The District upped its safety review standards for multifamily and commercial properties on Friday, following the recent collapse of a building under construction in Northwest Washington.
Ernest Chrappah, director of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), said in a Friday statement the cause of the collapse had not yet been determined, but the city was working broadly “to enhance our proactive building safety measures in addition to scheduled inspections.”
These enhancements also follow a condominium collapse in Surfside, Fla., last month that killed 79 people and left 61 others unaccounted for as of Friday evening.
“The tragedy in Florida and the frightening collapse of a building here in DC have created a new sense of urgency to find these problems before they put people in danger,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said in a news release. “These initiatives will establish an early warning system to catch potentially unsafe building conditions and keep our community safe.”
The initiatives mandate proactive reporting of unsafe structural conditions, aim to increase scrutiny on building engineering and provide real-time reporting of required inspections, which would be done in addition to the department’s usual inspection-related work.
The city said it would review all active construction projects by 10 Square Development, the company that had been constructing the collapsed Kennedy Street property and has had projects in other parts of the city. The collapsed building, which was set to be called the Ralph, was to be a four- or five-story, 11-unit condo or apartment complex. Bowser has previously said the building passed an inspection in May and was up to date on its permitting.
Beck Vissat, a leader of the development company, said in an email he was “glad to hear DCRA is implementing new structural design review policies during the permit review process,” and he hoped it would help prevent other problems.
“As a firm that has been in good standing with DCRA since our inception, I welcome their compliance review of my active construction projects. As always, I will continue to cooperate and support their efforts,” Vissat wrote. He declined to comment further, and it was not immediately clear which other projects the company has underway.
The DCRA said it will work to analyze and standardize building design elements and digitize special inspections, as well as to review the design of some buildings permitted in recent years.
The department will also require multifamily residential building owners to have a licensed engineer file structural assessment reports and plans for any repairs to unsafe structural conditions before submitting a permit application.
Further, the DCRA plans to draft an administrative bulletin to require building owners and engineering firms to report and notify the agency of unsafe structural conditions.