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Building a Stronger Nation Part 1: Understanding the Miami Condominium Collapse

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

At approximately 1:22 AM on June 24, 2021, the Champlain Towers South collapsed. 12 stories of infrastructure caved and fell, burying 98 people in dust and rubble. Fires erupted and smoke billowed into the Miami night sky. The wail of sirens hurtling down the road toward the chaos could be heard for miles, and soon, the horrified cries of families would join the cacophony. On June 24, 2021, the nation was reminded of the fragility of society and our creations. 

Catastrophe creates a sense of dissonance. Families and first responders, asked over and over again while looking at the ashes of the condominium, how can a home, a place of security and rest, just fall? Reporters dug their fingers into the destruction, willing the pieces of this tragedy to weave a story that could somehow make this make sense. After all, how does a 12 story building just…fall? 

The cause of the collapse was found in a trail of documents that stated the building had substantial concrete structural damage to its pool deck area and was overdue for repairs. These findings, coupled with environmental issues spanning four decades, are what is hypothesized to be the cause of the disaster. A failure to maintain and weatherproof the condominium led to the lives of 98 people being taken. 

The instance of the Surfside Condominium collapse was heartbreaking, and the worst part is, it needn’t have occurred. Had repairs been made when they should have been, had the Surfside building inspector back in 2018 not signed off on the building being in “very good shape,” perhaps the only sounds emitted from the evening of June 24th, 2021, would have been the crashing of ocean waves. 

When a building is created, it is constructed to meet the requirements of the building code adopted by the state in which it is being built. In many states, additional standards are added to the original code to create infrastructure resilient to that region’s weather. In California, buildings are created to withstand seismic devastation, while in Florida, buildings are created to withstand high-velocity hurricane winds. From wherever you are reading this, the buildings around you and the one you may be in are constructed to meet a code written to keep you safe. Each community adopts a building code to protect the health, safety, and welfare of building occupants.

The events that occurred at Champlain Towers South are a devastating example of what can happen when buildings are not kept up to code. Back in 2018, Morabito Consultants, a structural engineering firm, expressed to Champlain Towers that there was concrete structural damage ​to concrete structural slabs on the pool deck due to failed waterproofing. At the time, repairs would have totaled over $9 million. Three years passed until Champlain Towers would address the repairs and by then repair costs had risen to $15 million

So what can be done to prevent another condominium collapse? The answer lies in the innovation of building codes. 

The story continues with “Building a Stronger Nation Part 2: The Correlation between Building Codes and Public Health,” where we’ll discuss how advancements in building codes can lead to sustainable development.

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Fiana Herscovici

U Mass Amherst '24

Fiana is a Writer for the University of Massachusetts Amherst Chapter. She is a Sophomore majoring in Operations & Information Management in the Isenberg School of Business. When she's not writing articles (or reading YA novels, shopping for the same sweater in a different color, or daydreaming about being on the beach), Fiana is a Junior Analyst for the Isenberg Undergraduate Consulting Group and is the Co-Founder of StudioU, a growing headshot photography business at UMass. You can count on Fiana for articles about business, entrepreneurship, and current events!