Independent Engineers Report Believes Home Collapse Due to Long Term Water Penetration of Concrete Block, Which is Consistent With Lack of Prior Evidence of Structural Distress
Hamilton, NJ: (July 24, 2018), Following a request by Hamilton Township officials, an independent engineering company has issued a report regarding yesterday’s home collapse in Hamilton, in which the company believes long term water penetration of concrete block was the cause of the collapse, and which the company notes is consistent to situations where there is a lack of prior evidence of structural distress.
In a 5-page report, Ewing, NJ-based Leonard Busch Associates PC concluded the following:
“In conclusion and with a reasonable degree of engineering certainty, we believe the proximate cause of the catastrophic collapse of 1804 South Broad Street was from the failure of deteriorated concrete block due to long term water penetration.”
“We note that such an occurrence is consistent with a prior lack of evident structural distress (cracking, misalignment or budging) in the superstructure.”
Aided with technology thanks to Google Earth images from September of 2017, which helped to illustrate the lack of visual structural distress, along with their on-site inspections yesterday, Leonard Busch Associates found that the 1920’s constructed home had basement walls made from “an early form of concrete block – one truly made from sand, coarse aggregate and cement and little else.”
The company concluded the home “fell nearly vertically into the basement or possibly with a lean eastward, towards the all alley separating 1804 S. Broad and the single-story photography store next door (1806 S. Broad St.).”
As the report explains, while a variety of common problems can lead to residential collapses, a catastrophic collapse must include an initiating source “at or below the first supported level.” Additionally, examples of block masonry through the debris we found to be crumbling and weak. In one case, inspectors were able to break a “wet block face shell” with their hands – which should not be possible for block in “serviceable condition.” Moreover, it is believed that “chronic, long-term water penetration through the east side exterior wall” caused deterioration in at least one area of block. The report continues on to say “Block masonry, both historic and modern has been known to powder subject to constant wetness and particularly if subjected to frost-thaw action which a poorly insulated exterior basement wall would very likely have been.”
Five years ago (2013), the property passed housing codes for a certificate of occupancy approval. Hamilton Township requires inspections for rental properties at the time of a change in occupancy. However, as the engineers explain in the report, the likely cause of the recent collapse would typically not lead to visual signs of structural distress.
“This tragedy is truly heartbreaking regardless of the cause,” explains Mayor Kelly Yaede.
Earlier today, Mayor Yaede joined with Saint Phillips Baptist Church and the John O. Wilson Neighborhood Service Center – both located nearby in Hamilton – to announce a collection drive to benefit the two surviving children of Tika Justice, the 38-year-old mother who perished as a result of the home collapse.