Why Did This Florida Condo Building Collapse? Experts Explain.

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Michael Stratton reported that Cassie Stratton (his wife) was calling him on the phone. He was looking through her fourth-floor window and saw the hole. The call was cut short after that.

Based in Miami, Rick De La Guardia is an engineer with extensive experience in forensic investigation into building component failures. He suggested that the collapse may have started higher than the foundation based on his quick review of the floor plans and the video.

Explanations for an initial failure at the bottom of the building could include a problem with the deep, reinforced concrete pilings on which the building sits — perhaps set off by an unknown void or a sinkhole below — which then compromised the lower columns. Or the steel reinforcing the columns in the parking garage or first few floors could have been so corroded that they somehow gave way on their own. Or the building itself could have been poorly designed, built with substandard concrete or steel — or simply with insufficient steel at critical points.

Evan Bentz of the University of Toronto’s Department of Structural Engineering said that the video provided the best evidence. Also, simple reasoning was used to point out suspicion at the underground parking structure’s support columns.

“The primary function of all the columns within the basement is to keep the structure up in a vacuum,” he explained. “The structure has stopped being held up in the atmosphere. The simplest explanation is that the basement columns have stopped working.”

Engineers said that the rarest of major building collapses in America makes it more difficult to understand, especially when you consider that Champlain Towers South was standing for over 40 years and didn’t fail before falling to the ground.

Glenn R. Bell is the director of Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures. He was part of the Structural Engineering Institute of American Society of Civil Engineers. “Why did it collapse at that moment?”

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