What in the world happened in Surfside last week? Part 2

As a GC and developer even, I am amazed at some of the buildings that humans erect around the world. There are so many eye popping architecturally pleasing buildings around the world that we all enjoy just looking at. Design is important but it must follow form and have sound engineering to keep buildings safe for many decades. Champlain Towers in Surfside was a very efficient yet classic design that I thought architecturally had solid curbside appeal. For its time I thought it was smartly designed. Yet below the pretty facade trouble lurked. My guess (speculating) is that over time unusual ground conditions, poor drainage and deferred maintenance caused part of the building to crumble. However, forty some year-old buildings should not be falling down. Miami and Broward County have many high-rise buildings over 50-60 years old that are still standing and in good shape. In the end it all boils down to the HOA making sure proper maintenance safeguards and procedures are followed.

Broward County -Miami Dade 40/50-year Recertification– The 40 Year Certification is required for buildings 40 years or older that are located in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. An inspection and recertification are repeated every 10 years following the building’s 40th year anniversary. Section 8-11(f) Miami-Dade County states “If notification that your property(s) must receive re-certification to comply with Section 8-11(f) of the Code of Miami Dade County and has been issued by the Building Department to comply with Re-Certification, you must hire a firm that is licensed and qualified by a Florida Architect or Engineer to perform an inspection of your property(s) and examine for proper evaluation the specific areas of Structural and Electrical concerns, as outlined in the Minimum Inspection Procedural Guidelines Forms.” This Form must be prepared, signed and sealed by a duly licensed and qualified Inspector. Broward insists on this – I am not sure about Dade.

A tough pill to swallow– The Champlain Towers Association has hired a PR firm to deal with the media and so much negative press as numerous lawsuits are being filed against them. In 2018 an inspection revealed the need for $9 million dollars in immediate repairs that had morphed into $15 million today. This amounts to about $100,000 per unit in special assessments, a hard but necessary pill to swallow. Many warning signs persisted as the sick building eventually collapsed. Had those warnings been heeded the building would survive safely and more importantly the mounting death toll would be avoided.

Can we imagine what will come from this? To me this collapse set off so many warning bells that I expect tough and swift legislation politically and in our building codes- more specifically more strict and compulsory re-certification requirements. I suspect my GC certification education every 2 years will have sections on the exam related to this subject. HOA legislation will certainly be beefed up and there will be a trickle down to new building code covenants that will be added to our already strong building codes. This is how it should be. All of the code changes post Andrew have certainly added expenses to building a new home, but it was well worth it. Today’s new homes are fortresses. And, let’s not forget the insurance industry always looking for an excuse to raise their rates and further restrict coverages.

Stephen Gravett has been a real estate developer for over 45 years and was most recently CEO of Kennedy Homes for the past 11 years and is still CEO of Kennedy Development Partners (KDP). He is also full time Director of Operations for 5 Star Developers. He is a state licensed broker and since 1980 a State licensed General Contractor Unlimited. Before becoming a real estate developer, he flew B-52’s in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War.

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