Later documents show that the company returned in 2020 and performed a much wider inspection at five sites throughout the structure using a technique called “exploratory demolition.”
Engineers have found evidence that some of the bearing foundations of surfside buildings may be at risk.
“The area of degraded concrete appeared to penetrate deep into the wall / corbel structure,” the company said. A memo sent to the condominium board in October 2020, Included in the minutes of the association’s monthly meeting.
These findings were mixed with more routine information about condominium exterior issues and discussions about future plans for upgrading building parking, lobbies, recreation rooms, and other facilities. ..
In that memo, the company also admitted that the condominium’s swimming pool was “continuing to be used while working” and was not fully investigated.
The document identified problems throughout the building and cited repairs “necessary to ensure the safety of residents and the general public.”
“Morabit consultants have worked by providing professional structural engineering counsel and services, much like they have been doing for nearly 40 years,” the company’s statement said.
But the company’s spokesman, Brett Mercy I will not comment on subsequent inspections of condominiums conducted after June 2020. He also did not say whether the company warned someone that immediate action might be justified.
“Morabito Consultants does not disclose or release client documentation,” Marcy wrote to NPR by email.
Town officials say there was no sense of urgency
A surfside town official and a spokesman for the condominium association board told NPR that the engineering company had not issued such a warning.
“The board has never received any indication that the building is at risk of collapsing or needs to be evacuated,” said Max Marcucci, a spokesman for the Champlan Towers South Condominium Association. It was.
Surfside officials said there were no “alarm sounds” recorded by Morabito consultants after engineers conducted an investigation in late 2020.
“There was no sense of urgency or emergency,” Surfside Mayor Charles Barckett told NPR. He said he was unaware of the investigation after the company conducted it in 2020.
The day before the condominium collapsed, James McGuinness, the surfside’s best building official, was on the roof of the building inspecting the work of an unrelated project.
At an emergency town committee meeting on June 25, the day after the collapse, McGuinness said nothing was worrisome during his visit.
He also noted that the engineering company played a central role when the condo was recertified for 40 years of safety.
“It’s the real estate owner’s responsibility to hire a professional engineer to inspect two things,” McGuinness said. “Structural bearing components of buildings and building electrical systems. And it’s easy to make sure they are still operable, maintainable and usable.”
According to Miami-Dade County authorities, there are no regulations that require Moravito consultants to immediately share their findings with government building inspectors.
However, in a statement emailed to NPR, Miami-Dade County Regulatory Economic Resources Department spokesman Tere Florin said the company was “responsible” to warn authorities if it found safety concerns. Said there is.
A Miami-Dade County statement said, “Licensed engineers and architects report life-threatening and safety issues to those who can take immediate action to eliminate the danger. I have an ethical responsibility. “
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The Condominium Management Board also faces scrutiny
It is unclear whether any of the structural issues identified by Moravito’s team contributed directly to the collapse of the building after being rehired in 2018 or 2020.
However, experts consulted by NPR said the company’s findings appear to be wary enough to justify an immediate response.
However, some felt that the information provided by the company to the condominium board was sufficient to spur a quick response by the building owners.
“They couldn’t do what the board of reasonably cautious condominium associations would do under similar circumstances,” said Greg Schlesinger, a lawyer and contractor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “.
Previously reported NPR The Condominium Management Volunteer Committee was divided by disagreements and feuds, and many residents were angry at the $ 15 million assessment of repair costs.
Documents obtained by NPR also suggest that some of the condominium leaders were aware of the seriousness of the building’s problems.
The minutes of the October 202o Board meeting include approval that some of the required repair work focuses on “life / health / safety” related issues.
“The main costs are related to unsightly things like concrete, roofs, generator rooms, firewalls, etc.,” said the November 2020 PowerPoint presentation by the condominium building manager.
Last week, the Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge placed the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association. To the trustee..
An engineering company that cooperates with the survey
Several investigations are currently underway. Including federal investigation It scrutinized the collapse of the Twin Towers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Miami-Dade County State Attorney Announced on Wednesday The grand jury will also investigate the disaster and make recommendations on how to avoid future building collapse.
Now that the search and rescue operations on the surfside are over, much of the focus is on identifying the cause of the disaster and determining if the disaster has been avoided.
“We are working closely with investigative authorities,” Morabito Consultants said in a statement.
in the meantime, The proceedings have already been filed For Morabito consultants, condominium boards, etc.
Some Florida civil servants are also calling for reforms in building codes, inspection protocols, and rules governing condominium associations to prevent recurrence of surfside disasters.
“I’m looking forward to learning the truth,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County told reporters Tuesday.
“Get to the bottom of this and learn what happened, what prevented it, and how to prevent it from happening again.”