Condo collapse in Florida 'very, very unlikely' to occur in Hamilton, local experts say

The condo collapse in Florida, that killed at least 24 and from which 121 people are still missing, is unlikely to happen in Hamilton, according to local experts. One expert also says the province should review its building code.

Experts cite different environmental conditions between Hamilton and Florida as reason for unlikelihood

A view of Hamilton from the Devil's Punchbowl. Local experts say a condo collapse like the one in Florida likely wouldn't happen in Hamilton. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The condo collapse in Florida, that killed at least 24 and from which 121 people are still missing, is unlikely to happen in Hamilton, according to local experts.

It's still unclear what exactly caused the Champlain Towers South tower in Surfside, Fla., to fall, but a previous engineering report noted various structural issues.

But a similar incident occurring in Hamilton is unlikely because Florida has very different environmental conditions, said Jorge Caetano, City of Hamilton deputy chief building official and manager of plan examination.

"We don't have the exposure to the ocean they have, [we] wouldn't have sand and we don't have salt water," he said.

Samir Chidiac, a civil engineering professor at McMaster University, agrees. Road salt and the way most use it in the city wouldn't be as corrosive as salt water and salt water vapour in Florida, he said.

What happened in Florida was likely the result of multiple factors, he added.

Search and rescue personnel work at the site of a collapsed Florida condominium complex in Surfside, Miami, U.S., in this handout image July 2, 2021. (Miami-Dade Fire Department/Reuters)

"The likelihood of the same scenario happening in Hamilton due to the same causes is very, very unlikely," said Chidiac.

"I would not be alarmed if I lived in a condo building in Hamilton unless I had reason — if I do see a lot of discolourations, corrosion, water leaks, evidence to suggest things are not working the way they are supposed to be working."

No major structural issues in Hamilton, city says

Twenty-nine buildings in Hamilton were flagged in 2021. Each building had three floors or fewer and none of the reports were major, said Caetano.

The reports were mainly the result of people not maintaining their buildings, such as unsafe fire escapes, damage from vehicles, unsafe retaining walls or a general lack of maintenance, he said.

When a building is deemed unsafe, either the owners are forced to repair it or the city does it for them and they pay for the services through taxes, he said.

WATCH | Evidence of structural problems before collapse:

Evidence of structural problems before deadly Miami condo collapse

1 year ago
Duration 1:52
There is evidence of structural problems at a Miami-area condo building before it collapsed as the search through the rubble enters a sixth day.

Province should review building code: expert

Caetano and Chidiac both said the province doesn't require municipalities to proactively inspect buildings and building owners don't need to submit regular inspections of their own to the city.

It would be difficult to proactively inspect every structure in the city, Caetano said, but it could be worthwhile to inspect parking structures, which would see more wear and tear from vehicles bringing in salt and water.

"Most people do maintain their buildings," he said. "We have buildings that are hundreds of years old and they're still fine."

Caetano noted, however, that it may be worthwhile to re-examine the Ontario building code and proactive inspections.

"You cannot say, 'Every 10 years, go and inspect a building,' because that becomes an added burden and cost which is not necessarily required," he said.

There may be enough data at the moment to at least establish a timeline that dictates when a building of a certain age, based on its location, use and exposure, would need a structural conditioning assessment, he said.

With files from The Associated Press