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Corrosion Renders Carolina Condo Unsafe

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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A North Carolina apartment building has been evacuated due to extensive corrosion.

The Carolina Surf condo in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, has been condemned by officials. Evacuations of 28 units took place on June 30, with corrosion being detected after a structural evaluation.

The structure opened in 1986, and according WWAY TV3, many of the units are rentals, and the town has been working to relocate evacuees. Currently, the building is being worked on, and no one can gain access.

“I just can’t imagine what would have happened if they wouldn’t have caught this, and this thing started to collapse? That would have been really scary, especially with families,” vacationer Melissa Falenski told WWAY TV3.

Building Corrosion

Building along the coast has always proven to be a challenge, given the corrosive nature of sea salt.

Structural engineer Chris Holmes wrote a letter to the town, which was published June 30, detailing that the southeast corner of the building was “completely compromised,” and that one structural column had been corroded down to half its original size. This renders the building unsafe to inhabit.

“It is imperative that access to all the units in the building, in addition to all the ocean-side balconies and the area below be restricted immediately,” Holmes’ letter said in conclusion. “This building is in significant danger of collapse, any residents choosing to remain in the building risk the possibility of serious injury or death.”

Holmes’ letter is posted along with red danger signs all around the building. Currently, residents cannot even go into the building to retrieve personal items. From here, every unit must be inspected for stability by an engineer and a firefighter. Once the process is complete, residents can retrieve their belongings.

Building Inspection

Assistant town manager Ed Parvin said town officials had met to draft a letter instructing the housing association to provide more information about what measures need to be taken to preserve the building’s structural integrity. At this rate, demolition is still an option.

“State law does not regulate the frequency with which cities and towns do inspections of buildings,” New Hanover county director of building safety Nicholas Gadzekpo told Star News.

Parvin went on to note that Carolina Beach also does not have an inspection standard for existing structures, nor does it have the authority. For now, the only inspection that would occur would be for fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and sprinklers, and that only happens once every three years.

Combating the Elements

Spencer Rogers, N.C. Sea Grant's coastal construction and erosion specialist, has researched corrosion rates in structures in Kure Beach for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he has found that the main factors that impact buildings constructed along the coast are salt spray and how far the building is from the coastline. Rogers’ research revealed that corrosion rates are at their highest 80 feet from the shoreline, and 10-12 feet above the ground. The farther away and the taller the building is, the less corrosion it faces.

E.B. Pannkuk with Andrew Consulting Engineers told Star News that he advises owners of older buildings should have them inspected sooner rather than later, in order to spot any weaknesses.

“A good rule of thumb would be any building no more than 20 to 30 years old on the coast really needs to be examined and looked at,” he said.

Pannkuk is not involved with the Carolina Surf condos, and does not know the extent of the damage or building specifics.

When it comes to building in a coastal climate, he noted that it is a corrosive environment. “It is very hard on the exterior of buildings,” he said.

While corrosion cannot be prevented, it can be delayed. Taking steps such as annually or bi-annually power washing a building’s exterior to remove accumulated salt, and using the correct cleaning products can help preserve the building. “It significantly reduces the ability for salt to get into the structure,” Pannkuk said.

The Carolina Surf building remains upright, despite damage sustained.


Tagged categories: concrete; Corrosion; Exposure conditions; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Residential Construction; Salt exposure

Comment from chris atkins, (7/13/2017, 7:00 AM)

corrosion can be prevented, if its steel paint it, if its reinforced concrete apply cathodic protection

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