Perspectives: Building Safety

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The tragic building collapse in Surfside, Florida, hit the news as we were in the middle of putting together this issue of CNR. It was sheer coincidence that our 2021 editorial calendar, determined many months ago, included this issue’s feature about building security and safety systems and a feature story on Resilient Buildings that will appear in our upcoming September-October 2021 issue.

When coverage of the Surfside incident began to unfold, we reached out to some of our trusted sources in engineering, architecture and other related disciplines to ask for their thoughts on the Surfside collapse and what cause or causes might have precipitated that horrific event. Even though these companies had no connection to the tragedy, we found no one who was ready to dip their toes into the unfolding story due to the massive loss of life and what undoubtedly will be years and years of litigation.

Early reports about the Surfside collapse uncovered warnings from earlier inspections that the building was in need of massive, expensive repairs. This building was reportedly a middle-class residence, and it seems the cost of repairs would have been overwhelming – tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per family. While it is too soon to know for certain, early stages of the investigation suggest this tragedy was entirely preventable and we will be following the story closely as more is revealed. American building standards are among the best in the world. There is clearly an ongoing need to review, update and, in some cases, improve enforcement, but I think we are most fortunate that catastrophic building collapse of this magnitude is incredibly rare in our country.

 Owners and occupants of commercial structures have a vested interest in attending to the more common safety and security matters that affect everyday life. The attention those issues receive is driven largely by insurance companies who strongly prefer prevention over remuneration. Fire protection has long held a position at the top of the building security pyramid. Over the last decade, other ascendant concerns have come to the forefront such as how to prevent people with malicious intent from entering spaces to which they should never have access, protect business software and computer data systems from a world full of hackers, and provide protections that keep building occupants as safe as possible in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

While our team loves reporting on exciting new projects and product innovations (and we hope you enjoy reading those stories) safety is and always will be an aspect of the construction industry that we take very seriously. We consider it a privilege to serve as an information source for our readers, especially when the subject matter is so very important.

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