Condominium collapse probe to begin structural testing

surfside image nist
Image courtesy of NIST

Florida Construction News staff writer

The federal investigation into the deadly collapse of the Surfside beachfront condominium building is entering a new phase that involves cutting and drilling into concrete and steel to determine what role they played in the disaster, officials said Wednesday.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) National Construction Safety Team (NCST) investigating the June 24, 2021, partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, is preparing to begin invasive testing and preparation of physical evidence collected from the collapse site.

Evidence, including structural components such as concrete columns from both the collapsed and imploded portions of the building, has been preserved in a secure warehouse in Miami-Dade County. NCST experts have been carefully cataloging and analyzing the materials, as well as collecting detailed measurements and creating 3D models for further analysis.

The next phase of the investigation will include an invasive testing program that requires the manipulation of the evidence, core drilling and cutting of specimens to collect samples, which cannot be fully accomplished in the tight confines of the current warehouse.

“Invasive testing will provide important information about the properties of the concrete and reinforcing steel and the potential roles those properties may have played in the collapse,” Glenn Bell, co-lead of the investigation, said in a press release.

“This is an important step in the investigation, one we are able to take only after months of careful investigation and preparation.”

This testing will include physical tests to determine the samples’ mechanical properties, chemical tests to determine material characteristics such as density and porosity, and corrosion testing.

In preparation for the move, sample extraction and testing, NIST brought in a board-certified industrial hygienist to conduct air sampling for asbestos fibers to ensure the safety of those accessing the materials. The process of preparing the materials for the move and then securing them in their new location is expected to take several weeks.

Also, the evidence collection project team has developed questionnaires that will guide the next round of interviews and ensure information collected from eyewitnesses or others familiar with the building and its history can be systematically analyzed.


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