Downbeach Skyscraper Managers, Residents Learn to Avoid Disaster

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About 60 condominium managers and residents attended a meeting to discuss a building collapse in Florida and the possibility of it happening here.

By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY

MARGATE – Managers and residents of Absecon Island’s high-rise buildings attended a special meeting held Tuesday afternoon in the community hall at 9600 Condominiums to learn what they can do to protect their financial interests and avoid a disaster like the one in Surfside, Florida.

More than 97 bodies were removed from the wreckage of the 17-story skyscraper that collapsed on June 24 for a reason yet to be determined. Although media have cited various issues with the building, it can take months to find out why the building fell, structural engineers who attended the special meeting said.

In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy called the Florida collapse a “sobering reminder” that inspections and law enforcement are tools that keep people safe.

“New Jersey’s building codes are among the strictest in the country, and our residents can rest assured that the Department of Community Affairs is going above and beyond the national standard,” he said. “With continued vigilance, we can prevent tragedies and save lives. “

New Jersey municipalities are required to follow the National Uniform Building Code, which regulates plumbing, electrical, fire protection, energy, mechanics, fuel gas, remediation, barrier-free access , asbestos, radon and elevators.

The meeting was called to allay the fears of residents who, seeing minor problems in their own buildings, believe it could be happening here.

“Is this building going anywhere?” 9600 manager Sharon Ianoale asked professionals on the panel.

“No,” responded structural engineer Alan Roth, president of Joseph B. Callaghan, Inc. of Philadelphia, which inspects buildings from western Pennsylvania to the Jersey Shore.

Participants learned that the best way to protect homeowners’ interests is to track maintenance, get periodic inspections to determine structural integrity, and appraisals to ensure proper insurance coverage. One was recently completed at 9600 which showed the building to be in good condition with some minor issues which will be fixed by the masonry restoration company, Watts Restoration of Feasterville, PA.

Roth said there is a three-tier system for periodic inspections: a visual inspection of the facade perimeter, an inspection of localized problem areas and a total building integrity inspection, which includes the inspection of all major components, such as engine and pump rooms, and stair towers.

“This is when you look for anything that suggests movement, establishment or model change,” he said.

Inspections are performed by a qualified engineer with a general walk or the use of drones to find any spauling or major cracks.

“We have seen enough to determine if there is a need for further examination,” he said.

In the recent inspection at 9600, certified engineers inspected each balcony closely, pushing back three sides of the building, Ianoale said.

The best way to avoid problems is to avoid “too much deferred maintenance,” Watts said.

A resident of the audience questioned the liability and losses in the event of a collapse.

“Do we have an exhibition,” he asked.

Kevin McDonough, vice president of high-rise insurer Dickstein Associates Agency, noted that collapse coverage is included in most policies, but additional insurance is needed to cover demolition of towers. additional.

“This building (at Surfside) was way beyond catastrophic loss and won’t have enough insurance to see it ever rebuilt,” he said.

The best way to ensure that at least 80% of the cost of rebuilding is covered is to have a recent appraisal, which he suggests doing along with periodic inspections to verify structural integrity. Homeowners associations would be responsible for collecting the remaining 20% ​​through appraisals or reserves.

“After Hurricane Sandy many evaluations were far away and it is difficult to find a good evaluator. You should review your coverage limits to determine if they are adequate, ”he said.

Part of the problem in getting accurate estimates is the age of the buildings and the lack of original plans that would include the original geotechnical studies showing whether the building was erected on bedrock or limestone, which can be flooded with water for many years. many years. Absecon Island is part of the Coastal Plan, a “gigantic wedge of sand” that may not be tied to bedrock, a professional in attendance said via Zoom.

Participants learned that steel pilings can last up to 200 years without corrosion.

A building manager asked if there were any new technologies that could improve visual inspections below grade.

Roth said there is a GPR, grade penetrating radar, and x-ray available that can see what’s going on below the surface, but they’re not straightforward to use and are rarely used.

The panel recommended condo owners who may not have mortgages that require them to maintain maximum insurance coverage to cover repairs inside their units.

The big takeaway from the reunion was that condominium residents should “come back to their lives” and not fear a building collapse.

The governor’s statement said that the DCA’s Bureau of Housing Inspection requires cyclical inspections of multi-family buildings to ensure they are properly maintained and meet health and safety standards. Inspections include a visual examination of the foundations and structural elements of the building that are accessible. If violations are discovered, DCA inspectors will demand repairs and perform a follow-up inspection to ensure the violations are mitigated.

When asked whether there should be local or state regulation on conducting periodic structural integrity inspections, panelists said advocacy for such a rule should come from the local level, but warned that for every safety rule there is an equal and opposite reaction from condominium associations trying to avoid additional costs.

Several building managers said they would support such a law to maintain safety, but warned that if the state gets involved, “it will cost more.”

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