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Sprinkles from the Left

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 1.80 minutes to read.

As the search continues, federal, state and local officials are exploring how a tower built only 40 years ago smashed to the ground, given the vast numbers of even older high-rises that pepper our coastal state. In 2018, three years before the collapse, an engineering consultant found “significant” cracking in the stucco exterior and “major structural damage” to the concrete slab below the pool deck, which unaddressed, he warned, would cause “the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.” The condominium complex had been preparing to recertify the building — a requirement for similar structures in the area that reach 40 years of age — and a multimillion dollar restoration project was about to get underway…

It’s important to determine if anything about the design, materials or construction of Champlain Towers raise broad safety concerns. Officials also need to assess whether the maintenance and reporting requirements are robust enough for regulators to do their jobs. And local governments need to be more accountable for timely inspections and for following up on needed repairs…
Investigators also need to examine how the impacts of a warming Earth affect multistory construction in Florida. Rising seas, more severe storms and even sunny-day flooding have changed the dynamics of everyday life in South Florida. The public needs to know whether Champlain Towers was an anomaly or a more generalized risk that must be addressed.

Editorial Board, Tampa Bay Times

While we await answers about what caused this tragedy, we are left asking the question: What could cause a building simply fall down?

The answer, usually: exceptional circumstances. In modern times and in developed countries, where buildings and other structures are well designed and a lot of checks are undertaken during the design and construction stages, the cause of failure can often be complex and multifaceted. It bears repeating that we won’t know the reason behind this particular building’s collapse, but, speaking generally, a single reason for structural failure is uncommon…

When buildings do collapse, however, it is sometimes due to unusual external forces — such as wind, earthquakes, gas explosions, fires, hurricanes, unpredictable snow and ice accumulation or impact that exceed the assumed loads which the structure was designed for…

But other general causes can be less obvious. Unsuitable ground conditions below the structure, for instance, can pose a threat to the integrity of a building. All structures are supported by soils or rock of different capacity and strengths. These are not immune to failure in themselves, often caused by heavy storms, earthquakes, climate change and other environmental events…

Poor workmanship and badly constructed buildings, or the use of deleterious materials that do not comply with what was specified in the design, can also be a cause of failure… In the last several decades we have also seen the impact of chemical changes in materials that can cause local failure initially and then large-scale failures that, over time, render buildings unsafe.

Hanif Kara, professor of the practice of architectural technology at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design and the cofounder and design-director of the interdisciplinary engineering practice AKT II in London. (Published in CNN)

Sprinkles from the Right

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 2.00 minutes to read.

This week we have yet another round of the Mainstream Media v. Florida governor Ron DeSantis. The media have again placed the Republican governor on trial in the court of public opinion over his alleged throttling of FEMA’s response to the Champlain Towers condo collapse in Surfside, Fla.

The Washington Post’s Hannah Dreier’s tweet set off a blame game over the recovery efforts with all signs pointing back to DeSantis.

“There’s a saying in emergency management: The first 24 hours are the only 24 hours. FEMA was ready to deploy to the condo collapse almost immediately, and included the crisis in its daily briefing, but didn’t get permission from Gov. DeSantis to get on the ground for a full day,” she wrote.

However, Jared Moskowitz, Florida’s former emergency management director, called Dreier’s tweet “100 percent Malarkey.”

“FEMA’s mantra is “locally executed, state managed, and federal supported.” As the former director in FL who voted for Biden this tweet below is 100% Malarkey. FEMA would have deployed the federally funded USAR teams, which are located in @MiamiDadeCounty. They were already there.”

Others noted that the chain of emergency declaration goes from local to state to federal government. The mayor did not sign an emergency order until 4:33 p.m., after which the governor signed one less than an hour later, at 5:32 p.m.

Still, that did not keep the media from politicizing the tragedy that has left at least ten people dead and 151 people missing. Outlets including Insider and Newsweek carried headlines such as “WATCH: Miami mom pleads with Gov. DeSantis to speed up condo rescue” and “Ron DeSantis Accused By Surfside Building Victim’s Mother of Not Doing Enough as Death Toll Rises to 9,” respectively.

Isaac Schorr & Brittany Bernstein, National Review

When warning signs flashed about structural and maintenance problems at Champlain Towers South, the information was muted and confusing, signaling that the condo owners didn’t need to remedy the situation urgently…

A Surfside building official who was forwarded that 2018 report would tell the condo board gearing up for a major refurbishment that the tower was in good shape. Yet, there were complaints from residents about leaks and, more recently, worries about building-rattling construction work next door. By April of this year, the condo board president was warning residents the observable damage had grown “significantly worse.”

These mixed signals clouded the picture of a structure that in many ways seemed thoroughly unremarkable in this part of south Florida… Even the kinds of problems it developed as it aged could arguably be written off as unremarkable. Concrete wears. Steel rusts. The ocean is a corrosive force…

Then, in the predawn hours of Thursday large portions of the terrace-wrapped structure suddenly collapsed… Engineers are still guessing at what could have caused a collapse they say is without modern precedent in the U.S…
It is possible there isn’t one cause but several, engineering experts said, including multiple damage points and flaws that eventually triggered a failure. Jiann-Wen Ju, a professor of civil and environmental engineering… likened it to someone who has a slow-moving, underlying chronic condition, that then suddenly manifests as something serious, such as a heart attack.

Jon Kamp, Scott Calvert and Deborah Acosta, WSJ