breaking news Inspectors raised concerns about a ‘major error’ in Champlain Tower design, records show

breaking news

In a 2018 report about the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, an engineer flagged a “major error” dating back to the building’s origin where lack of proper drainage on the pool deck had caused “major structural damage,” according to records released late Friday night by town officials in the wake of the tower’s disastrous collapse on Thursday.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the issue was repaired or whether it could have ultimately contributed to the building’s partial collapse, which resulted in at least four deaths with over 150 people still unaccounted for.

The concern was laid out in an October 2018, “Structural Field Survey Report,” produced for the condo association by engineer Frank Morabito of Morabito Consultants. Morabito wrote that the “main issue” at Champlain Towers was that the pool deck and outdoor planters “laid on a flat structure” preventing water from draining. The lack of waterproofing was “a systemic issue” that traced back to a flaw “in the development of the original contract documents” 40 years ago, the report said.

The report documented how the years of standing water on the pool deck had severely damaged the concrete structural slabs below. The problem needed to be addressed quickly, Morabito wrote.

“Failure to replace waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially,” he wrote. The proper repair would be an “extremely expensive” undertaking, he warned.

“[R]emoval of the concrete topping slab to gain access to the waterproofing membrane will take time, be disruptive and create a major disturbance to the occupants of this condominium structure,” the report said.

The parking garage under the pool deck and planter slabs also “revealed signs of distress/fatigue,” according to Morabito’s report. “Several sizable [cracks in the concrete] were noted in both the topside of the entrance drive ramp and underside of the pool/entrance drive/planter slabs, which included instances with exposed, deteriorating rebar,” according to the report.

An image from the 2018 report.

“Though some of this damage is minor, most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion,” the report said.

Morabito noted that previous attempts by other contractors to repair cracks in the garage “were ineffective” and didn’t fix the problem.

There was no clear indication from officials or public records whether the Condominium Association ever addressed issues Morabito raised regarding the pool deck or garage.

But in preliminary plans to repair and restore the building as part of a 40-year recertification process that were prepared in late April, Morabito’s firm recommended significant concrete repairs at the pool area as well as foundation walls.

In addition to the recertification plan and 2018 report, records released late Friday show that the building had received at least three building permits since mid-May, including a repair of the roof, electrical repairs and installation of roof safety anchors to support window washers, the last of which was issued Wednesday.

Surfside Town Clerk Sandra McCready said in an email to the Miami Herald that the records were only “those compiled to date” and suggested that more would be available in the future.

Among the other records released Friday were the original building plans submitted in 1979.

Miami Herald staff writers Alex Harris and Martin Vassolo and el Nuevo Herald staff writer Ana Claudia Chacin contributed to this report.

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