“Totally Too Early” to Identify Cause of Florida Condominium Collapse

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June 24, 2021 – Forensic structural engineering failures expert says it’s “pure speculation” at this point to guess what could have led to the partial collapse Thursday morning of a 12-storey condominium complex floors in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

“It is quite too early to say what happened”, said Roberto Leon, DH Burrows Professor of Construction Engineering at The Charles Edward Via, Jr., Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. “It’s going to take quite a bit of investigation, and at the end of the day we might not fully understand what happened here.”

Leon, who studies structural failures and has experience investigating structural collapses, is available for an interview to talk about what will happen next when engineers investigate what went wrong and how. experts will work to see if there are lessons for the future.

Quoting Leon

Regarding the surveillance video showing the collapse:

“By itself, you can’t start drawing conclusions from a video. We have all these surveillance cameras now, so we can see what happened. But it takes a very careful examination of these videos – almost pixel by pixel – to determine the trigger for the collapse. What you can see in the video and what a close analysis of the video might show later are totally different things. So this is useful, but we are not going to establish the cause of the collapse based on a single video.

Looking at the building design and construction in 1981:

It was probably designed according to the standards of the time. But our standards have changed dramatically over the past 40 years or so. With the benefit of modern computer analysis, there might be some design issues we see today that weren’t clear back then. “

Along the way, the building partially collapsed:

“The kind of leftovers you have in this pancake-type meltdown unfortunately destroy a lot of evidence. Columns and walls – all vertical elements that stabilize a structure – appear to have been damaged or destroyed. The lack of intact structural elements will likely affect the pace of the investigation. “

About Leon

Roberto Leon is DH Burrows Professor of Construction Engineering at The Charles Edward Via, Jr., Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. His expertise includes forensic structural engineering, reinforced concrete structures, behavior and design of building materials, as well as experience in investigating the causes of structural collapses. See his biography.

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