Surfside collapse: How safe are high-rise buildings in SWFL?

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Jackie Winchester
Credit: WINK News

The Surfside tragedy may concern people here who live and work in high-rise buildings, but experts say you shouldn’t worry.

While a catastrophic collapse like the one on the East Coast is rare, it’s important to know if your building is up to safety standards.

There are high-rise buildings up and down the Southwest Florida coast, so if you live or work in one, the simple and routine things are the most important, experts said.

Is your building well maintained? Is it inspected regularly?

They said odds are what happened in Surfside will not happen here or anywhere else again.

“How often do you hear of a building just collapsing? It doesn’t happen,” said Peter Dyga, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors.

But clearly, it did, and construction experts like Dyga can’t explain it. Neither can engineering experts like Ashraf Badir, Ph.D., a civil engineering associate professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

It could be because of the foundation. Has there been any work done within the area lately that made disturbance to the soil? Has there been any construction work inside the building that led to changing of the structural integrity?” he explained.

“Understanding what caused it could be anything from environmental factors, you know, shifting in the ground,” Dyga said.

They said if you live or work in a high-rise along the Gulf Coast, you don’t need to worry.

“I mean, it is really a tragedy of biblical proportions in the sense of there are literally millions of buildings of this size or higher around the world,” Dyga said.

“If you live in a high-rise building, make sure that your windows are fully resistant to high wind pressure and also that it is built according to the latest code,” Badir said.

The building that collapsed in Surfside was built before Hurricane Andrew and before Florida building codes were changed, so WINK News asked Dyga and Badir if might have been a factor. They said changes after Andrew were to make buildings more wind resistant. Since there was no wind and no major storm to knock the Surfside high-rise down, that explanation is unlikely.

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