Allyn Kilsheimer, the structural engineer hired by the town of Surfside, Florida, to study Thursday’s condo collapse, said he has already begun examining the building and will use a meticulous, computer-assisted process of elimination to attempt to identify the causes of the disaster.
He explained his process.
“Generally speaking, you visit the site, you try to look at drawings to the extent they are available, you listen to all the clatter that happens when these things happen, and just keep that in the back of your head,” said Kilsheimer, the president of KCE Structural Engineers. “And then what I do is I come up with in my head a listing, based on my experience, of here are all the things that I think could cause this kind of a problem, and then you begin assessing all that information… and you eliminate those possibilities one at a time… and then as you’re doing this you come up with other possibilities.”
“Unless it’s a plane or a bomb that you know triggered this whole thing, sometimes you can’t get it down to one cause. Sometimes… we don’t have enough information to decide between x, y and z, so it’s some combination of x, y and z,” he said. “But you don’t know what you’re going to end up with until you finish the whole study.”
Asked how long the study could take, Kilsheimer responded, “There’s no way I can put a timeframe. We’ve done these things and much more minor things can take a few months, very major things [can] take a lot more than a few months.”
Kilsheimer said the nature of this collapse could complicate the examination “because you don’t know what was there, even if you have drawings of what was supposed to be there.” He said construction never perfectly matches design, so the building may have differed from the drawings of its layout.
“It’s a huge puzzle,” he said.
Kilsheimer’s firm has consulted on other high-profile collapses, including that of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in 2018 and “the emergency recovery and restoration of the Pentagon after the September 11 attack,�� according to his firm’s site.