Design and construction deficiencies in the Champlain Towers South pool deck exposed the part of the building to an “extremely low rate of failure”, a newly released investigation has found.
The design did not meet building codes, with “serious” strength deficiencies in slab columns and fixtures in several places on the pool deck, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s findings.
NIST is investigating the cause of the Surfside condominium collapse that killed 98 people in the early hours of June 24, 2021.
While NIST’s final report isn’t expected until May 2025, its preliminary findings confirm long-held theories about problems with the building’s pool deck, including witness accounts that parts of the deck collapsed first. NIST said it has spent more than $17 million on the investigation.
Investigators also found that the construction of the pool deck deviated from code and original design, the summary of findings said. Slab reinforcement was placed two inches deep into the concrete slab, exceeding the design depth of three-quarters of an inch. The problem was exacerbated when heavy planters were added on the north side of the pool deck, causing cracks and structural damage.
In a summary of its findings, the page titled “Physical Manifestations of Structural Failure” points to a cracked planter wall atop a planter box and a “sagging slab.”
NIST is investigating several possible causes of the collapse, though it has ruled out explosions or other events that could have contributed to the building’s collapse.
Construction failure starting with the pool deck is a “prime hypothesis,” said Cornell University professor Ken Hover, who was part of the investigating team, miami herald report.
In its investigation, NIST examined the building codes that set the building standards when the 40-year-old Champlain was built, as well as the building’s design, according to a summary of findings. Investigators also interviewed witnesses and tested structural materials.
NIST’s discovery isn’t the first time engineers have identified problems with pool decks.
In preparation for the 40-year certification, an engineer’s report found “significant structural damage” to the slab below the pool deck due to “extensive concrete cracking and spalling” and failure of waterproofing below the deck.
Despite the sale of the property, the investigation continues. Dubai-based Damac Properties, led by Hussain Sajwani, paid $120 million for the collapsed site after becoming the sole bidder. This week, Damac submitted plans for two 57-unit luxury apartment complexes.
Former Judge Michael Hanzman, now senior counsel at Bilzin Sumberg LLP, has approved a major settlement in a class-action lawsuit totaling more than $1 billion related to last year’s collapse. The settlement, finalized last summer, included hundreds of millions of dollars from security firm Securitas of Champlain Towers South and insurers from the development team at Eighty Seven Park, a condominium project next door.
A memorial is planned for a portion of 88th Street, immediately north of the old building.