Last week’s devastating partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building has saddened and startled many across the world. How could this have happened? What could have been done to prevent this tragedy? These are common questions being asked throughout communities across the globe. As the rescue and recovery mission continues, the building’s prior inspections have garnered much attention. In addition, the building was scheduled to undergo a re-certification process this year. So what exactly does a 40-year re-certification inspection entail? Does your county require such inspections? We discuss below.
Aspects of a 40-year re-certification inspection
In Miami-Dade County, when a building turns 40 years old, a mandatory inspection is required to ensure that the structure still meets safety standards and current building codes. In addition, this is a time to identify areas that are in need of updating in order to bring the structure up to par. Moving forward, a similar re-inspection is conducted approximately every 10 years thereafter. The obvious reason for this is to keep an eye on a structure’s integrity as it ages and begins to show more signs of disrepair.
It is important to note that not all counties currently require a 40-year re-certification inspection. In addition, some counties require more inspections than others. For example, Miami-Dade and Broward counties both have 40-year re-certification inspections. However, Palm Beach county currently does not require them. Below are common aspects of a 40-year re-certification inspection:
- Structural inspection: This particular inspection garners the most attention, particularly for buildings located in harsh saltwater environments. Typically during these inspections, the condition of the structural elements is assessed and any damage is identified. This is also accompanied with photographic evidence along with an estimated cost for the repairs. Structural support columns and beams are noteworthy items during these inspections as they may deteriorate over time.
- Electrical inspection: Given the age of the building, it is quite likely that various electrical hazards and violations may be found. During this aspect of the inspection, the overall condition of electrical systems is assessed and is accompanied by photographic documentation. Since outdated or faulty electrical systems may present a fire hazard, it is important that these repairs are addressed quickly. In addition, smoke detectors and other life safety equipment are assessed during this inspection as well.
- Illumination inspection: Currently, the illumination inspection only applies to Miami-Dade County in South Florida. During this inspection, the exterior of the building is assessed based on its overall illumination score. Proper illumination that is compliant with the local county codes is required to foster a safe environment. It is yet to be determined if other counties will begin including illumination inspections as part of the re-certification process.
As mentioned above, Palm Beach County currently does not have a 40-year re-certification inspection requirement. With this said, the county does have an unsafe building ordinance that was adopted many years ago. In this process, a person can report anything wrong with a structure and the county will inspect it. If applicable, the county may require that the building association hire an engineer to conduct a thorough evaluation and report.
In light of the recent tragedy in Surfside, FL, many counties are reevaluating their building inspection protocols. The buildings that will certainly garner the most attention will be those located along coastal communities. Unfortunately, the harsh saltwater environment can wreak havoc on the structural integrity of any structure. Moving forward, we anticipate many changes being implemented to the re-certification and inspection process for coastal structures.
Most importantly, we are all continuing to pray for the many families impacted by last week’s tragedy. In addition, we are extremely grateful for the first responders that are working as hard as they can to search for and recover as many victims as possible. Please join us in praying for the entire Surfside, FL community!
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