By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Champlain Towers South condo building that endured a partial collapse early Thursday morning was due for what is called a 40-year inspection.

Older buildings along the coast take a beating from the environment and need to be constantly maintained. The Champlain Towers South was described as a low-key beach building in quite a beautiful location.

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Boasting friendly staff and generally clean, located in the town of Surfside, the Champlain Towers South are situated farther north of Miami and Miami Beach proper. The building was built in 1981, with 136 one-to-four bedroom units that were typically priced from $600,000 to $699,000.

CBS4’s Jim DeFede spoke with Ken Direktor, the attorney for the Surfside building. He said that the building had begun undergoing an inspection review process. He said that they had identified some issues with the building and that they had hired contractors, but the building collapsed before they had a chance to address those issues. Click here to

WATCH: DeFede Shares What He Learned In Conversation With Direktor

 

The condo association hired an engineer to deal with structural and electrical changes for the recertification process.

Perhaps what residents didn’t know was the building was sinking, according to Dr. Shimon Wdowinski, from FIU’s department of earth and environment.

“We used data from ‘93 to ’99, so that was the data available for that study and we saw there was some pockets of subsidence in Miami Beach,” he explained.

Wdowinski studies subsidence, which is the movement of the surface downward.

His study included Surfside, and specifically the Champlain Towers South.

“Now we saw subsidence in that particular building in Surfside, which was unusual, because we didn’t expect to see it over there,” he said.

It was unusual because Surfside has a lot of limestone, which offers more support.

“In this particular case, we saw subsidence over there,” he said. “We reported about it.”

WATCH: CBS4’s Keith Jones Spoke With Experts About The Condo Collapse

 

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When subsidence is present, structures will show cracking the worsens over time. That’s something the professor looked for.

“I looked at it from satellite imagery, but I didn’t see anything suspicious at the time,” Wdowinsk said.

The condo association paperwork is up to date with the state of Florida. Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, Inc. lists Jean Wodnicki condo association president.

“This should be a wake-up call to everybody in general, especially when you are along the coastline and part of a tropical environment like ours,” said Bruce Masia, Vice President at KWPMC. Masia is an expert in high-rise management and has a construction background.

The partially collapsed condo sits right on the beach, much like hundreds of others up and down the coast. “What people think is that buildings last forever. That’s a bad comment,” Masia adds. “Buildings on the water decay faster, proven fact ask any engineer, scientist they are going to tell you materials break down much faster than something that’s inland one hundred percent.”

Lots of retirees who live in the building are owners or renters. Other condos are owned by winter visitors and some of those are offered by short-term rentals.

The building was due for a mandatory 40-year certification safety check.

Residents also complained that construction of a new condo next door continued to shake the Champlain Towers South. They wonder if that could have had an impact.

“What I would have done when that building was finished… I would have had my building inspected to make sure no damage took place,” said Masia.

The question is whether lingering building issues were ignored, which is not uncommon.

“When you have older people living in the building, what happens is this gets put off so when you see a little crack, see rebar, tension cables that need TLC… that is when you take care of it,” explained Masia.

The age of the tower, 40 years old, likely didn’t play a factor in the collapse, according to Atorod Azizinamini of FIU’s engineering department.

“So buildings built in 1981, we had lots of knowledge. So I wouldn’t say that age is a factor, not by itself,” he said.

Dr. Azizinamini said it’s likely a collection of failures that made for a catastrophic event.

“They’re going to look at how the building was constructed. They’re going to take samples of the steel, concrete, signs of corrosion. They’re going to look at the foundation to see if there was settlement,” he said.

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A massive investigation involving, local, state, and federal agencies is looming and litigation will likely follow.