Experts will study engineering reasons for condo’s collapse

SURFSIDE, Fla. — A team of technical experts from the federal government and outside specialists are going to gather building material samples and study soil conditions in order to determine the engineering reasons behind the collapse of a South Florida condominium building, officials said Wednesday.

The team assembled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology will gather evidence and analyze data in order to determine the cause of the collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South. Team members also will evaluate whether building codes, standards and practices need to be changed.

“This will be a fact-finding, not fault-finding, technical investigation,” James Olthoff, the agency’s director, said at a news conference Wednesday evening. “It will take time, possibly a couple of years, but we will not stop until we have determined the likely cause of this tragedy.”

The team of experts want to understand how the building was designed, constructed, modified and maintained, said Judith Mitrani-Reiser, an associate chief of the agency.

“We are going in with an open mind,” Mitrani-Reiser said.

NIST investigations previously have examined the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings, as well as how structures were leveled during tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The team investigating the collapse of the condominium building in Surfside will have the ability to issue subpoenas and hold hearings, Mitrani-Reiser said.

“Our job is to understand the building failure,” she said. “We will be looking at everything. We will be looking at site conditions, the structure itself and environmental conditions that may have affected the structure.”