Central Florida’s coastal cities take a hard look at their aging buildings

ORLANDO, Fla. — Rust never sleeps.

The reaction of iron to oxygen and water is a sign of corrosion and if left unchecked can result in serious structural problems. Along the Florida coastline, the problems buildings naturally face are compounded by saltwater, sandy soil, and hurricanes.

“It’s absolutely a very aggressive environment,” says structural engineer Michael Chajes with the University of Delaware. “Anything we build near the coastline -- the saltwater spray is corrosive; it will leave chlorides that will corrode the reinforcement in there.”

READ: Surfside condo collapse: Death toll rises to 64

Proper maintenance and inspections can help detect and fix small problems before they become major. But only two Florida counties (Miami Dade and Broward) require inspections of older buildings; but that could be changing.

For cities and counties, the reaction to the condo collapse in Surfside has been to look at their own coastal condos and office buildings. From Daytona Beach to Cocoa Beach, city and county leaders along the central Florida coast have begun taking an inventory of older buildings over 4-sotires tall.

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“Our first action has been to begin an inventory of our buildings,” says Cocoa Beach City Manager Jim McKnight. “We want to know when they were built, what they were made of, because we have a lot of buildings that were built in the 70s and 80s.”

But knowing where potential problems are located is just one issues, acting on those problems is much more complex and costly. Cities have already said they expect guidance from the Florida Legislature when it returns for session in 2022

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