Attention Condo Associations: Here Are Some Steps To Ward Off Structural Issues

By Kerri Sisson and Dave Barthels

August 19, 2021

While the collapse of the Champlain Towers, was likely due, to the forces of multiple, yet undetermined factors, there are steps, building owners and operators, can take right now, to reduce the risk, of potentially, catastrophic building damage.

Owners, HOAs and residents alike, are re-evaluating the structure of their buildings, along the South Florida coast, since the collapse of the Champlain Towers. Modern building codes and structural engineering safeguards, including building assessments, monitoring and capital upgrades, are designed to prevent, such rare, collapses.

Modern building codes and structural engineering, have made U.S. buildings, extremely safe places to live and work.

That being said, all buildings require maintenance and if signs of structural damage, become apparent, immediate action should be taken. Continual maintenance and inspections, are critical to the operations of any building and the safety, of, all inhabitants.

While the collapse of the Champlain Towers was likely, due to the forces of multiple, yet, undetermined factors, there are steps to building owners and operators, can take right now, to reduce the risk of potentially, catastrophic building damages.

Building owners, operators and homeowner’s associations (HOAs), will want to consider the following primary actions, to ward off, any major, future structural issues:

Third-party professionals, should conduct annual inspections to identify issues, leading to deficiencies or damages. This includes the assessment, of major structural components, by proficient, structural engineers. Take corrective action, when issues are identified and document, all maintenance or repairs.

Inspectors and structural engineers, should be required to sign off on building design changes, renovations or upgrades, which may affect, the building’s structure. Adding loading to a roof, moving walls or other changes, can adversely, affect a building.

Conduct post-event inspections, following major weather events like hurricanes and other major storms to identify any damage, including even minor things, like blocked drains, which can lead to water ponding.

Seek location-specific expertise from inspectors, who are familiar with the signs of structural damage due to local weather, such as the damage salt water can cause to buildings, near the ocean.

Monitor damaged building components. In high-rise towers, regular inspections should include identification of concrete spalling. Corrective action, should be taken in places, where concrete has fallen off or became detached, especially, in structural columns. If there is deterioration of reinforcing steel, immediately, you can have a structural engineer, determine the extent, of the damage.

Identify and carefully monitor wall cracks. New buildings may settle and this should be monitored. Cracks that grow, spread or otherwise show deterioration, should be addressed, immediately.

Build capital improvements into your budget. Institute financial planning for major improvements and capital expenditures, in all building maintenance plans.

Identify risks early. Train maintenance staff and leadership, to recognize potential signs of risk and therefore, identify issues between annual inspections. Document these assessments and record actions, taken to reduce both property and liability risk, for HOAs and their residents.

Review insurance policies, annually. Owners and HOA boards, will often look to limit costs, by reducing their building’s Property, Umbrella, General Liability and Director’s and Officers (D&O) overages. To prevent this, conduct a formal review of your insurance policies and coverage now, by a trusted insurance professional and repeat it, annually.

While taking these nine measures, does not guarantee, that a building, will not experience a catastrophic event, they will greatly reduce the risk and give building residents, owners, operators and HOAs, peace of mind, for today and tomorrow.

About The Authors:
Kerri Sisson is the Area Vice President Of Insurance Brokerage Leading Edge Benefit Advisors, LLC, a HUB International Company. She joined Leading Edge Benefit Advisors in Fort Myers in 2004 and most recently, served, as the managing partner. Leading Edge, was acquired by Hub Florida, in November 2020.

Kerri earned her B.A. in Mass Communications from the University of South Florida, in 2003. She became a licensed insurance broker in 2004 and completed her Series 6 License with FINRA, in 2006. In 2017, she received her Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) Designation. Over the years, Kerri has served in many leadership roles, for a number of trade organizations and associations.

Dave Barthel, is a Vice President and Manager, in The Global Insurance Brokerage Hub International’s Risk Services Division. Dave’s technical experience and knowledge, allows him to identify exposures and controls to develop, risk management solutions. He specializes in the assessment of fire and life safety, within the built environment, construction site safety, personal liability assessments, product liability assessments, manufacturing assessments and business continuity planning.