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Update on NIST’s Investigation of the Champlain Towers South Collapse

NIST’s work right now is focused on ensuring that information and evidence related to the June 24, 2021, partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium is identified, collected and preserved, in support of NIST’s technical investigation into the likely cause of the collapse. 

Palm trees stand in the foreground before a pile of debris with construction vehicles.
View of the Champlain Towers South condominium site from a balcony in an adjacent building to the south. NIST has positioned imaging equipment on the balcony to record the locations of items being preserved for study, and to record changes to the site as debris is removed.
Credit: NIST

Remote Sensing of the Site

NIST staff members are coordinating and leading remote sensing efforts to determine where pieces of evidence were located in the debris pile. They are supported by experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Florida State University, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). 

Lidar — which sends out rapid pulses of light and records the reflections to create a type of map — is being used to record the locations of building materials or elements of potential interest and changes to the site as debris is removed. NIST is taking daily high- and low-resolution lidar scans of the site from balconies on adjacent buildings to the north and south of the Champlain Towers South site. Time-lapse cameras are also recording the rapidly changing scene.

Equipment stands on tripods on a balcony with the beach and sea in the background.
Cameras and lidar used by NIST and its partners scan and record the site of the Champlain Towers South condominium.
Credit: NIST
Three people in orange vests stand on a darkened balcony near a tripod.
NIST and National Science Foundation staff members discuss imaging of the Champlain Towers South site using lidar, which uses pulsed laser light to measure distances to objects, creating a 3D representation of the site.
Credit: NIST

Drones carrying cameras are being flown over the site to help with the geotagging of evidence and to capture changes at the site. Geotagging provides information on the exact location of evidence before it is removed. 

Evidence Tagging and Preservation

The NIST team continues to refine and update procedures for evidence identification, marking and tagging, and has collected more than 200 building elements including columns, beams and pieces of concrete slab. All of these items are currently being preserved by the Miami-Dade Police Department. 

NIST will be deploying an electronic evidence tagging system that uses RFID chips so that electronic records are associated with every piece of evidence collected.

Pieces of concrete marked with blue spray paint lay on the ground amid pieces of construction equipment.
Credit: NIST
Broken concrete column with exposed rebar on the ground
Credit: NIST
A jagged piece of concrete slab on the ground.
Credit: NIST

Building elements such as columns, beams and floor slabs are identified, removed from the debris pile, tagged and moved to a holding area before the evidence is transported by police escort to an offsite storage facility where it will be preserved for study.

 

A man in a hard hat sits on a concrete column while looking at a scientific device.
NIST is using nondestructive test methods to determine the properties of concrete from the site of the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium. Here, an engineer evaluates the strength and quality of a concrete column using a method called Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity (UPV), which measures the velocity of an ultrasonic pulse passing through the sample.
Credit: NIST
A man in a hard hat crouches next to a concrete column, taking measurements.
NIST is using nondestructive test methods to determine the properties of concrete from the site of the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium. Here, an engineer evaluates the strength and quality of a concrete column using a method called Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity (UPV), which measures the velocity of an ultrasonic pulse passing through the sample.
Credit: NIST

What We Can Learn From Champlain Towers North

NIST experts have visited the Champlain Towers North condominium to gain a better understanding of the Champlain Towers South building, which had a similar design and construction.

Broken pieces of concrete marked with blue spray paint lay on the ground near a storage facility.
NIST staff members at the holding site for evidence that may help in the investigation into what caused the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium.
Credit: NIST

Working with the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) Facility of NSF’s Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) Program, NIST has installed accelerometers to measure building vibrations and a seismometer to measure ground vibrations at the Champlain Towers North condominium. The data from these devices will be used to validate computer modeling of Champlain Towers South.

This work is not an evaluation of the condition of Champlain Towers North. Safety evaluations of buildings are being overseen by city and county authorities, and NIST does not have a role in those efforts.

Next Steps

NIST is in the process of putting together the National Construction Safety Team that will lead the technical investigation. 

Video footage featuring NIST scientists working on Champlain Towers collapse investigation

B-Roll Video Reel - Champlain Tower NIST investigation
B-Roll Video Reel - Champlain Tower NIST investigation
To download this video, click the top right file button.
Released July 16, 2021, Updated August 16, 2021