With increased attention on older buildings in need of repairs, cities and counties throughout South Florida are looking to tighten inspections following the deadly Surfside condo collapse.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett this week announced in a letter to building owners, managers and residents that all buildings east of Collins Avenue in the town will require inspections. The order, which covers other beachfront buildings, is “in an abundance of caution based on the current status of the investigation,” he wrote in the letter.
Burkett said the town recommends that buildings hire a licensed structural engineer and geotechnical engineer who would be guided by Allyn Kilsheimer of KCE Engineering. Kilsheimer, who provided his expertise in the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse and the attack on the Pentagon, was hired by the town as a consultant on the collapse.
The partial collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24 has prompted government officials and buildings across the country to inspect older properties for any major life-safety issues. The confirmed death toll from the tragedy reached 78 on Friday afternoon, with 62 people still unaccounted for.
Champlain Towers South, one of three Champlain buildings in close proximity to each other, was in the midst of its 40-year recertification, a required process in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, when it crumbled onto itself overnight. The condo association had begun a more than $15 million repair project just two months earlier, years after an engineer’s report flagged major structural damage to the property.
On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis indefinitely suspended property tax payments for unit owners “whose property was destroyed or rendered uninhabitable” as a result of the collapse.
The 40-year recertification is not required in Palm Beach County, though officials are discussing how to improve the inspection process and increase the frequency at which high-rise buildings are reviewed. The Palm Beach Post reported that the county commission will discuss the issue at a meeting on Tuesday.
Of the 39 municipalities in Palm Beach County, cities including West Palm Beach and Boca Raton are considering requiring regular inspections, while smaller towns like Riviera Beach and Palm Beach are suggesting that building owners hire their own engineers, according to the Post.
Almost immediately following the tragedy, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced a 30-day audit of residential properties five stories and taller at the 40-year recertification point “that have not completed the process to identify and address any issues.” Other municipalities followed suit, in some cases reviewing older buildings that had not yet reached 40 years old.