Surfside, FL Building Collapse & Our Need For NDT

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Surfside building collapsed photo. The need for NDT.
An aerial view showing a partially collapsed building in Surfside near Miami Beach, Florida, U.S., June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Tragedy Strikes Surfside

A tragic event occurred in Surfside, FL last week, when a 12-story condo, the Champlain Towers South, unfortunately, collapsed with occupants inside. As of today, the death toll has risen to 16 along 147 people that are unaccounted for, according to multiple sources, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Search efforts are still underway, according to Miami-Dade Chief Alan Cominsky, who also specified their use of audible sonar equipment, video equipment, and search dogs as documented by CNN. In addition to these urgent search efforts, an investigation has been launched in order to figure out exactly what caused the buildings to collapse and those that need to be held responsible.

Investigations Underway

Although officials are in the early stages of their investigation, experts were able to review video footage of the collapse and focus on lower parts of the condominium, according to an article posted by the NY Times. The same article specifies that these experts believe it could have been a “progressive collapse” – the gradual spread of failures that could have occurred for various reasons – that upon review of video footage could stem from in or below the underground garage. The NY Times goes on to cite a report made in 2018 by an engineer who carried out a structural survey of the Champlain Towers South, stating that there were concrete columns, beams, and walls that had cracked or crumbled, along with a concrete slab above parking level with water damage. Other theories have also been proposed touching on corrosion, how the building was originally constructed, or even damage incurred from nearby heavy construction.

Whether or not these areas of previously reported damage are the cause of this tragic event remains to be determined, but, as a document by CNN, the attorney representing the residents in a lawsuit against the Champlain Towers South Condo Board pledges accountability for anyone responsible for the “absolute hell” caused by the building collapse. In order to get to the bottom of such a horrible event, experts must comb through as much evidence as they are able to salvage while carrying out an urgent search and rescue mission. Unfortunately, until this search is over, investigators will not be able to recover all of the needed evidence or examine the bottom of all the debris.

Prevention of Repetition

When considering the safety of people living in a building, there should be no hesitation in identifying and repairing areas of concern. Of course, in any business, there will need to be considerations of costs and just exactly how to carry out the repair process. Still, this sort of planning that involves the safety of all residents should be expedited instead of procrastinating. The best way I have found to avoid procrastination is to actually get ahead on tasks, meaning building owners should not be waiting for residents to complain of possible

Structural damage but actually implementing essential periodical building inspections. Not everyone will be aware of the options available for determining the durability and reliability of structures like buildings, but that does not signify that they are not out there—for example, the much-needed Non-Destructive Testing or NDT.

Understanding NDT

When considering the use of NDT and the various equipment that makes this type of testing possible, one can easily understand the benefits over other sorts of testing that are of a destructive nature. According to an article published by ASNT or The American Society for Non- Destructive Testing, NDT is “the process of inspecting, testing, or evaluating materials, components or assemblies for discontinuities, or difference in characteristics without destroying the serviceability of the part or system.”. This quote signifies that after NDT, a piece of material will be able to be put to use, and the owner will have the peace of mind knowing it is durable and reliable. The article goes on to explain other tests done to determine material durability and reliability through destructive processes, usually done on a limited number of samples not to be used in service. These sorts of tests prove useless when facing a building that is already standing.

Structural NDT

Standard NDT practices can be carried out with a variety of equipment as shown by companies that offer these services, such as AMI Aero Marine Interior, Inc. who make use of Radiographic, Eddy Currents, Phased Array Ultrasonics, Infrared Thermography, Magnetic Particle, Ultrasonics, and Liquid Penetrants. All of which allow Structural NDT technicians the ability to test materials on a building without the need for destroying samples not being used or even truly reflecting the effects of any corrosion or damage incurred over the time being in service. With this equipment, faults in materials can be readily identified, even if the human eye cannot detect any visible issue. As we all know, the weaknesses we are unaware of tend to be the most dangerous.

Although the Champlain Towers South had visible structural damage, without a full investigation, we will not know whether or not these damaged materials truly caused the fall or if it was a more unseen horror. Tragic cases like this prove the importance of periodical Structural NDT, regardless of costs, for the sake of the residences calling these buildings home.

Click here to learn more about NDT and how we can help.


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