After Surfside collapse, Miami-Dade governments check on older buildings, discuss reform

Residents living in high-rise buildings are now concerned about the safety of their apartments and condominiums after the sudden and fatal collapse of Surfsides Champlain Towers South.Local governments are starting to take action, according to politicians.Florida has one the most stringent building codes in the country. County rules require that owners of older buildings submit reports from licensed architects or engineers certifying safety of buildings or documenting repairs required after 40 years. Then, every 10 years to comply with recertification standards.Local governments are now looking inward following Thursday's partial collapse of Champlain Towers South. It was constructed in 1981.According to John Pistorino (the Miami engineer who created the 40-year recertification program), there are 100-year-old concrete buildings that have survived the test of time in South Florida. It will last if you take good care of it and keep it maintained. Owners and condo boards that resist spending money on the interior of the building can cause problems.The city of Miami Beach's northern border is only feet away from Surfside's collapse site. It has started visual inspections on 507 buildings within the city, which currently need 40-year recertifications according to county law. The city of Miami's building department announced Friday that it would request inspections at the citywide level of all tall buildings of six stories or more, regardless of whether they are older than 40 years.Two inspectors from Miami-Dade County arrived Monday to inspect approximately two dozen aging condominium and apartment buildings that are in violation of county regulations.List of Violators: Miami-Dade Housing ComplexesThe county is included in the list. The Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources regulates the county's building code and released a list of 24 properties as part of an emergency audit of buildings that have not been compliant with the 40-year renewal process. The majority of entries concern condominium complexes. These include Jade Wind, located in the 1700 block Northeast 2nd Street, and portions of Lake Park, located in the 900 block Northeast 199th Street. Peppermill at Kendale Lakes is located on the 8000 block Southwest 149th Avenue.Continue the storyTwo county-owned properties that are public housing properties are also on the list: Little River Plaza, located at 8255 NW Miami Court, and Ward Towers 1 at 2200 NW 54th Street. The details of the violations weren't immediately available.Although Miami-Dade manages the public housing complexes in Miami-Dade, the federal government funds maintenance. County administrators claim that the dollars have never met the needs of the aging buildings.The Village of Key Biscayne is home to more than half of its 13,000 residents. Monday saw the start of the compilation of a list of properties that either have had 40-year recertifications, or are due for 40 year recertifications. Steve Williamson, Village Manager, and a team from village departments will identify the buildings that need further inspection.Surfside hired a structural engineer in order to examine the cause of the collapsed buildings and inspect the surrounding structures.Eliana Salzhauer, Commissioner, stated that the governor is paying attention to the small town of 6,000 people. Ron DeSantis, President Joe Biden suggested that the town seriously think about reforms to the recertification process. This could include requiring inspections sooner than 40 years or examining what's happening on our beaches.Salzhauer stated that this was a terrible, tragic situation at Friday's special commission meeting.Eugenio Santiago was a licensed structural engineer who also served as the Key Biscayne building chief. He inspected over 3,000 buildings in his 52-year tenure.Santiago stated that building inspectors find themselves in a difficult position. They are often hired by clients to assess potential problems. The owner may not want to spend the money, or the condo association might save every penny. Santiago said Santiago. If we find serious problems, we notify the building officials. Most people will accept repairs that are necessary. Condo associations must set aside money to cover the 40-year renewal that can be costly in restoration and repair.It is expensive and inconvenient, but how do you weigh the inconvenience against the cost of death?Williamson, Key Biscayne manager, stated that the collapse allows municipalities to look inward.The village will be looking into 75 buildings older than 40 years. Williamson stated that most of them have been fully certified. Nine are approaching their 40-year mark while four are nearing their 50-year mark. Four more buildings are approaching their 60-year mark.Also, the village decided to start giving notices of recertifications of buildings one year before the date and then six months after that. Although the county requires that notice be given within 90 days of the date, a longer window will allow owners and associations to find engineers and raise funds for repairs.At a special village meeting on Thursday night, residents will be able to ask questions.Williamson, who was hired last month, stated that we take this seriously. While we talk about structures, it is really about people and making sure they are safe.Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gngora is an attorney for condominium associations. He proposed Monday at a special commission meeting that the city inspect its low income senior housing. Residents had reported water leakage and other problems.He suggested that the city seeks out experts to help it improve its recertification process. This could include requiring them to be completed earlier, or adding a geological survey as part the inspection. He also wants to know how building safety is affected by a building or development that has reached saturation on the coast.He said that we can't make decisions in a vacuum right at the moment. No one knows what actually happened.Audit of older buildings by Miami-Dade underwayDaniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade Mayor, announced an audit of residential properties outside the city limits that are due for recertifications. Inspectors visited the aging buildings Monday, which were due for recertifications in 40 years. However, they have not received them and are too far behind to be considered unsafe.In 1974, Miami-Dade established the 40-year requirement for recertification. Broward County adopted similar rules by 2005.Edward Rojas oversees permits for Miami-Dade and is the county building official. It is unique to Broward and Miami-Dade.Pistorino stated that the 40-year policy of recertification was established after the 1974 collapse in downtown Miami of a 30-year-old office block leased by Drug Enforcement Administration. Seven people were killed. Pistorino stated that the concrete was deteriorating and the building collapsed.It is important to maintain buildings from the moment they are constructed. He said that you shouldn't wait for 40 years. It was a compromise that the 40-year mark was reached. Owners continue to push back against us, saying it should be 50, 60, or 70 years due to the high costs. Our building officials show them photos from the 1974 collapse to explain why they have it and why we need the authority for enforcement with evacuation orders or citations.Rojas stated that more than 2,000 buildings are behind on Miami-Dade certifications. 24 of these are in violation of the mayors audit criteria, which requires them to be residential and at least five floors tall. Rojas stated that county inspectors are also inspecting multi-family buildings of four stories or more.Ricardo Roig is the Miami-Dades assistant Director for Code Compliance at the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources. He said that county staff review recertification reports when they arrive. He said that professionals who inspect buildings must notify authorities if they discover any flaws that could lead to a building's collapse.If the engineer sees an imminent danger, he must notify us. Roig confirmed that they do. Roig stated that emergency repairs can be made immediately by local governments without the need for permits, if a building is in serious condition.Rojas and he said that they did not want to speculate about how to interpret the Surfside for Champlain Towers South 2018 recertification report that found a major error which may have caused concrete to deteriorate. Rojas pointed out that the report did not contain language that would indicate urgent repairs were required to address the immediate danger.Rojas stated that he has seen many of these reports. It did not say that there was imminent collapse. However, it did mention that there were some deficiencies that needed to be fixed.Miroslav Misha Miladenovic is an engineer who founded the M2E company in Miami. He said that the problem often arises when an engineer is hired by a condo board to deliver a costly punch list of repairs required to pass a 40 year recertification process. It is not uncommon for bad news to be received poorly. Then, there is the effort to find better information.Mladenovic stated that a prudent board would listen and follow the advice of the engineer. This is not always true. It doesn't matter if the same board searches for engineers who tell them what they want to hear.Are we doing enough?Santiago stated that Miami-Dade is well-known throughout the country for its strict building codes, 40-year recertification process and 40-year construction permit. This is something most cities don't require.Santiago stated that 40 years should be enough and it has worked well for a long period of time. However, a lot depends upon who is notified about problems and how they respond. Here, we ask more questions than any other place in the state. Is this enough? Perhaps it's time to be more exactive and inclusive in order to see more details.Santiago recalls a time Santiago warned a Hallandale Beach building owner about cracking and structural issues. He didn't want to spend the money so he fired him and told the building department what he had found.Based on the Champlain Tower collapse, where engineering firm Santiago cited in a 2018 study, Santiago suggested that the 40-year-old recertification rules be changed to require that owners allow some exposure to hidden areas to enable inspectors to examine what is beneath, above, or behind tile, plaster, plaster, ceilings, and walls.He said that a lot of the building's contents are hidden from view when it is occupied. You can't expose the slab's surface to see cracks if it has carpet or tile. Perhaps you could make it a condition that the covering be removed or that the ceiling is torn down.Santiago stated that an inspection involves looking for signs of distress and quantifying these.He said concrete is a material that allows you to see what's going on and can fix it quickly. It was important to fix the cracks in Surfside's building. They weren't there in 2018! They were probably first visible in 2012, 2012.If I was a condo owner, I would be worried about the incident. It was so unpredicted and it's impossible to pinpoint the cause until an investigation is completed.Following Hurricane Andrew, 1993 saw the addition of the requirement for 40-year-old buildings to be recertified and certified by electrical engineers.Pistorino stated that the South Florida Building Code was first adopted in 1957. It is the most stringent in the country because it was created to protect structures from the harsh environment of salt air, sea, and hurricanes.He said that our rules, standards, safety factors in design, requirements for workmanship, threshold building inspection law, product approval system, peer-review system and our rules all contribute to a great reputation throughout the country. We know that South Florida's harsh conditions place high demands on buildings. I've received calls from officials in the building and government sectors across Florida asking me to implement our recertification program.Pistorino will participate in the investigation into the Champlain tower collapse. He said that it will be similar to an autopsy or the reassembly an airplane after a crash.He said that we know some symptoms of Surfside, but not the cause. I would feel secure in a unit within one of these buildings.This article has been updated to correct Ward Towers' inclusion on a county list for recertification violations.