Every civil engineer’s nightmare

Probably everybody has by now watched the video of that Florida condo collapse near Miami.

For civil engineers, watching such videos is always painful and accompanied by the thought, “Thank God that wasn’t one of my projects.”

The first report that I heard of the disaster was accompanied by speculation by some newscaster that the cause was some sort of soil/foundation failure. Since my specialty is soil mechanics and I spent most of my engineering career working on foundation designs, including 7-years in central Florida, I watched with especially keen interest.

There might be some sort of shallow excavation on one side of the building; the available video doesn’t make that clear. What can be said with certainty is that we’d be hearing a lot about the excavation if it were there and the foundations had been undermined, so that can probably be ruled out.

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