As engineers in Surfside, Florida, try to figure out what caused half of a luxury condo tower to collapse there, officials in Honolulu said it is far too early to say what risks Hawaii’s condos might face.

“We are hesitant to speculate on whether what happened in Florida could happen here because the cause of that tragic incident has not yet been determined,” Dean Uchida, director of the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting, said in a written statement. “Media accounts point to the structural integrity of that building, as well as it being built on fill area, but it could be a combination of both, or something that hasn’t yet surfaced.”

The collapse at the Champlain Towers South tower near Miami on Thursday has left 12 people dead and another 149 missing. Although officials have said it could be weeks before they can determine the cause, some initial speculation has pointed to signs that concrete was cracking even as rebar normally used to reinforce the concrete also deteriorated in the salty air. Others have specifically pointed to a badly maintained swimming pool that created problems underneath it.

As of 2019, Hawaii had 1,560 condominium associations representing 156,532 apartments, according to the latest data available from the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

While DBEDT doesn’t say how many of those are in high-rise towers, such buildings fill Honolulu’s skyline and coastal areas scattered across Oahu. It’s the responsibility of the building’s owner or management firm to maintain the buildings, Uchida said.

But if DPP is told that a building might be unsafe, the agency will “send an inspector to investigate.”

“If we determine that a building is unsafe, the Building Code allows the Department of Planning and Permitting to take immediate action to protect the health and safety of the building’s residents,” he wrote.

Regardless of whether Hawaii buildings are vulnerable to a catastrophic failure, Uchida said the Florida incident could prompt an awareness effort for property owners to “address any deficiencies before any failures occur in the future.”

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