The risk of a similar incident to the Miami apartment block collapse happening in the UK is “exceedingly small”, according to CROSS principal consultant Alastair Soane.
The 12 storey Champlain Towers, located in Surfside, Florida, collapsed on Thursday morning. The death toll currently stands at 11 with more than 100 people still unaccounted for.
In the UK changes to building regulations and design methods came about after the Ronan Point collapse in 1968, when a small gas explosion on the 18th floor of the 22 storey east London tower block caused a catastrophic collapse of a whole corner of the building.
The rules themselves did not change until sometime later but Soane said: “It’s important to say there have been no examples of progressive collapse in buildings in the UK since Ronan Point. So the risks are extremely low. The possibility of a similar collapse from the same causes in the UK is exceedingly small.
“Over the years buildings have become more robust and lessons have been learned.”
After Ronan Point all buildings of that type were inspected and strengthened if necessary. Some have since been demolished.
The form of construction for the Miami building is different to that used for Ronan Point. However Soane said that, while speculation regarding the cause of the collapse in Miami is “premature” and unhelpful, it appears to also have been a “progressive collapse triggered by a catastrophic event”. He said that the “robustness of a structure is very important in reducing the severity of such events”.
A Construction Leadership Council spokesperson also said that while full details of the cause of the Miami collapse are “not yet clear”, there had “evidently been a catastrophic structural failure”.
The spokesperson emphasised that UK Building Regulations “seek to ensure that all structures are fit for purpose, including structural integrity”.
The spokesperson added: “Building on this, the CROSS-UK system allows the industry to report and distribute safety information about structures, helping to learn lessons from previous failures and avoid them happening in the future.
“Events in Miami are an important reminder of the importance of all parts of building safety. While there has rightly been much focus in recent years on fire safety, structural failure is a real risk and if it is catastrophic, as in Miami, there is a huge potential for loss of life.”
John Pistorino, a Miami structural engineer who evaluated the Florida International University bridge collapse, has been hired to investigate the cause.
Similar regulations to the UK’s changes were introduced in the US in 2002. However the Miami building constructed in 1981 before these changes and was due its standard 40 year review. According to officials, it was undergoing its “recertification” process and required repairs.
Experts who studied the apartment complex last year also warned that it was unstable, with one study from a Florida International University researcher finding that the building had been sinking at a rate of 2mm per year for the last three decades.
Cross will be issuing information on the collapse in due course and is interested in reports of concerns from engineers about buildings of a similar nature in the UK.
Department of Civil Engineering https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-civil-engineering/