We walk into buildings assuming they will not collapse. But they do sometimes, even brand-new ones. One of the bizarre German metal + noise bands of the 1980s named itself after the phenomenon. That, of course, was Einstürzende Neubauten — "Collapsing New Buildings."
Many, many structures have collapsed over time. The most remarkable example in recent memory was an entire terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris that fell down in 2004, killing several people. Mistakes had been made.
Later that same year, an airport terminal under construction in Dubai collapsed. The architect of the Paris terminal had also designed the Dubai terminal. A fallow period ensued in his career.
The situation in Miami is horrifying, and I fervently hope the missing victims will be found alive. But, having worked as a newspaper reporter in Miami in the 1980s when condos like this one were being thrown up all over the place, I am not at all surprised.
In late 70s and early 80s, ideological fervor in Washington for "deregulation" demolished most of the rules governing savings & loan associations. An orgy of imprudent lending ensued, with the money paying for things like speculative condo construction. South Fla. was a hotspot.
It all ended badly when the S&Ls went belly-up, ultimately costing federal taxpayers $125 billion for bailouts. But the empty condos & shiny office towers were still standing (at the time) and eventually filled up.
The whole of Florida in that era had weak building codes and very weak enforcement of them. The folly was exposed in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew tore through southern Dade County.
The powerful winds blew apart entire neighborhoods, rendering 60,000 families homeless overnight. But, mysteriously, a few neighborhoods stood up to the onslaught with minimal damage.
Subsequent investigation by The Miami Herald, led by the great muckraker Jeff Leen, exposed the shoddy practices and failure of code enforcement behind the calamity. In the turmoil, Florida laws were tightened considerably.
The neighborhoods that survived turned out to have been put up by conscientious developers who spent extra to do the right thing, like securing roof trusses with hurricane straps. But: no fast buck in doing the right thing, so that was unusual.
We need to wait for official report on collapse of condo in Surfside, Fla., vintage 1981. But it won't be surprising if poor construction allowed salt water and spray to infiltrate the concrete shell and eat away at the steel holding the structure up.
Already, The New York Times is reporting that engineers issued a strong warning about the condition of the building, though evidently they did not cite an imminent risk of collapse. nyti.ms/3qu0Kzk
Knowing as much as I do about past Florida construction standards, I suspect we are going to learn that hundreds of billions of dollars of work needs to be done on Florida buildings from the 20th century.
With sea-level rise already flooding some of these buildings at highest tide, are the residents going to fork over 100 to 200K per unit? Will banks finance? Apparently, repairs in Surfside were slowed by residents fighting the hefty special assessments needed for the work.
I guarantee you these homeowner associations, which pinched pennies for decades and failed to do the maintenance work they ought to have done, are going to go crying to Washington for bailouts.
Harsh as it sounds, we have to say no. We have to stop socializing the costs of doing stupid things, like building huge condominiums feet away from an ocean that is rising at an accelerating pace due to human-induced global warming. nytimes.com/2016/09/04/sci…
To fortify yourself for the painful choices to come, maybe play some Einstürzende Neubauten music, filled with screams, screeches and metallic clangs. I can especially recommend their first album, "Kollaps."

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Justin Gillis

Justin Gillis Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @JustinHGillis

28 Jun
Story idea for working journalists: the Florida condo collapse may be the tip of a very large iceberg. All over the country, aging high-rise buildings are run by unsophisticated homeowner associations who want to spend as little maintenance money as possible. 1/9
If big maintenance problems are found, hefty "special assessments" may be required of residents, and they fight them savagely. These boards are elected, and elections often turn on promises to minimize assessments. 2/9
You can see how all the short-term incentives are lined up toward not maintaining a building properly. That's how you get accumulating damage like that of Champlain Towers South, which was noticed years ago but not fixed. 3/9
Read 9 tweets
19 Feb
Much as I admire @russellgold and many other WSJ news reporters, I am sick of the lies of @WSJopinion. They came out of the gate blaming green energy for Texas problem on basis of no facts. Let's look at some facts, shall we? 1/13
As Arctic blast descended on Texas, power grid peaked late the evening of 2/14, pumping out 68 gigawatts of power. But then equipment started to fail. Generation dropped drastically over course of 2/15, and blackouts began. 2/13
Now, it is true that as the cold front moved over Texas, wind power boomed, peaking at 8 gigawatts. And also true that once the frigid, still air settled on the state, wind power dropped way off. This is exactly what you would expect and plan for. 3/13
Read 13 tweets
18 Feb
The dramatic situation in Texas was exactly prefigured in 2011, during a similar but less severe cold snap. That disaster involved freeze-ups in gas and power supply, just like this one. It produced a 357-page report on what ought to be done to prevent a recurrence. 1/5
The report specifically advised: "Lawmakers ... should determine whether production shortages during extreme cold weather events can be effectively and economically mitigated..." 2/5
...through the adoption of minimum, uniform standards for the winterization of natural gas production and
processing facilities." Was that done? Current events would suggest: no. 3/5
Read 5 tweets
11 Jan 20
Climate science has a term – “carbon-cycle feedbacks” – that is sufficiently dry as to hide its terrible import. Let me render it into different language in a THREAD. 1/10
Feedbacks in the carbon cycle means: koalas and kangaroos roasting alive in Australia, human beings fleeing into the ocean as the land behind them burns to the water's edge, Californians running in terror ahead of fast-moving fires. 2/10
By dumping carbon pollution into the air, we are messing with the most fundamental biogeochemical cycle on the planet – the one that created us. We are sucking inactive carbon from underground and pumping it into the air, where it becomes part of the active “carbon cycle.” 3/10
Read 10 tweets
14 Dec 19
In thinking about the climate crisis, we have all been overlooking the pernicious role of the railroads. New reporting in @TheAtlantic by @yayitsrob begins to shine a spotlight. Will link to piece in a moment. 1/6
But first: here is the report, by students at @BrownUniversity, on which the journalism is partially based. Just digging in myself but seems like essential reading for all climate advocates. 2/6 climatedevlab.brown.edu/uploads/2/8/4/…
Another crucial piece of the puzzle comes from @RBrulle at Drexel, who has long been doing vital work to understand the networks of influence that blocked climate action. 3/6 onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.11…
Read 6 tweets
15 Aug 18
1. In response to my @nytopinion piece with @jamesonmcb advocating a national clean energy standard, I got multiple questions on why it might be more likely to pass Congress than a carbon tax. Herewith, a theory:
2. Fossils are increasingly worried about climate lawsuits, so much they are spending money to gin up an Astroturfy campaign pushing Congress to exempt them from liability. They are willing to trade a low carbon price for relief, but getting few takers among Rs on Hill.
3. Suppose a big court decision goes against them. Juliana vs. U.S. case is most likely, judge has already written hugely favorable opinion toward kid-plaintiffs. Now fossils really worried. They put screws to their bought-off R and D politicians on Hill.
Read 10 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!