As both a writer about and resident of high-rise residential buildings, I followed the June 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium with a hawk’s eye. I read about the people who perished and the loved ones left to carry on; the heroes of the rescue and recovery efforts, and the predators seeking to profit from the tragedy; the building’s history and the series of errors, avoidances, and outright wrongdoing that could have contributed to the catastrophe; and the judicial and legislative reverberations that will improve accountability and hopefully prevent similar future disasters.
But somehow I missed this: the Miami Herald’s tour de force of investigative reporting that contributed to its recent Pulitzer prize win for its coverage of the tragedy. In a series of captioned 3D graphics, the Herald pieced together eyewitness accounts, expert analysis, and historical documentation to reveal in devastating detail the crucial moments surrounding the heartbreaking structural failure that took 98 human lives in Surfside, Florida.
Truly, this should be required viewing for anyone owning, living in, working in, or managing a condo, co-op, or apartment building. Not only is it a masterful feat of journalism, it is also a blaring warning for all building decision-makers not to cut corners, defer maintenance, or ignore expert reports. When it comes to the physical safety of your building and the people in it, hesitating to spend the money can have truly catastrophic consequences.
Instead of asking “Could my building be next?,” commission that engineering report, follow its recommendations, and do not succumb to thrift. If anyone balks at the resultant common charge increase (at least in the absence of adequate reserves and capital planning), point them to this stunning recreation that takes less time to scroll through than it took for an entire tower of 81 homes to crumble into a pile of dust and rubble in the middle of a calm summer night.
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