The devastating Miami condo collapse has served as a reminder that engineers and construction crews must take all steps necessary to guard against accidents and collapses. It’s also left many wondering whether such accidents could occur in their part of the country.
For example, if you’re a California resident, you might wonder whether a collapse like the one in Miami could happen here.
Technically, yes. That doesn’t mean such an accident is likely to happen in our state. The following points will help you better understand why.
Building Collapses and Local Codes
It’s not yet entirely clear how various factors allowed the Miami condo to collapse as it did. However, three years before the accident, a consultant identified major signs of damage and deterioration to a concrete slab beneath the pool deck. They also found signs of damage to walls, beams, and columns.
Plans had been in place to repair the damaged areas. Unfortunately, factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic prevented the repairs from being made in a timely manner.
The cause of the damage is currently unknown. Some suspect water leaking from the pool contributed to the damage. Others believe salty air could be to blame. Salty ocean air can result in the deterioration of materials like concrete.
What is known is that building codes in Miami generally require that structures be designed to guard against potential damage from hurricanes. This makes them somewhat different from California’s building codes.
California building codes place more emphasis on guarding against earthquake damage. This means California buildings tend to be less likely to collapse.
California building codes are also generally stricter than Florida’s in regard to the placement of buildings. For example, in San Francisco, building codes would not allow a large residential tower to be as close to the waterfront as the Miami condo was.
None of this is meant to suggest that a collapse like the one in Miami could never happen in California. For example, officials throughout California claim they inspect new buildings whenever they’re completed. However, after the initial inspection, it’s typically the property owner’s responsibility to maintain and regularly inspect a building.
Collapses in California
It’s also worth noting that there have been deadly collapses in California before. They have historically been the result of earthquakes and improper maintenance. That said, such collapses are quite rare. They’ve also become much less common ever since building codes in California have been updated to offer additional protection from earthquakes.
The most recent major example of a deadly collapse in California occurred in 2015. Six students lost their lives and seven were injured when a balcony collapsed in Berkeley. This collapse was the result of rotting wood beams. The collapse would have been less likely to happen had they been made of another material.
A Property Owner’s Duty to Maintain Their Property
In general, experts recommend that all California property owners regularly inspect their properties for signs of potential damage. They must be aware that some signs of damage are less obvious than others.
For example, a foundation crack is clearly a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored. A subtler sign could be a water leak or exposed rebar. If a property owner notices anything that could potentially indicate damage, they should contact a structural engineer promptly. An expert can take a closer look and determine if repairs need to be made. Property owners should also take steps to guard against accidents like slip and falls.
The type of collapse that happened in Miami is by no means a common occurrence. California also has very strong building codes due to the prevalence of earthquakes. Still, it remains immensely important for property owners to perform thorough maintenance and conduct full inspections on a regular basis. People can be seriously injured or lose their lives whenever property owners are negligent. This is true in any state.