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Concrete cracking, 'major' structural damage reported at Surfside condo in 2018

A consulting company, listing various issues with the building, detailed the necessary repairs.

SURFSIDE, Fla. — "Major structural damage" to the concrete slab below the pool deck at the 12-story Champlain Towers South was noted in an engineering report three years before the building collapsed, which killed at least 10 people.

It was one of many deficiencies found in the 2018 report by Morabito Consultants released to the public late Friday by the town of Surfside. 

Frank Morabito, the president of the consulting firm, wrote the waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive failed and was beyond its useful life. It was laid on a concrete slab without any slope to allow water to drain, which was an issue with the building's original design, according to the report.

"The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially," the report reads.

There was no indication from the report itself that the building was at risk of collapse, though it noted "required maintenance" was needed throughout to maintain its structural integrity. The report acted as a guide for a 40-year building repair and restoration project that was set to begin.

"They were just about to get started on it," said Kenneth Direktor, a lawyer who represents the association that operates the building, in an interview with The New York Times

Credit: Morabito Consultants, town of Surfside
Cracking and spalling at the parking garage columns at the Champlain Towers South complex.

The report detailed "abundant" concrete cracking and spalling in the columns, beams and walls of the building's parking garage. In some instances, the report found, there had been exposed and deteriorating rebar. Repairs that had been made in the past appeared to have been substandard, resulting in additional cracking. 

Credit: Morabito Consultants, town of Surfside
Additional cracks and leaching at the Champlain Towers South complex.

"Though some of this damage is minor, most of the concrete deteriorating needs to be repaired in a timely fashion," the report said.

When the mayor of Surfside was asked on Saturday if there was any correspondence, or if the city did anything after receiving this report in 2018, he responded by focusing on the task at hand. 

"What we're doing now is we're saving lives and we're bringing people out of the rubble," Mayor Charles Burkett said. "After we address the support for the families, we are going to do a very deep dive into why this building fell down. And I imagine that's going to end up being a very comprehensive sort of project."

Morabito Consultants issued a statement on the building collapse, mentioning the findings in their 2018 report and adding that are "working closely with the investigating authorities to understand why the structure failed."

You can read the full statement below.

We at Morabito Consultants are saddened by the tragic events that have occurred at Champlain Towers South Condominium. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this event. We also want to express our deep gratitude to the first responders and search-and-rescue teams who are working tirelessly to save the lives of the many who are still unaccounted for.

As has been reported, Morabito Consultants was retained in 2018 by the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association to prepare the 40-year Recertification of the condo building, as required by Miami-Dade County and the Town of Surfside. We are a structural engineering firm with nearly four decades of experience providing professional design and inspection services for a wide range of building structures, from high-rise residential and commercial properties to educational and healthcare facilities, among others.

We completed our inspection and provided our report to the condominium association on Oct. 8, 2018, detailing our findings and recommendations. At that time, we also provided the condominium association with an estimate of the probable costs to make the extensive and necessary repairs. Among other things, our report detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public.

Champlain Towers South Condominium Association engaged our firm again in June 2020 to prepare a "40-year Building Repair and Restoration" plan with detailed specifications for completing the necessary repairs and restoration work. At the time of the building collapse, roof repairs were underway, but concrete restoration had not yet begun. Our firm exclusively provides engineering consulting services. We do not provide construction-related services, such as building repair and restoration contracting.

We are deeply troubled by this building collapse and are working closely with the investigating authorities to understand why the structure failed. As we do so, we also continue to pray for all those impacted by this tragic event.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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