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Engineers Found Florida Condo Had 'Major Structural Damage' Before It Collapsed

A 2018 structural engineering report listed several areas of concern with the now 40-year-old building. Those included concrete slab edges that were "experiencing concrete spalling or cracking."
A 2018 structural engineering report listed several areas of concern with the now 40-year-old building. Those included concrete slab edges that were "experiencing concrete spalling or cracking."

Updated June 26, 2021 at 10:19 AM ET

A structural engineering report provided to the Champlain Towers condominium association in 2018 found widespread problems that required extensive repairs "in the near future."

Parts of Champlain Towers South, a 12-story condominium in Surfside, Fla., collapsed early Thursday morning. Four people are confirmed dead and 159 others are missing. Rescue crews continue to comb through the rubble.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told NPR's Weekend Edition that the engineer report was likely not read until years later.

"I'm under the impression that it is something that nobody had seen until yesterday when we started looking back into the records to try to understand if there was anything in the record that would indicate why this building fell down," he said.

Mayor worries second building may need to be evacuated

Burkett said he's "concerned" about "an identical building built by the same builder, maybe with the same materials, maybe with the same plans, just one building away."

In this photo provided by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, search and rescue personnel search for survivors through the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Fla., on Friday.
/ AP
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In this photo provided by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, search and rescue personnel search for survivors through the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Fla., on Friday.

Town officials are considering "potentially evacuating that building so we can get in there and do a forensic investigation on the status of that particular structure," Burkett said.

The engineering report, dated Oct. 8, 2018, includes pictures of cracks in the concrete columns of Champlain Towers South. The report found "significant structural damage" to the concrete structural slab below the pool deck. It warned that "failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially."

The nine-page report, authored by Morabito Consultants, listed several areas of concern with the now 40-year-old building including problems with waterproofing on flat surfaces and a "major error" that doesn't allow water runoff and instead relies on evaporation affecting the structural integrity of the concrete at ground level.

Gregg Schlesinger, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contractor and attorney who handles structural failure cases, told NPR that the report doesn't show why the building collapsed but it offered warnings of serious danger.

"They gave warnings. You've got a problem. What exactly is the problem? How bad is it? Why didn't you find out more?" Schlesinger said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.