Jan 2022

Saltwater Corrosion

With the recent tragic event of the building collapse in Southern Florida how does the property insurance industry react?

Collapse is in insured peril. The building was a 12-story plus penthouse concrete framed condominium tower with 136 residential units.

Property loss prevention engineers in our industry are not trained to evaluate the condition of a structure regarding the potential for collapse. In fact, loss prevention reports issued have minimal or any data on the structural integrity of a building.

Champlain Towers South Condominium (8777 Collins Ave, Surfside, FL)

What can be done? The Miamidade.gov web site indicates under Section 8-11(f) of the Miami-Dade County Code, the owner of a building which has been in existence for forty (40) years or longer is required to have the building inspected for the purpose of determining the general structural condition of the building and the general condition of its electrical systems. In accordance with Section 8-11(f), you must submit a written Recertification Report to the Building Official, prepared by a Florida registered professional engineer or architect, certifying each building or structure is structurally and electrically safe for the specified use for continued occupancy. Each page of the electrical and structural report must be signed and sealed by the engineer or architect.

Therefore, for buildings that have been in existence for forty (40) years or longer a Professional Engineer or Architect should recertify the structure and electrical systems.

Good preventive maintenance measure would be the following:

• Conduct an infrared test on critical electric systems every three years. If hot spots are found they should be repaired immediately.
• Ensure your building recertification is current for buildings that have been in existence for forty (40) years. If not, fines are imposed. Exemptions include:
o Single family homes, duplexes, and all other buildings with an occupant load of ten (10) or less and two thousand (2,000) square feet or less in area are exempt from recertification requirements
o Non-residential farm buildings on farms are also exempt from recertification requirements.
• Conduct annual inspections on the integrity of the structure. Has sea salt impacted and corroded the components? Is the rebar exposed?

How can Salt Affect your Property?

Buildings near large bodies of salt water (oceans, seas, or salt lakes) are at risk not only due to flooding and water damage, but also to the damages associated with salt water and salt carried by the air. Salt water could come into direct contact with key building components during floods leading to the corrosion of these components. Damage to these components could also occur at any time due to salt being carried from nearby bodies of salt water through the wind. Salt damage can even be seen on buildings not directly near bodies of salt water due to high winds carrying the salt. For example, salt damage can be seen in Florida up to 100 miles inland. Additionally, salt carried by the air could also lead to the corrosion of other building components that would not normally come into direct contact with salt water during floods.
Salt corrosion could affect several different types of materials that make up major structural components of a building. Salt corrosion damage is commonly seen on building components made from concrete. Concrete is usually used to develop the foundation of a building and could sometimes been seen in exterior surfaces and floors. Each of these consist of key structural components that support the building.

Salt corrosion damage occurs on many different types of metals and alloys. Salt corrosion could even be seen on stainless steel, aluminum, and galvanized steel which are all known to be resistant to corrosion. Metals and alloys are commonly used in building construction and make up key structural components of the building. Alloys such as steel are commonly used as structural framing members for buildings and major salt damage could result in the collapse of the building. Additionally, aluminum is commonly used in several different building components including external surfaces, roofs, and walls and severe salt damage could result in major damage to these components.

Other materials such as wood and brickwork can also be damaged due to salt corrosion. Salt water can penetrate into wood structures and lead to the structural damage over time. Salt water can weather away the mortar between brickwork leading to major damage to the brickwork. This could lead to the collapse of exterior walls and other structures involving brick materials. Salt carried by the air can result in damage to roof tiles on buildings. Roof tiles made of materials such as terracotta could be damaged due to salt corrosion resulting in holes in the tiles. The holes in the tiles may result in leakages and water damage to the building in the event of rain.
Salt corrosion not only affects structural components but electronics as well. If salt water comes in contact with electrical components, it could corrode the protective surfaces on the electrical circuits and a short could possibly happen. Shorts could result in an electrical fire which would greatly damage your equipment. Also, salt in water carries an electrical charge and could potentially harm nearby people due to an electrical shock. Salt is capable of penetrating into and damaging any outdoor equipment. Salt carried by the air can damage your air conditioning units and hinder the operation of the equipment. Salt corrosion could greatly affect the lifespan of electrical equipment in and outside your facility.

It is important to understand the possible damages of salt water on the components of your building and identify these damages as soon as possible to reduce the risk of key component failures.

Please contact Risk Logic for assistance.

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