If you are like most people, you were probably shocked when the Champlain Tower collapsed under its own weight on June 24, 2021, killing 98 people while leading to $1BILLION+ in civil liability damages that are likely to grow before this story is over.
Maybe you asked yourself the question: Is this the first time such a thing has happened in an industrialized country like the United States?
After all, the U.S. is a “civilized” country where we have robust buildings codes, expensive and time-consuming building permit processes, after-construction inspection requirements, and dutiful state and local regulators all operating under the ever-watchful eye of insurance underwriters, whose job is to mitigate the financial risk of insuring the hundreds of thousands of buildings like the Champlain Tower South Condominium.
If you have been thinking along these lines for the last 2-1/2 years, it might surprise you to know that the Champlain Tower debacle is NOT the first or the second such instance of a complete and catastrophic structural failure of a major building in the state of Florida.
According to this report from the international consulting firm [JS Held], the Champlain Tower collapse was at least the THIRD such calamity in Florida since 1974. This doesn’t count buildings that failed due to natural disasters.
These are just the buildings that fell down because they were old, poorly maintained, and irresponsibly supervised by regulators
Even worse is that the state of Florida is not the only place where similar catastrophic building failures have occurred. What makes the Florida situation stand out is that prior to 2021 there had been some attempts to regulate the management of buildings in the form of state-mandated inspections. According to the Held report, in 2008 the Florida legislature enacted a law that would have required the owners of condominium buildings like Champlain Tower to undergo an inspection by a licensed engineer or architect for the specific purpose of assessing the structural integrity of the building.
According to JS Held, the 2008 law was “repealed shortly after enactment.”
Industry sources that I was in contact with back in 2008 have reported that the law was repealed as a result of pressure brought by the so-called “condo lobby” in Florida. A group that was described to me as a “very powerful” force in the Florida state legislature™. In the aftermath of the collapse, it has come to light that the ill-fated building had in fact been inspected by a prominent, respected engineering consultant Morabito Consultants almost 20 months before the June 2021 failure of the building.