- Federal officials investigating the deadly June 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida, are looking into the history of the building for reasons as to why it suddenly gave way, a lead investigator told told Federal News Network.
- In addition, officials have completed data collection on 600 building fragments recovered from the site, including pieces of columns and beams. The team is also pouring through hundreds of documents, design plans, drawings and building permits.
- Tanya Brown-Giammanco, director of Disaster and Failure Studies at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, told the outlet that investigators haven’t determined if there was a “triggering mechanism” or if the building “just ran out of capacity.”
Structural and geotechnical engineers, material and social scientists, data science analysts and robotics experts are evaluating causes behind the failure at Champlain Towers South, according to Brown-Giammanco. The 12-story beachfront building collapsed on June 24, 2021, killing 98 people.
The NIST team wants to gain a technical understanding of what caused the collapse and its sequence. “We are not focused on finding faults, but we are looking at the building response itself,” Brown-Giammanco said. “And again, our goal is always to try to come up with changes to codes and standards. That’s why we’re so laser focused on the technical causes.”
The team isn’t just focused on what’s in the building. It’s also looking at the soil and foundation when it was constructed and through its lifespan, including studying weather events over the past 40 years.
“So there’s really a huge number of possibilities that we’re investigating,” Brown-Giammanco said. “We call these failure hypotheses. There’s dozens of them, and we have to go through meticulously and either prove or disprove that they were possible.”
As NIST continues its work, the legal process has played out for survivors and families of the victims. A class-action complaint updated last November alleged that the towers were “badly damaged and destabilized” because of excavation and construction at the neighboring 18-story Eighty Seven Park condominium, according to court documents.
South Florida-based real estate development company Terra and general contractor John Moriarty and Associates were among the last defendants to settle with plaintiffs, who received nearly $1 billion.
All of the Terra entities deny that their work at 87 Park caused or contributed to the collapse of Champlain Towers, according to representatives from the company. They add that the settlement included no admission of any liability.
Other researchers have taken steps to explain what caused the tragedy at Champlain Towers South. An analysis by The New York Times suggested there were multiple points of failure, including questionable construction practices.
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