Structural Supports Added to Florida Condo Building Raise Safety Concerns

Structural supports were added in January to Champlain Towers North garage, seven months after the condo board assured its residents the building was structurally sound following the collapse of its sister tower, but it has some questioning the safety of the building.

Some residents of Champlain Towers North asked city officials and board members after the south tower collapsed if their tower was safe, and they were told yes but were given the option to voluntarily evacuate. Most decided to stay.

Now, with the work that's being done on the north tower and the pending engineering report that's yet to come out, some aren't so sure.

The supports were added to the North tower's underground garage as "an abundance of caution," in January and will remain "until the columns are reinforced," according to a notice the condo board sent residents the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Naum Lusky, president of the Champlain North condo association, expects the engineering report in coming weeks, but he is confident that the building is safe, the AP reported.

However, engineering professor at Drexel University Abieyuwa Aghayere said that the remaining tower should undergo a thorough investigation before being declared safe.

"If the engineer's investigation is not complete, how could they guarantee that the building is safe to inhabit—especially given the similarity of this building to CTS," Aghayere said.

The safety measure was added as part of an ongoing inspection by a structural engineer following the partial collapse of the condo's south tower which killed 98 people on June 24, 2021, the Associated Press reported. The official cause of the collapse has not been determined.

champlain towers north south collapse surfside florida
Rescue personnel work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo on June 25, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. Seven months after an oceanfront condominium collapsed and killed 98 people near Miami, temporary structural supports have been added to areas in the underground garage of its sister tower. The Champlain Towers North condo board said in a January 19, 2022, letter to unit owners that the shoring was done “in an abundance of caution” as part of an ongoing inspection by a structural engineer. Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The north tower was built in the 1980s and was nearly identical to the south tower that collapsed. Both buildings were constructed around the same time, by the same contractor, and more than likely used the same materials and plans, The Palm Beach Post reported Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett saying in June following the collapse.

The Herald consulted several engineers and a general contractor who say the building was poorly designed and had an array of structural and construction problems.

One of the structural problems was the columns were too narrow to safely hold the amount of reinforcing steel needed in the basement and ground floors. Experts told the Herald the columns that were beneath the part still remaining following the collapse were the only ones that were fully compliant with the code.

Following the collapse, the Champlin Towers North board said inspectors gave the building "a clean bill of health" and it was safe for people to stay in.

Residents still expressed concerns regarding the safety of the building, but Lusky told residents, "I would let my kids and grandkids stay in this building," AP reported

Dawn Lehman, one of the experts who performed the analysis for the Herald, said it was too premature to give the building a clean bill of health before, "And it's probably too soon to say that now, too."

However, Lusky told the Herald if there was any doubt regarding the safety of the building "they would have evacuated us six months ago," AP reported.

Structure Support Added to Champlain Towers
Above, Rubble is piled high after the partial collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. Structural support was recently added to the garage of the Champlain Towers North condo building in January as "an abundance of caution" as part of structural engineers' ongoing inspection. Joe Raedle//Getty Images