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Miami Dade College Parking Garage Collapse: Construction Error?

The cause behind the collapse of a parking garage at a Miami Dade College campus in Doral won't be known for months, but experts believe the problem stems from the use of pre-fabricated parts assembled on site.

Experts believe investigators will look into construction error before faulty design as the cause of the collapse. Others believe a defect in a concrete piece could also be behind the collapse of the structure. There are also reports that a crane hit the structure two days prior to its collapse.

Like most parking garages built across the United States, the structure at Miami Dade College was constructed using prefabricated concrete pieces. These pieces must then be hoisted into place, and may remain unstable until the pieces are secured by welding or bolting them. Experts say the process requires close supervision, and one false move can cause a collapse.

However, the collapse at Miami Dade College is not an isolated incident.

In 2003, a parking garage at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City collapsed, killing four workers and injuring 20 others. Investigators ultimately blamed the contractors' failure to provide temporary shoring support while the concrete dried. They also concluded that steel reinforcements in the concrete were not attached properly. A lawsuit ensued and produced an award topping $100 million.

Another parking garage collapsed at a San Antonio medical campus in 2011, injuring two construction workers, while a parking garage at a New Jersey apartment building collapsed in 2010, injuring one person.

Under state law, Miami Dade College has its own building department and conducts its own permitting, plan review and construction inspections. The college, along with Ajax Building Corp., is at the top of the list of those that will face blame for the collapse.

The search continues for one construction worker who is still missing beneath the rubble.

Source: The Miami Herald, "Experts: Was there construction error?" Oct. 12, 2012.

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