The longtime engineer hired by the town of Surfside to analyze possible causes of the tower collapse criticized the implication that a 2018 report warning of “major structural damage” to part of the building had signaled fatal flaws, telling The Washington Post in the first interview since his appointment that media coverage of the inspection was overblown.
The structural survey report, from engineer Frank P. Morabito, said that waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive had failed, allowing damaging leaks.
“What he said is waterproofing is failing and leaking and that lets water into the concrete — that’s true,” Allyn Kilsheimer, president of K.C.E Structural Engineers, told The Post on Sunday. But, he added, that finding is fairly typical.
“Nothing in it raised a red flag,” Kilsheimer said.
Kilsheimer, whose firm helped examine and rebuild the damaged parts of the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said his team will use architectural drawings, samples of the building’s concrete and steel, and computer modeling in their work. They have begun the effort remotely while the rescue mission proceeds but will move to the site once it concludes, he said.
He said that the investigation could uncover a “perfect storm” of failures and that “probably 90 percent of the collapses we’ve dealt with — other than things caused by bombs and planes — have been multiple things all going wrong at the same time.”
“Sometimes you can’t get to one particular cause. It’s going to be this or this or this, or some combination,” Kilsheimer said, echoing what other experts have hypothesized. “And that’s the best you can come up with.”
On Saturday, Kilsheimer toured two buildings that are nearly identical to the structure that collapsed, Champlain Towers North and Champlain Towers East. Nothing in either building’s below-ground garage area was a cause for major concern, he said.
“I didn’t see anything in there that showed me from the exposed and visible conditions, anything that, in my mind, was a concern for a structural collapse mechanism,” Kilsheimer said.
He said his team would be examining other possible factors, including sea-level rise — something he said he doubts had an impact — and whether construction on nearby buildings could have played a role.
“We will be looking at everything,” he said.