ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — An engineering firm estimated that major repairs to an oceanfront building near Miami
would cost more than $9 million nearly three years before the building collapsed, according to newly released emails.
The email from Morabito Consultants was among a series of documents released by the city of Surfside
efforts continued at the site of the collapsed building, where more than 150 people
remained unaccounted for, and at least five people were killed.
The release of the 2018 cost estimate followed the earlier publication of another document from the firm revealing that the building's ground-floor pool deck was resting on a concrete slab with "major structural damage" that required extensive repair, as well as "abundant cracking and spalling" of concrete columns, beams, and walls in the parking garage.
The report made no mention of any imminent danger
from the damage, and it is unclear whether any of the damage observed was to blame for the collapse of Champlain Towers South
The cost estimate indicated that repairs to the entire building would cost more than $9.1 million, with the cost of work
at the garage, entrance, and pool deck alone accounting for more than $3.8 million; however, the work had not been completed by the time the building collapsed.
According to the previous report, the waterproofing beneath the pool deck had failed and had been improperly laid flat rather than sloped, preventing water from draining.
“The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab beneath these areas, and failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially,” according to the report.
The firm advised that the damaged slabs be replaced in a major repair.
Some of the concrete damage in the parking garage was minor, but other columns had exposed and deteriorating rebar; it was also noted that many of the building's previous attempts to repair the columns and other damage with epoxy were marred by poor workmanship and were failing.
According to the report, new cracks were radiating from previously repaired cracks beneath the pool deck “where the slab had been epoxy-injected.”
According to Gregg Schlesinger, an attorney who specializes in construction defects and a former construction project engineer, all of these issues should have been addressed quickly.
“The building speaks to us. It is telling us we have a serious problem,” Schlesinger said about the new documents in a phone interview
Saturday. “They (building managers) kicked the can down the road. The maintenance was improper. These were all red flags that needed to be addressed, but they weren’t.”
Morabito Consultants confirmed its report "detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public" in a statement issued Saturday.
Champlain Towers South hired the firm again in June 2020 to begin the 40-year recertification process, which would detail what work was required.
“Roof repairs were underway at the time of the building collapse, but concrete restoration had not yet begun,” according to the statement.
According to Abi Aghayere, a Drexel University
engineering researcher, the extent of the damage shown in the engineering report was significant, and several areas above the entrance drive showing signs of deterioration were concerning and should have been repaired immediately, in addition to possible problems under the pool.
“Were the supporting members deteriorated to the point where a critical structural element or their connections failed, resulting in progressive collapse?” he asked in an email to the AP after reviewing the report. “Were there other areas in the structure that were badly deteriorated and went unnoticed?”
The building was in the midst of its 40-year recertification process, which requires detailed structural and electrical inspections. Surfside Mayor
Charles Burkett said in an interview Friday that he wasn't sure if the inspection had been completed, but that it might contain vital clues.
“It should have been a very simple thing,” Burkett said. “Buildings in America
do not just fall down like this for no reason; there is a reason, and we need to figure out what that reason is.”
The collapse of the 12-story tower on Thursday morning has raised concerns about the safety of other similar structures.
“This is a wake-up call for people on the beach,” Schlesinger said, adding, “The scary part is the other buildings; do you think this is unique? No.”
Surfside Town Clerk Sandra McCready said in an email that details of the building's 40-year recertification inspection will be made public once they are completed.
Already, lawsuits have been filed in response to the collapse, including one filed hours after the collapse by attorney Brad Sohn against the condo's homeowners association, seeking damages for negligence and other reasons on behalf of all of the tower's residents.
According to the lawsuit, the association "could have prevented the collapse of Champlain Towers South through ordinary care, safety measures, and oversight."
Ken Direktor, an attorney for the association, did not respond to a request for comment via email.
Condon contributed reporting from New York
, and Freida Frisaro of the Associated Press
in Fort Lauderdale
, also contributed.