Steinberg Law Firm Construction Defect Attorney Interviewed on Live 5 News on Miami Condo Collapse and South Carolina Building Problems
Live 5 News in Charleston interviewed Steinberg Law Firm construction defect attorney Elliotte Quinn about the Champlain Towers South condominium building collapse outside Miami, Florida and the lessons for South Carolina condo associations. Attorney Quinn noted that while the Miami collapse is incredibly tragic and extreme, the conditions suspected as causing the collapse—water leaking into the building and weakening the structure—are all too common in South Carolina. The Miami collapse emphasizes how important it is for buildings to be properly constructed to deal with water rather than letting water leak into the building and slowly degrade the structure.
The Miami condo collapse is the most recent and most tragic example of how water can slowly damage buildings and cause serious safety issues or at a minimum, expensive repairs. In 2015, seven people died when a balcony collapsed in the San Francisco area because the balcony had been slowly weakened over time by wood rot caused by improper construction. A few times each year across the United States, decks collapse and injure or kill people, and wood rot is often involved in these structural failures. In Charleston, owners were forced to leave a condominium complex because the stairs were deemed to be at risk of imminent collapse due to termite damage.
Attorney Quinn has been involved in lawsuits in South Carolina involving conditions like those suspected of causing the Miami collapse. Thankfully, those buildings did not collapse and the conditions only caused property damage, not injuries or deaths. However, understanding that the Miami collapse is not an isolated incident should cause South Carolina condominium associations to take very seriously their responsibilities for inspecting and repairing their buildings and pursuing legal claims against builders for improper construction.
In Miami, the 2018 engineering report for the Champlain Towers South building found spalling concrete and corroded rebar resulting from water intrusion. The building was primarily a reinforced concrete structure meaning it was constructed of concrete with steel rebar reinforcing inside the concrete columns, beams, and slabs. Concrete is a fantastic material when placed under compression. Compression is when a load pushes the concrete together, like when a load from above is placed on a concrete column. However, concrete does not perform well in tension. Tension is when a load pulls the concrete, like when wind pushes against the top of a wall or a load in the middle of a concrete slab. To solve the problem of concrete’s minimal ability to deal with tension, contractors pour concrete around steel reinforcement. Steel is an excellent material for tension, and the steel then gets the benefit of the excellent compression characteristics of concrete. The problem with steel reinforcement is that steel corrodes, i.e., rusts. As steel corrodes, it expands. That expansion causes the concrete around it to break and spall. The corrosion reduces the strength of the steel, and the breaking concrete reduces the strength of the concrete.
In the 2018 engineering report for the Champlain Towers South, the waterproofing below the entrance drive and pool areas failed and caused damage to the structural concrete slab below: “The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.” The report found significant concrete spalling and deteriorating rebar in the area below. Left unrepaired, that spalling and deterioration may have progressed until a structural member was no longer able to support the load placed on it and failed.
Attorney Quinn is hopeful that one small positive development to come out of the tragedy in Miami is that state legislatures may begin to roll back laws passed over the last two decades to insulate builders from responsibility for improper construction. He also hopes that South Carolina condo associations will begin regularly inspecting their buildings for structural problems and will address any problems found through maintenance, repairs, and pursuing legal claims against builders. If your condominium association is dealing with improper construction, please reach out to attorney Elliotte Quinn at the Steinberg Law Firm or another attorney experienced in pursuing complex construction defect claims for associations.