Forensics Engineering to Prevent Condemnation
Three condominiums facing the Gulf of Mexico, built between 1985 and 1991, had their beachfronts eroded away in 2008 Hurricane Ike. Further erosion occurred with the 2017 Hurricane Harvey and 2020 Hurricanes Laura and Delta. The erosion destroyed the shallow foundations beneath the condominiums and exposed the pile caps and piles of the deep foundation to more potential damage.
Following the 2021 Surfside Condominium collapse in the Miami-Dade metroplex, the Homeowners’ Association commissioned an engineering review of the three condominiums. The engineer found maintenance issues to be addressed and, then followed the prescriptive methodologies in ASCE 7-16 and the updated FEMA Baseline Flood Elevations Based upon IBEC, ASCE 7-16, and the FEMA BFE of 19′, the civil/structural engineer deemed the three condominiums as “Unsafe”, which caused the City of Galveston to initiate condemnation processes against the buildings.
The HOA’s sought to buy time for the condominiums. As a part of the proposed, funded, and initiated Ike Dike project, the US Army Corps of Engineers is expected replenish the Galveston beaches west of the west end of the Galveston Seawall. The HOA’s sought the design of seaward bulkhead to protect the exposed deep foundations. The HOA’s commissioned Mark E. Haas, PE, who has >30 years of engineering experience in the coastal, marine, naval, and offshore structures, whether for the US Army, US Navy, or around the world in his capacity as an offshore structural engineer in the oil and gas industry.
Mr. Haas, PE, a Texas-licensed professional engineer in coastal and ocean engineering, structural engineering, and naval architecture and marine engineering, assessed the buildings by conducting LiDAR scans of the three buildings. The LiDAR scans revealed that the buildings had barely any movement. What deflections, displacements, drift, or movements, which were measured well within the acceptable tolerances prescribed by various industry codes and standards. Having been exposed to the fury of Hurricane Ike, the hardest-hitting hurricane during the lifetime of the condominiums, these measurements indicated that the buildings were probably safe and needed a new engineering assessment and re-analysis.
The results of the LiDAR were presented to the City of Galveston and to the General Land Office of the State of Texas. The study bought time to allow the design of the bulkhead to protect the deep foundation. Following the design of the bulkhead, a comprehensive forensic engineering of the three condominiums was initiated. The results of the design for the bulkhead and the re-analyses of the three condominiums were submitted to the City of Galveston and to the State of Texas’ General Land Office.