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Building safety groups meet in West Palm Beach, work to prevent another Surfside condo collapse

Participants discuss frequency of inspections, structural safety
Building safety panel meeting held in West Palm Beach on Aug. 17, 2021
Posted at 12:13 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 18:25:25-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Building safety organizations from around the country gathered Tuesday in West Palm Beach for a dialogue on how to prevent another Surfside condo collapse.

MORE: What caused the Surfside condo collapse?

The panel focused on how communities monitor the safety of existing buildings, what guidance exists for building owners and how future catastrophic events can be avoided.

Representatives from an array of backgrounds joined the discussions including experts from code enforcement, building, construction, design and real estate.

Building safety meeting in West Palm Beach on Aug. 17, 2021
Tuesday's panel focused on the frequency of inspections, structural safety, maintenance and building codes.

The International Code Council planned the meeting immediately after Surfside tragedy.

Participants said they will not be looking into the cause of the Surfside building collapse but instead focusing on such things as frequency of inspections, structural safety, maintenance and building codes.

Sergio Ascunce, the deputy building official for unincorporated Miami-Dade County, attended Tuesday's event.

"[The Surfside building] almost looked like a planned implosion, in the manner that the building collapsed. So, obviously, there was a lot of speculations initially," Ascunce said.

Building Collapse Miami
A Miami-Dade County Police boat patrols in front of the Champlain Towers South condo building, where search and rescue efforts continue more than a week after the building partially collapsed, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The organizations said they hope Tuesday's discussion will establish dialogue among the building safety community and develop information that can inform policymakers.

"We are here today, and our partners are here today, to learn lessons on how we can assure the public that existing buildings are safe," said Dominic Sims, the CEO of the International Code Council.

Members of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Structural Engineering Institute and the University of Florida plan to participate in the forum.

"I think what we are learning today is it's not just about the technical requirements in the code. It's about making sure that designers, contractors and enforcers all understand what the code says, and to take that a step forward. How do we ensure that?" Sims said.

Dominic Sims
Dominic Sims speaks about what homeowners can do to ensure they are living in a safe building.

He has the following advice for homeowners or renters seeking more information.

"I would ask your building manager, 'Is there a maintenance manual, or maintenance schedule that you're looking at periodically?' And maybe ask them to see a copy of their maintenance logs," Sims said.

Speakers on Tuesday said the next step is to work with legislators on new laws for building safety.

Click here for a full list of participating organizations attending the event.

Surfside Investigation

The cause of the Surfside condo collapse remains a pressing question and may not be revealed until years from now, experts say.

Following the tragedy, the National Institute for Standards and Technology announced they will open a full investigation into the cause.

NIST Director James Olthoff said in June that it may take "possibly a couple of years" before they determine why the Champlain Towers South building suddenly fell.

A Florida judge said in July that victims and families who suffered losses in the Surfside tragedy will receive a minimum of $150 million in compensation initially.