Grand Jury Report: How to Avert Another Surfside Condo Collapse

A group of construction engineers from above, discussing plans on a job site and pointing ahead of them

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How can another Surfside condo collapse be prevented? A Miami-Dade grand jury released a 43-page report recommending what could be done.

Ninety-eight people died on June 24 after a portion of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Fla., collapsed in the middle of the night.

In response, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle asked a grand jury to evaluate procedures to prevent such disasters—“not just in Surfside, and not just in condominiums, but in all buildings and structures in the coastal, intercoastal, and surrounding areas of our county, state, and nation.”

The direct cause of the Surfside collapse is still unknown. The National Institute of Standards and Technology continues to investigate. However, reviewing documents that were issued about the building prior to its collapse, the grand jury concluded, “There was sufficient information, provided early enough to put everyone on notice of a major problem. However, sadly, none of the participants acted quickly enough to avert this tragedy.”

Rundle said several lessons have emerged from the grand jury report to prevent future disasters, including:

  • Revising statutes that oversee condo safety.
  • State and local governments need to place greater focus on preventing dangerous structural deterioration.
  • State condo boards need to recognize the responsibilities they have when it comes to preserving the lives of buildings and their residents.
  • The state’s department supervising condo associations should be restructured so that it can play a more serious role in overseeing condominium guidance.

The report also calls for more money, staff, and inspectors to identify dangerous buildings for raising qualification standards for inspectors. Also, they call for requirements that condo boards post maintenance documents and inspection reports online.

Further, the report called for more immediate reporting of any defects uncovered. “Should an engineer or architect who conducts a building inspection determine that the building or structure is unsafe for continued occupancy (whether structural integrity, electrical issue, fire safety, or any other life safety concern) the engineer or architect shall notify the Local Building Official within 24 hours of such finding,” the group recommended.