DC, Virginia officials pressing for building protections after Florida condo collapse

The horrific building collapse in Florida is leaving local communities on edge about where their own homes stand.

In the hours, days, and weeks after the deadly incident, Alexandria, Va. Mayor Justin Wilson said residents reached out voicing concerns.

"I think anytime a resident is concerned about the safety of their home, we in government have an obligation to do something about that and to ensure we make sure they feel safe," Wilson said.

Mayor Wilson said there are approximately 57 high rise buildings in Alexandria, Virginia that are at least 40 years old. Buildings in Miami-Dade County, Fla. require recertification every 40 years.

"This is a specific issue that really affects us more than a lot of other communities. We have over half of the older buildings in the Commonwealth in Alexandria," Wilson said.

After the tragic collapse in Surfside, Fla., residents like those who live at the Bridgeyard on South Washington Street, which was built in 1950, are now anxious wondering if where they live is structurally sound. 

"Now that I know that it’s old – I feel like there should be some work on it," said Eric Gutierrez.

"It does strike a conversation like I know we talked the other day and my husband and I and I was like what happens if you’re not here and the building goes down… but ya’ know it makes you nervous," said Victoria Ditomo.

Both residents said they feel safe, but what happening in Florida is making them more aware.

"This is a specific issues that really affects us more than a lot of other communities. We have over half of the older buildings in the commonwealth in Alexandria," said Wilson.

In Florida, buildings must be re-certified for structural safety every 40 years. However, in Virginia, there’s no such rule. That is why Mayor Wilson is asking Governor Ralph Northam to consider requiring buildings to regularly be assessed in the Commonwealth, which is one of many suggestions in his letter here:

"The issue is the buildings that we don’t have reason to believe might be unsafe where just because of their age we might need to do assessments just to make sure they’re okay," Wilson said.

"I think that’s great. I think it should be checked more often," Ditomo said.

"I think they should push for more protections because obviously if they’re not gonna keep stuff updated and up to date – if anything does go wrong, I highly doubt they’re going to let us know that we live here, and the only way we would find out if it goes wrong, is if it goes wrong while we’re here," Gutierrez said.

Mayor Wilson recommends anyone with any building concerns to contact their local government right away.

D.C. is also taking action. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) recently announced several new initiatives to enhance safety reviews of multifamily and commercial properties.

DCRA is taking the following steps:

  • Reviewing all active construction projects by 10Square Development and Beck Vissat, the property owner of 916 Kennedy St NW, to ensure compliance with DC Code.
  • Drafting an administrative bulletin and/or legislation requiring all building owners and engineering firms to report and notify DCRA of unsafe structural conditions – proactively identifying buildings before they become unsafe sites.
  • Legally requiring multifamily residential building owners to file with DCRA structural assessment reports and remediation plans, drafted by a licensed engineer, for any repairs to unsafe structural conditions prior to permit application.
  • Digitizing special inspections conducted by private companies and engineers-of-record with real-time tracking of periodic and continuous inspections – ensuring potential safety issues are caught quickly.
  • Creating training for plan reviewers to refresh and instill knowledge on shear wall construction.
  • Retroactively reviewing for adequate shear wall designs in all new, multifamily, light-framed wood-construction buildings permitted within the District over the last three years starting with buildings certified by FMC & Associates.
  • Researching and procuring engineering software to model, perform advanced and complex structural analysis, and standardize structural reviews in critical building design elements.