LEILA FADEL, HOST:
So we just heard about the efforts to try and find survivors in the debris of the collapsed Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla., as hope runs out. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky says the search is moving slowly.
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ALAN COMINSKY: The magnitude of this collapse and the way the building collapsed in certain areas - you know, we've been able to go a few floors lower in one grid, per se, than the other - I don't have the exact number - but, you know, we definitely haven't been able to get to the lower floors.
FADEL: At the same time, investigators are trying to figure out what caused this disaster. Allyn Kilsheimer is one of them. He's a structural engineer working for the town of Surfside. Good morning.
ALLYN KILSHEIMER: Good morning.
FADEL: So now you're involved in the city's investigation. Is there anything you've uncovered so far that gets us closer to what caused this collapse?
KILSHEIMER: No, ma'am. This investigation is a very long-term thing, based on all the other investigations we've done of collapses. And right now we're limited in what we can do in a way because we're not going to interfere with the rescue folks that are down on the pile.
KILSHEIMER: So we're working with all the other things we can. And when they're finished with their job, then we'll be able to get on site to do some additional testing and observations.
FADEL: Realistically, how long is it going to take to figure out what the cause of this disaster was, based on past investigations like this?
KILSHEIMER: There's no way to give you an answer to that.
KILSHEIMER: The bottom line is there's thousands of things we're looking at. There's all kinds of engineering calculations we're doing, models - you know, models of everything. And then we have to look at all - when we get involved in a collapse, unless it's something like the Pentagon or the World Trade Center or Oklahoma City - for those, you know what the trigger was that caused the collapse.
KILSHEIMER: Here, we don't know what the trigger is. So we essentially are looking at all the things that are possibly - could possibly go wrong in a building design or construction, and then we eliminate them as we can, one at a time...
KILSHEIMER: ...Factually, from an engineering standpoint, not from an opinion standpoint. We try to do everything factually. And when we get to the end, we may or may not know a trigger. My experience is there may be more than one thing, and it may be contributed to by other things. And so we have to evaluate that, that if something wasn't done perfectly, and it was OK when the trigger happened, if that would have been done correctly, would that have stopped the trigger? So it's a very long, involved engineering process.
FADEL: A monumental task. And we've heard a lot about various structural problems with this building. And it sounds like there's not any one thing you're focused on but many things
KILSHEIMER: We're focusing on everything.
FADEL: Now, engineers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology are also investigating the collapse. How does what you're doing fit in with that investigation?
KILSHEIMER: Well, we're doing our stuff; they're doing their stuff. They kind of overlap, but that doesn't mean that we're not - we continue to do it the way we're doing it, as they do. We will share information with them. Anything that we find out, we share with them, and they will share information with us of what they find 'cause they might be able to figure something out faster than we can. So if we figure it out, they're going to double-check it to see what we think, and if they figure it out, we're going to double-check what they - to see what we think.
FADEL: Now, I'm not sure if it's too early to ask you this, but do you have a sense that Florida's building codes or code enforcement will have to change significantly at all, depending on what you find?
KILSHEIMER: I think the answer is that the current Florida building code is one of the best in the country, based on our experience throughout the country, but until we know what actually occurred here, we won't know if we're going to suggest that they might make additional changes to it.
FADEL: Now that the remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South building has been demolished, does that make it easier or harder to do your job?
KILSHEIMER: It just makes it a little bit slower. The bottom line is we have an additional debris pile that we want to look through. And it just makes it a little more things we have to do. You know, the bottom line is we will be able to do everything we have to do; it just takes time to do it.
FADEL: And has the demolition revealed anything? Can you now see different parts of the structure you hadn't seen before?
KILSHEIMER: No, the bottom line is there's nothing that - so far that gives me any new opinions as to what possibly could have caused this. But we have to do the engineering models, which we've been in the midst of since the Friday after this happened, and we have to do all the materials testing. And right now, because this site is considered a crime scene by Miami-Dade police, we're not sampling any materials on site because they need to do their thing first. So that just means we - takes a little bit longer to get to what we want to do.
FADEL: And is there anything you're seeing so far in the Surfside collapse that would lead you to be concerned for residents of nearby buildings? I know there's been a lot of evaluations about structural integrity of other buildings.
KILSHEIMER: The answer to your question is, you know, we can't see really anything in the Surfside. But what we're doing is we're looking at other buildings to see - based on our experience, if we see something that would be something that would tell us we need to - they need to worry about that, if that's the case, we're advising with that, and we're giving them ideas of what they should be doing to look at their buildings to make them feel more comfortable.
FADEL: Allyn Kilsheimer is a structural engineer investigating the Champlain Towers building collapse. Thank you.
KILSHEIMER: Thank you.
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