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Federal agency announces expert team to investigate Surfside condo collapse

Cranes mark the spot where a condo building stood in Surfside, Florida
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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on Wednesday announced that it has established a team of experts to investigate the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building.

The NIST said in a press release the investigation into the collapse of the Surfside, Fla., condo building will be the fifth investigation that the federal agency has conducted under the 2002 National Construction Safety Team Act. This legislation gives the NIST the authority to investigate the sites of building disasters, access key documents and collect and preserve evidence.

The NIST was first authorized to investigate building disasters after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

The team of experts will be led by Judith Mitrani-Reiser, associate chief of the Materials and Structural Systems Division for NIST’s Engineering Laboratory.

“We are going into this with an open mind and will examine all hypotheses that might explain what caused this collapse,” Mitrani-Reiser said. “Having a team with experience across a variety of disciplines, including structural and geotechnical engineering, materials, evidence collection, modeling and more, will ensure a thorough investigation.”

The Champlain Towers South condominium building partially collapsed early in the morning on June 24, killing 98 people and leading to an extensive search and rescue and, eventually, recovery mission.

The NIST investigation will be centered around five core projects: building and code history, evidence preservation, materials science, geotechnical engineering and structural engineering.

The NIST also released footage from the site of the collapse that appeared to show extensive corrosion. A structural engineering expert told the Miami Herald that the corrosion seen in the video is “astronomical.”

In the video, torn and warped steel bars can be seen scattered around the site, with some still attached to concrete structures.

“If there’s that amount of corrosion, this should have been fixed,” said Dawn Lehman, a structural engineering professor at the University of Washington, adding that the corrosion should have been obvious and documented as part of the building’s 40-year inspection.

“There is no reason there should be that kind of bar congestion,” Lehman said of footage that appeared to show steel bars overcrowding structural elements of the building.

The NIST sent a team of scientists and engineers to the site in June to “collect firsthand information on the Champlain Towers South collapse that will be used to determine if an investigation or study will be conducted.”

Tags Champlain Towers South Corrosion Florida Geotechnical engineering National Construction Safety Team Act National Institute of Standards and Technology Structural engineering Structural integrity and failure Surfside Surfside condominium collapse

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