North Miami Beach has rejected a new engineering inspection report provided by the Crestview Towers condominium association, keeping about 300 evacuated residents from returning to their apartments and raising new questions about engineering inspection reports in the aftermath of the Champlain Towers South collapse.

At the Champlain Towers site in Surfside, Fla. six miles away, additional remains were discovered—the official death toll reached 64 on July 8 with about 75 people still unaccounted for.—as recovery operations continued and attention turned to the evaluation of the north tower structure next to the collapse site.

The new engineering report, carried out during a single day using visual inspection only, pronounced the 156-unit, three-winged Crestview Towers structure safe for occupancy but in need of major repairs.

In North Miami Beach, city officials claimed that the new structural engineering inspection report for the 10-story Crestview condo built about 1970—reversing a prior report and declaring the building safe for use—fails to comply with the 40-year recertification program requirements of Miami-Dade County, Fla.  

"More disturbingly," wrote North Miami Beach Building Official J. Daniel Ozuno in a letter to the condo association, the new report failed to "reference or directly refute" the condo's prior engineering inspections which designated the building unsafe for occupancy.

In the meantime, the building must remain unoccupied, Ozuno added.

Contacted by ENR, Fernando Azcue, the licensed engineer who carried out the new engineering inspection, said that he submitted all material to the condominium association required by a 40-year recertification. "I sent all the documents," Azcue said.

The rejected report compounds the condominium association's existing financial problems. It is mediating a disputed insurance claim for millions of dollars of hurricane damage from 2018. And North Miami Beach released information showing the condominium owes tens of thousands of dollars more in fines for building violations.

Completed in January as part of Crestview Towers' response to the required 40-year recertification process—but not submitted to town officials until July 1—the initial inspection report stamped by engineer Roberto Barreiro deemed the 10-story, concrete structure with a slab-on-grade foundation, and its electrical system, unsafe for occupancy.

North Miami Beach officials ordered dismayed residents to evacuate on July 3.

The new engineering report, carried out during a single day using visual inspection only, pronounced the 156-unit, 3-winged structure safe for occupancy but in need of many costly repairs.

Performed by Miami-based A.S.D. Consulting engineers and stamped by Azcue, the new engineering inspection report covers much of the same material as the first report. Like the first report, it found many of the structure's concrete components, the ground floor tower columns, the 2nd floor slab and elevated slab at the pool deck to be in fair condition. Spalling was common in parts of the structure, and various components require concrete repair or restoration, according to A.S.D.'s one-day review. A balcony slab in a building breezeway showed signs of rebar corrosion.

Engineers have said that meaningful review of a concrete building's condition would include a review of the structure's design and detailed information about the location and configuration of any observed cracks. The location of cracks and spalling—such as whether they occur in a highly stressed beam section, or a less-critical area of the structure—are important.

While Crestview Towers' new engineering inspection did not have evidence of a design review, county rules don't require it and there was more information than in the initial report.

Of particular significance are the recommended repairs. They include shoring of slabs and columns when needed, with column shoring capable of supporting all overhead loads. Where needed around the structure damaged concrete should be removed and new rebar spliced into place where corrosion had occurred, the report recommends. "Only one quarter of the column should be repaired at a time," cautions the author about the repairs.

County Guidance on 40-Year Recertification

According to Miami-Dade County's guidance for recertification procedures, visual inspection is generally sufficient. But it must cover all habitable and nonhabitable sections of the building and attention must be paid to cracks, bulging, sagging, deflections, leakage or peeling finishes.

Consulting the structure's original design, however, isn't needed, the guidance states, because the structure has been "time tested" over the 40 years since it was constructed. But the guidance contains a proviso that would require plan review or calculation of loads: evidence of overloading or significant deterioration.

What's more important, states the county guidance, is to check for deterioration of the original construction materials. And while eyeballing all concealed construction "will rarely be possible," a "sufficient number of typical structure members should be examined to permit reasonable conclusions to be drawn."