SURFSIDE, Fla.—The developers of the collapsed Surfside condominium tower worked around local building codes by adding a penthouse that wasn’t part of the original plan, a review of town building records shows.
Plans submitted by the developer of the Champlain Towers South initially called for 12 floors of residential units. The developer decided to add a penthouse, which increased the building’s height by 15 feet with an additional floor. That put the tower slightly above the town’s legal height ordinance at the time.
The property owners built the penthouse after the Surfside town commission granted a special exemption to local height limits, according to a 1981 article in the Miami Herald. That allowed for these rooftop apartments at Champlain Towers South and a little later at Champlain Towers North, which was built around the same time.
It isn’t clear if the addition of a penthouse put undue stress on the south tower, though any possible irregularity related to the building is receiving new attention from local authorities and engineers after its sudden collapse.
The tower’s rooftop apartments would have added significant weight but they were accounted for in the revised design, said Roberto Leon, a professor of construction engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, who reviewed the building plans.