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Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

  • 1.  Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 07-01-2021 01:53 PM

    Recognizing we want to be careful in the forum about speculating on the cause of the Surfside condo collapse aligned with the ASCE statement that came out earlier this week,  a number of general questions have been circulating in my head that triggered by the facts that have come to light. As engineers how we can we  better communicate the severity of problems balancing being alarmist (and possibly putting future credibility and opportunities at risk) with need to properly inform? This is compounded by oft having to communicate to clients or others that are non-engineers and do understand meaning or subtleties.  For policy and regulation makers I think there's a question of how to compel action. The Surfside condo collapse has highlighted the challenge dealing with diffuse ownership. The final question is one of engineering competency within government entities. Finally, can this tragedy be used a wake up call to catalyze support for addressing this countries failing infrastructure – and systems that enable?



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    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
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  • 2.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 29 days ago

    Dear Mitch, you are right! There is the need to know the truth, and everyone's asking what happened in that collapse. We have to be cautious in what we have to say about it until the official reports are delivered. Some people challenge us to know if we, as engineers, know to solve the puzzle. As you said, delivering the wrong message (especially in the media) could unnecessarily transfer some alarm.

    What is important is not to let pass this event like another more and always protect people's lives (preparing them, enhancing our design standards, monitoring structures, etc.).
    Regards,
    AG



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    Andres Guzman Ing., M.ASCE
    Associate Professor
    UNIVERSIDAD DEL NORTE
    Barranquilla
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  • 3.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 29 days ago
    To all my fellow engineer friends. Professionals should always maintain professional conduct at all times. Understanding the FACTS should always be at the forefront before rendering opinions in private or public. I have read so many articles and opinions that the failures of bridges and now condominiums are at risk, way before the in-depth forensics are properly completed. I call this all speculation and speculation should not be in our vocabulary. Let us do our job by finding the facts, performing the analysis, and issuing our findings when the timeline is appropriate. Our credibility is on the line.

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    Vito Rotondi P.E., M.ASCE
    Westmont IL
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  • 4.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 29 days ago
    Mitch,
    Very well put! One issue I continuously need to address is clarifying the severity of issues to my clients who are mostly in other industries outside engineering and construction (as you say "diffuse ownership"). Having to take into consideration their backgrounds and approach to situations I need to understand their ability to understand concepts and it is my responsibility to make it intelligible to them (not always possible with all individuals).

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    Mark Licalzi P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal
    Luke Licalzi , P.E., P.C.
    New York City NY
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  • 5.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 28 days ago
    As Vito so "Delicately" reminds us, responsible professional engineers are to wait
    until the facts, determined by professionals, have been submitted, reviewed, and approved.
    Cheers,
    Bill

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    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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  • 6.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 23 days ago
    Vito is right to point out that "the risks in our industry [profession] are great and any miscommunications can lead to multiple paths for disaster. ... recommendations must have credibility. they must be explained in detail."

    We share with pure scientists the challenge of how to explain "risk" or probability.
    Clear explanation of facts, not just after failures, is critical.  The risks at Surfside included salty, seaside air and corrosion, sea level rise and flooding. These last factors raise the risk of foundation, bridge and road support failures in virtually all of Florida, and many other areas, because they no longer exist in geo-conditions believed to be stable a mere 10-15 years ago. Possible overloading, from inhabitants and wind pressures, unanticipated ambient heat and cold, are other possible risk factors today.

    Contracts do define our design scopes and how engineers are "responsibly in charge", but that is not good enough today. Our cultural climate has developed so much mistrust, fingerpointing and outright hatred in the last 40 years, that re-establishing our "trusted" voice will be a continuing challenge.

    When we design for a particular life span, it must be clear to EVERYONE, owners, customers, the public, what that timeline is (maybe we should even use expiration dates, like on food packages - or codes could require end-of-life funds to be escrowed, as is currently required for landfills, but not much else).  Our designs should include consideration of how the projects will be implemented, operated, and maintained. We should probably even provide estimates of the resources necessary for continuing good performance. Perfect, comprehensive "inspections" are a pipe-dream, but we can clearly inform our clients and project users what visible signs could be indicative of pending failure, the role that building inspectors generally take on right now.

    If we do not plan/design for sustainable projects now, we have failed to do our job. Even as we try to meet our clients' requirements, we must evaluate whether the projects are the right ones in the right place.  Our legacy must be work that will withstand the test of time, to build trust in the engineers' voice once more.

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    Sarah Simon P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE
    Founding Partner
    Ipswich MA
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  • 7.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 28 days ago
    "Finally, can this tragedy be used a wake up call to catalyze support for addressing this countries failing infrastructure – and systems that enable?"
    Mitch thanks for the question, and yes a system similar to the national bridge safety inspection would be needed. The National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) Title 23 Code of Federal Regulations 650 Subpart C defines the NBIS regulations, and establishes requirements for inspection procedures, frequency of inspections, qualifications of personnel, inspection reports, and preparation and maintenance of a state bridge inventory.  The need is there but the political stomach is weak, you can make a difference by asking your state and national senators and representatives to do the right thing...even if it means losing donations from the large real estate magnates.  Do you support Ted Cruz? if so ask him to take a stand to support a national standard for buildings over 3 stories that provide shelter for humans.

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    Barry Anderson P.E.
    Granite Falls MN
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  • 8.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 27 days ago
    Too soon to talk about adding a significant national inspection requirement. Exactly how common is collapse of an occupied building in the US? It seems possible that all the necessary information to comprehend the danger was already in hand by those in responsible positions (inspectors, government, owners), but not acted upon; we just don't know yet. Perhaps it was the communication issues discussed above.
    For those of us in New York City, there are already requirements for full façade inspections, and full gas system inspections every 5 years. There are also numerous other avenues for collecting and reporting problems at buildings including a simple 311 anonymous call. While clearly valuable and most would say necessary, these inspection requirements are a significant burden for property owners and make affordable housing a serious challenge.
    Collection of all available information, careful and thorough analysis, and a consensus conclusion must all be completed before consideration of major new requirement.

    James Moore, PE  M.ASCE
    New York, NY

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    James Moore P.E., M.ASCE
    PRESIDENT
    Moore Associates LLC
    New York NY
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  • 9.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 27 days ago
    I agree that there is time to evaluate the cause or causes of the Surfside Condo Collapse before broad laws and regulations are enacted.  However, it seems that many if not all condo homeowner associations do not have the KSA's to make sound decisions on Professional Engineer reports and recommendations.  I would hope that the Engineer's Recommendations would carry the day...however recent history of professional recommendations to vaccinate have shown about a third of our population have not followed advice.  The results could be fatal but misinformation and general mistrust of professionals are cause for concern.

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    Barry Anderson P.E.
    Granite Falls MN
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  • 10.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 26 days ago
    Barry Anderson P.E.
    I agree with you completely. I would like to address the issue of professionalism as it applies to engineering and architecture.
    In our current state of affairs, some professions have been thrown into the mixer with professions such as law, medical, haircutting, cosmetology, etc. The main purpose of professional certification is to protect the public from harm by ensuring professionals meet the strict requirements of education and experience.
    Today, many professions are pushed and pulled in many directions due to social and political pressures. Speaking for my profession as a multi-disciplined engineer and architect, I have always subscribed to the concept of accountability through the idea of "Responsible Charge". When we are in responsible charge, we owe the public to the best of our abilities safe and functional designs. That means to have strong convictions in everything we do to serve the public. We must use our knowledge to define the problems and issues at hand, accumulate the facts, analyze, develop solutions and communicate the final solution to the customer, the public, building officials, contractors, and other interested parties to ensure their understanding of the implementation plan for the design.
    The risks in our industry are great and any miscommunications can lead to multiple paths for disaster. Therefore, we must be unwavering. When we issue a report with recommendations, these recommendations must have credibility. they must be explained in detail. They must not be ambiguous with mixed messaging. We have to be ultra clear as to the Scope, Schedule, Quality, Costs, and Safety including roles and responsibilities of all parties. Someone must be in "RESPONSIBLE CHARGE".
    Regarding the vaccinations issue, This is a great example. I firmly believe the issues regarding poor credibility are the result of extremely poor communications and mixed ambiguous messaging. There was indeed lost credibility. We must always have ONE consistent voice. Not everyone's opinion.

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    Vito Rotondi,
    Arch. S.E. P.E. M ASCE
    Westmont Illinois
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  • 11.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 28 days ago
    In general, condo associations and homeowners associations are very commonplace and reflective of what you refer to as diffuse ownership.  Having lived for a short time in an old mill converted to condos, my experience with the association was challenging.  Members of the board often have varied qualifications, which likely do not include facility management.  Members often have conflicting interests and the simplest issues can escalate to meeting drama that results in inaction.  Issues such as dogs, can be complicated very quickly by dog owners vs. non-dog owners who cannot agree on weights, breeds, or designated areas.  A proposed dog run was still in limbo when left.  The association has limited budget and no incentive to adjust fees.  As engineers, it is important to understand the stakeholders in play and ensure we are being heard by all involved with ownership decisions.

    See link to article regarding HOAs:
    Miami condo collapse: Many HOAs face similar fight over costs, repairs (usatoday.com)

    ASCE Policy
    ASCE Policy Statement 283 - Periodic Inspection of Existing Facilities


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    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
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  • 12.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 22 days ago

    On the chance some commentators have not recently had the opportunity to better appreciate what Forensic Engineers do to provide reliable engineered answers to the questions connected to failures, I have attached a few papers noted below.

    While not specific to the unravelling, and yet unknown actual driving forces involved in the horrific collapse, they do provide factual insights into why only these properly credentialed folks may offer answers and opinions the public . . .and other civil engineers. . . can rely on.
    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill

    1.     Forensic Engineering: Proceedings of the Second Congress, May 21-23, 2000, San Juan, Puerto Rico[1] by Technical Council on Forensic Engineering (Author), Kevin L. Rens (Editor), Oswald Rendon-Herrero (Editor), Paul A. Bosela (Editor) Forensics and Case Studies in Civil Engineering Education: State of the Art Norbert J. Delatte Cleveland State University[2], [email protected]

    2.     Failure Mechanisms in Building Construction[4]Edited by David H. Nicastro, P.E. ASCE PressISBN (print): 978-0-7844-0283-2ISBN (PDF): 978-0-7844-7027-5

    3.  Identification of Reinforced Concrete Failure Modes Using Linear Elastic Finite Element Analysis[5]

    James B. Deaton ; and Lawrence F. Kahn

    4.     Collapsed-RC Building Failure Mechanisms with a Forensic Engineering Approach[6]

    Ali EtemadiPh.D.; and Can BalkayaPh.D.M.ASCE

    5. Progressive collapse capacity of a gravity-load designed RC building partially collapsed during structural retrofitting[7]

    Author links open overlay panel.    MartinaScalvenziFulvioParisi

     

    [1] https://www.amazon.com/Forensic-Engineering-Proceedings-Second-Congress/dp/0784404828

    [4] https://ascelibrary.org/doi/book/10.1061/9780784402832

    [5] https://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/9780784412640.128

    [6] https://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/%28ASCE%29CF.1943-5509.0001462

    [7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1350630720316885



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    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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  • 13.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 21 days ago
    Very interesting all the opinions that I have read, a very interesting topic Mitchell and that should attract the attention of all civil engineers, owners and authorities.

    Events like this always reveal some aspects of engineering and construction regulation that we have not yet fully resolved, that is, we do not have an established standard or protocol to address them. In Mexico we recently went through something similar with the collapse of a section of "Line 12" of the metropolitan transport (urban-train) of Mexico City, at the time it aroused many concerns about the causes of the event. I think that as engineers this type of answer or reasoning is more "close" for us, since we have engineering knowledge as a tool to give an opinion. However, I consider that this part of the topic has been widely addressed (although knowledge is still being developed in this regard) by those who are dedicated to it at a scientific and practical level and, rather, it is lacking (as mentioned by most of those who commented) to address more the issue of policies or regulations on the conditions of the infrastructure and the problems that it causes to society when something like a building collapse happens (it is not only the owners who are affected) and in the case of infrastructure that belongs to the public is even more complex the challenge of policies and regulations.

    In summary, I consider that the work in terms of the way of communicating it should adhere to the respect of a code of conduct for those of us in charge of technically clarifying the facts and allowing the information to arrive "clean" through those who have that commission in their Hands, on the other hand, regarding the issue of addressing the faulty infrastructure, I believe that a firm request as a union for the system to turn to address the matter corresponds.

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    Horacio Galicia-Gaona Ing., S.E., M.ASCE
    Morelia
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  • 14.  RE: Surfside Condo Collapse Peripheral Questions

    Posted 15 days ago
    The key to understand this or any other collapse is structural mechanics. Computer programs such as SAP
    or its several derivatives help us to build safe structures. But a collapse analysis demands something
    more sophisticated. If you want examples of such work, please go to

    https://www.youtube.com/user/gs98765432

    Performing such simulations gives us a better insight into needs for modifying certain elements.

    Sincerely
    Gregory Szuladzinski

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    Gregory Szuladzinski Ph.D., M.ASCE
    Director
    Analytical Service Pty, Ltd.
    Northbridge NSW
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