Oklahoma expert weighs in on Florida building collapse

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STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – “Really very surprising to have a 40-year-old building collapse, those are very rare events,” said Dr. Norb Delatte the head of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Oklahoma State University. 

Dr. Delatte is weighing in on the structure of the building collapse in Florida, as crews still work to find those unaccounted for

People all over the country are left wondering how something like this could happen to a building built in 1981. 

KFOR asked Dr. Delatte, how much had to be structurally wrong with this building to cause a collapse like this?

“It’s hard to say because in some cases a small defect in exactly the right place can cause a lot of trouble,” he said. 

Dr. Delatte says early reports indicate there could have been foundation issues, but for a problem like that, usually there would’ve been other signs. 

Which he says it was makes this tragedy, that much more concerning.

“People might report that you’ve got cracks in the walls, uneven floors, a key thing is when doors stick,” he said. “This has been by the Atlantic Ocean for 40 years that’s a very corrosive environment for any building material.”

Video of the collapse shows the middle part of the video crumbling before the outside wall falls next. 

The other half stays standing. 

“So, then you wonder as you look at the photographs and you’re looking in bedrooms, why did it stop? Why did that part not come down?” asked Dr. Delatte. 

He says it could be a long time before any details are released about what went wrong. 

“The problem with this type of collapse is there is no federal, and probably not state agency, that actually does investigations,” he said, “basically anybody who could get sued, will hire a lawyer, and that lawyer will hire an engineering expert, and those reports don’t need to be made public. I find that in these cases the experts who do the investigations will eventually find some way to share their knowledge with the engineering community.”

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Dr. Delatte met Friday with folks from the American Concrete Institute to figure out how to address things we could learn from this. 

He says right now, authorities in Florida should be looking into the building’s designer, and contractors of the collapsed building to see what else they’ve built.  Those buildings will most likely, be inspected immediately.

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