loading...

Too Much Digging, Not Enough Underpinning Caused Trinidad Building Collapse

by Nena Perry-Brown

Screengrab from video of building collapse, courtesy of Andy Feliciotti.

In Jaunary, the dramatic collapse of a building under construction at 1102 Staples Street NE (map) was captured on video, inspiring speculation about what triggered the event and relief for the minimal injuries to workers and passers-by who crossed the street just seconds beforehand. Now, DC's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is offering some clarity on what happened and what will happen next.

The owner of the building, DCRA, and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) were invited to a meeting of ANC 5D earlier this week. Donald Sullivan, DCRA's Program Manager for Vacant Building and Illegal Construction Administration, was the only one to attend the meeting, and he did his best to explain what led to the collapse. 

On January 15th, the southeastern portion of the building buckled under its own weight because excavation work had gone too deep without enough underpinning installed to support that work. While it is not clear why excessive digging was done that day, the construction team had been completing its underpinning work according to the plans approved by DCRA. Ultimately, the lack of structural support "expedited gravity" and led to the building collapsing.

Sullivan noted that while the incident should not have happened, the building fell in the "best possible way", noting that there were workers beneath the building at the time of the collapse and that it was lucky that there weren't any fatalities.

After responding on the day of the collapse, Sullivan and other structural engineers opted to remove the "imminent danger hazard" by dismantling part of the roof and structure. The team also removed the debris from the collapse and put up fencing and barricades, and a stop-work order was issued. 

The following week, DCRA's chief building official had a meeting with owner Dila Development, the structural engineers, the architect, the contractor, an inspection company and DCRA representatives from different departments. Upon review, DCRA found "no anomalies" in the plans; DDOT and the Department of Energy and the Environment were also involved in reviewing for public space permits and environmental hazards.

The development team has since submitted and received preliminary approval for a stabilization plan to reinforce the structure before other work can commence, but it cannot move forward with implementing the plan because they have not yet secured the proper public space permits.

To Sullivan's recollection, DCRA's construction plans did not require a covered walkway on the sidewalks adjacent to the building because the construction is not adding floors, although he could not speak to whether DDOT's public space review required a covered walkway, as was reported by WAMU last month.

Sullivan also noted that the developer has been responsive to DCRA and that the agency is considering changing its construction rules so that the structural engineer must be present on-site while work is ongoing. Currently, DCRA requires the structural engineer to make regular visits to the site.

"I am in the process of revamping some of the programs that we have in terms of illegal construction oversight with the city," Sullivan explained, confirming that residents should notify 311 if they are concerned about building work they see because resident inspectors can be dispatched 24 hours.  Ultimately, however, an inspector wouldn't have necessarily noticed whether there was sufficient underpinning at the site; this particular incident was the result of a confluence of factors.

"When you look at the degree and the density of renovation and construction that are going on within the city right now, we don't see buildings dropping every day," Sullivan stated. "This was an anomaly, and there were some safeguards that the developers were supposed to do that they did not do, and there's a penalty for that."

DCRA has levied three fines thus far against the development team, and there may be additional fines moving forward. The site is permitted for a 14-unit, four-story building. 

See other articles related to: trinidad dc, trinidad, dcra, construction, building permits

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/too-much-digging-and-not-enough-underpinning-caused-trinidad-building-colla/16460

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Ballston
Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Clarendon
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Rosslyn
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
Shirlington
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
Huntington
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
Parkfairfax
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »

Maryland

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Annapolis
Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bethesda
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
Potomac
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
Wheaton
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Hyattsville
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Bloomingdale
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
Brightwood
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
Burleith
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
Crestwood
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
Georgetown
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
Kalorama
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
Palisades
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Petworth
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
Shaw
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Takoma
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Tenleytown
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

Brookland
New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
Deanwood
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Eckington
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
Langdon
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
NoMa
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Rosedale
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
Trinidad
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Woodridge
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Hillcrest
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »