The catastrophic South Florida condominium building collapse of earlier this summer has prompted communities across the United States to take a closer look at the structural integrity of high-rise edifices, particularly those designed for residential living. Concerns over the safety of high-rise apartment and condominium buildings has extended to many locales in the state of Texas, including the Lone Star State capital city of Austin. Building experts in Austin have made it abundantly clear that proactive inspections are more important now than ever before in order to avoid a devastating disaster like the one that took the lives of dozens of people in South Florida.
Reactive Building Inspection Model No Longer Appropriate
The Supervisor of the Austin Code Department conceded that the city was “reactive” when it came to matters of building inspections and community safety. Representatives of the city further conceded that the reactive model was no longer appropriate, as was graphically illustrated by the June Miami area condominium collapse that took the lives of 98 people.
The reality is that Austin is not alone in what is now being considered a less than ideal retroactive approach to building inspection and safety. The stark reality is that multiple Texas municipalities historically have placed identifying structural safety issues on residents of buildings. The burden has been on residents to identify structural issues or problems with their buildings and then notify the city.
What is becoming deemed as a backwards approach to building safety has been confirmed to be the historical standard practice in Texas cities that include:
- El Paso
- Fort Worth
- San Antonio
These cities are thought to be but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the burden being placed on residents to identify structural issues with their residential buildings on their own. These are communities that have been initially identified by media outlets to place the initial identification of safety and structural issues on residents rather than on a proactive inspection regimen. The thought at this time among building inspection professionals and associated experts is that most Texas municipalities have probably adopted this less than ideal and potentially dangerous reactive approach to residential building safety.
High-Wind Inspection Deficiencies as Particular Texas Problem
A consideration of environmental conditions plays a major role in determining how proactive inspection schemes need to be implemented going forward into the future. Once again, we return to the catastrophic condo collapse in South Florida to illustrate that point. As the investigation into the Florida tragedy moves forward, we are learning that environmental factors associated with being at the shoreline coupled with other related factors appears to have contributed to the structural degradation of the condominium that collapsed onto itself in a matter of seconds.
The Insurance Institute of Business and Home Safety has concluded that a major structural safety risk in Texas is presented by high winds, particularly hurricanes. Of course, it is somewhat stating the obvious to note that hurricanes threaten buildings in Texas and elsewhere in the United States. With that patent point recognized, the reality is that some buildings are better outfitted to survive hurricane strength winds and lessen the risk to people in these types of storm prone areas.
The Insurance Institute of Business and Home Safety examined 18 coastal states in regard to statewide building codes and uniformity associated with high wind design and construction standards. Texas is among the worst states in the nation when it comes to these protocols, meaning Texans are particularly at risk.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident involving a common area in a residential building or due to some type of design or construction defect, the personal injury lawyer team at The Doan Law Firm is here for you. You can connect with our firm any time of the day or night – 365 days a year – by calling us at (800) 349-0000.
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