With high-rise collapse, Miami reprises Mumbai amid concern over multi-storied seafront dwelling

With high-rise collapse, Miami reprises Mumbai amid concern over multi-storied seafront dwelling

WASHINGTON: The country that pioneered the high-rise building concept (also called skyscrapers when New York City eclipsed the first multi-storyed structures in the midwest) is having a moment of reckoning following the collapse of condominium in Miami that is evocative of such frequent disasters in Mumbai.
Americans are hearing and watching in horror stories of graft, corruption, and building code violations in a saga more akin to those in developing countries than in a nation that prides itself on enforcing laws. The disquiet extends beyond the collapse of the 12-storied beachfront building: Six days after the disaster only a dozen bodies have been recovered from the 159 unaccounted victims believed entombed in the rubble.
The growing list of red flags now being revealed with Champlain Towers South building is alarming residents far beyond the North and East towers — which were built later — that remain standing. Some are abandoning apartments over questions about the structural integrity of buildings amid concerns that saline water inflow in such seafront properties are corroding the foundations.
According to local reports, the South Towers, promoted and built in 1981 by a Canadian developer and two other American principals, all of whom are since deceased, involved short cuts and payoffs to navigate through the permit system. The 12-storied, 136-unit tower was on the verge of undergoing a $15 million renovation to pass a 40-year re-certification required by the local Miami Dade county, when it collapsed last Thursday.
In fact, the building management had been communicating with residents since April about ways to cover the expenses and was negotiating with banks for a loan to begin repairs when the towers came crashing down. It now transpires that inspectors and engineers had warned the management as early as 2018 about problems with the structure arising possibly from extensive concrete spalling in parking garage.
Latest reports now speak of prolonged flooding of the basement with one to two feet of water that may have contributed to undermining the structural integrity of the building. William Espinosa, who said he oversaw maintenance at the building from about 1995 to 2000, told the local CBS 4 Miami tv station that saltwater would seep through the building’s foundation, particularly during high tides, and the building management used two large pumps to force it out in a manner he deemed inadequate and unsatisfactory.
Although the concept of high-rise structures goes back into millennial history, Americans pioneered the idea of multi-storied offices and dwelling units. The skyscraper boom in America is said to have begun in Chicago in 1885 with William Le Baron Jenney’s Home Insurance Building, which rose to 10 storeys (and to 12, after an 1890 addition) before it was overtaken by New York City, which in 1930 build the 102-storied Empire State Building in just one year, and which remained the world’s tallest building till 1970 when the World Trade Center was built.
Aside from the World Trade Center and the Alfred Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma, which were brought down by terrorist attacks, there was been very few structural collapses in the US, mainly due to strict code enforcement.

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