The town of Surfside hired renowned structural engineer Allyn Kilsheimer to investigate the causes of the Champlain Towers Condo collapse. The engineer was involved in the investigations of the 9/11 terrorist attack, the Pentagon reconstruction, and the collapse of the 53-meter pedestrian bridge at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami.
Kilsheimer’s firm, KCE Structural Engineers of Washington D.C. — in addition to providing support, stabilization, demolition and emergency reconstruction — has been responsible for the forensic study of more than 100 incidents of structural collapse caused by natural disasters or human error.
Following the building’s collapse, a series of maintenance failures by the condo association came to light. However, Kilsheimer does not believe there is a single cause of the collapse.
In an interview with NPR, Kilsheimer said that he will try to find the “trigger” or detonator that triggered the collapse. He further explained that he and his team will analyze the concrete, reinforced steel, foundation, soil composition and design of the building.
“There’s not one [building] that I’ve been involved in, which is probably 40, that there aren’t mistakes that are done when it’s being built,” the specialist told NPR. However, he noted that despite those mistakes that may have been made, the building (Champlain Towers) held up for 40 years. So something triggered the disaster.
Kilsheimer has conducted research and emergency stabilization works all over the world, including Latin America, but the most prominent work was the so-called “Phoenix Project,” the rebuilding of the Pentagon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In addition to the investigation being conducted by Allyn Kilsheim’s firm, there are two others going on simultaneously: an analysis by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and another by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office.
There are also a number of private investigations being conducted in support of the expected lawsuits.
The modus operandi to find out what happened in Surfside
In an interview for NBC, the engineer listed the steps to follow to find out what were the causes of the collapse of the condominium.
He explained that the first thing to do will be to make a list of all the possible reasons for the collapse, then collect all the drawings and plans of the building to build computer models of how the structure was supposed to act. Then collect and test the building material, and finally add or eliminate possibilities until the most likely “trigger” is reached, i.e., the event that brought the condo down.