Like most people, I heard about the collapse of the high rise condominium in Florida, and about the shoddy construction and maintenance. I didn’t have anything to add before now, but after seeing the security camera video of the collapse, I do. It looks almost identical to the Sampoong Department Store collapse of June 29, 1995. The Florida condo collapsed on June 24, five days short of the Sampoong collapse’s 26th anniversary.
Take a look at how the central part of the Florida condo collapses, leaving the end section. The collapse looks like a house of cards or dominoes falling in on themselves. I have little hope that there will be any survivors, not after a week under rubble with no water in the summer heat.
The ending section of the building temporarily left standing is nearly identical to the remnants of the Sampoong Department Store collapse in Seoul, Korea. Watch the computer generated depiction of the building collapse from 1:30 to 2:00 in the video, based on the descriptions of witnesses.
Thankfully, unlike the Florida condo, the ending sections of the Sampoong building stayed upright, allowing the rescue of those still alive but trapped inside.
The Sampoong collapse had a different physical cause than the Florida collapse, but the human cause was the same: poor construction, lack of maintenance, and greed by the owners and construction companies. The Sampoong building’s owners decided to cut corners on building and moving air conditioning system on the roof and in the building without consulting architects or engineers. The construction was as flawed as Florida’s, but with different materials (i.e. no use of rebar in Sampoong, rusting rebar in Florida).
From Interesting Engineering:
Initially, the Sampoong department store was set to become a four-story residential apartment complex, to be built by a company called Woosung Construction. Sampoong hired Woosung Construction to lay the foundation in 1987 and also to serve as project supervisor — an arrangement that can lead to abuse.
However, partway through the process, Lee Joon, the head of the Sampoong Group, decided to completely switch gears, and the blueprints were modified from an apartment complex to what would become one of the largest and most fancy department stores in South Korea. Although using a building of this size as a department store went against zoning regulations, Lee circumvented this by ordering the addition of a skating rink on an originally unplanned-for fifth floor.
Here’s the thing about construction, you can’t just decide to change the basic function of a building without heavily modifying the design itself, including reducing the size and number of support beams to clear the way for escalators, Woosung refused to make the changes, so Joon fired them and decided his own construction company would take over. This proved to be just one poor decision of many.
The page goes on to list a catalogue of corruption and ineptitude. Survivors of the collapse reported creaking and groaning in the building in the days and hours before the collapse. Managers failed to call inspectors nor evacuate the building, all in the name of profit. Capitalism kills again.
If there are any survivors of the Florida condo, not just the construction companies and inspectors we’ve already heard, I suspect we’ll hear more reports of building movement and noises before the collapse.