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Pool deck at collapsed Florida condo building failed to comply with codes, standards, officials say

Surfside building collapse
Posted at 4:07 PM, Jun 15, 2023

MIAMI (AP) — The swimming pool deck of a beachfront South Florida condominium that collapsed two years ago, killing 98 people, failed to comply with the original building codes and standards, with many areas of severe strength deficiency, federal investigators said Thursday.

Investigators with the National Institute of Standards and Technology gave an update on the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida, during a regular meeting of the National Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee. The town of Surfside is located just north of Miami Beach.

Besides design understrength, investigators reported signs of corrosion, misplaced reinforcement and the placement of heavier and additional plant containers on the deck than those in the original plans. These and other factors led to “ critically low margins against failure,” investigators said.

Experts have previously suggested problems with the pool deck might have led to the 40-year-old, 12-story building's collapse on June 24, 2021, but the NIST investigation is ongoing. Officials expect their technical work to be completed by next spring, with a report on the cause and any potential recommendations for updating codes, standards or practices to come in 2025.

As the investigation continues, developers are working to build a new structure on the site, despite calls from victims' family members to build a memorial at the location.

Dubai-based DAMAC International, which purchased the 1.8-acre (1-hectare) site for $120 million last year, submitted plans for a new condo building this week to the town of Surfside. The proposed building, designed by London-based Zaha Hadid Architects, includes 57 units, ranging in size from 4,000 to 9,000 square feet (360 to 810 square meters). The luxury building would include a business center, event space and two pools.

The proposal actually includes two variations for the building, depending on the final setback variance allowed for the site. One design features vertically aligned balconies, while the other includes tiered balconies that are set back as the floors go up. No prices have been listed for the units, but comparable residences in the area sell for over $1 million.

Since shortly after Champlain Towers South's collapse, family members of the victims and their supporters have called for a memorial to be placed on the site. Town officials have said they will dedicate space along a nearby street for a memorial, but some family members insist the memorial should be placed where people actually died.

Town officials still need to approve the new development plans.