What DC is doing to better identify structurally unsafe buildings

The collapse of the Surfside, Florida, condo tower and a much smaller condo building under construction in Northwest D.C. have prompted District leaders to make safety changes.

A series of actions were unveiled Friday.

“Mayor Bowser and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs announced several initiatives to enhance safety reviews of our multifamily and commercial properties in the District,” said DCRA director Ernest Chrappah.

All building owners and engineering firms will soon be required to report unsafe structural conditions at multifamily residential buildings and commercial buildings in the city.

“That is a game changer to help create early warning systems,” Chrappah said.

The owner and developer of the building that collapsed July 2 on Kennedy Street in Northwest will be under particular scrutiny: All other construction projects they’re involved in will be reviewed to make sure city laws are being followed.

The collapse trapped a construction worker under rubble for an hour and a half. He was finally rescued by D.C. fire crews, but he was seriously, and his sister said he may never walk again. The cause is under investigation.

“After reading Mayor Bowser’s announcement, I am glad to hear DCRA is implementing new structural design review policies during the permit review process,” said Beck Vissat, principal with 10Square Development. “Hopefully, their new approach will help avoid future catastrophes such as this. As a firm that has been in good standing with DCRA since our inception, I welcome their compliance review of my active construction projects. As always, I will continue to cooperate and support their efforts.”

The city will also review certain multifamily buildings that went up over the last three years to make sure they’re structurally sound. They’ll start with buildings certified by the same engineering firm involved in the Kennedy Street project.

DCRA is also urging people who think they’re living in an unsafe building to contact the agency.  They can do that by filling out an online request form or an online inquiry form, sending an email to DCRA@dc.gov, or by calling 202-442-4400.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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