The year 2021 will forever be etched in the memories of Floridians as a time of unthinkable tragedy and deep reflection. It was the year when the Champlain Tower, a residential building in the heart of Surfside, suddenly succumbed to its weight, leaving behind unimaginable devastation. The collapse claimed the lives of 98 individuals and forever changed the lives of survivors and their loved ones.
In the middle of the sorrow and chaos, Greg Batista, P.E. the president of G. Batista Engineering & Construction and a vocal advocate for the improvement of industry safety protocols, found himself in the center of the Tower collapse narrative. Batista, a seasoned engineer, had long been sounding the alarm, urging repairs and improvements to ensure the stability of the Champlain Tower.
“The collapse shook us to our core. It highlighted the urgent need for more rigorous safety procedures and comprehensive inspections since my colleagues and I had repeatedly attempted to draw attention to some critical structural problems,” Batista says. “As engineers, we are responsible for ensuring the stability of the structures we design and maintain. Honestly, the Champlain Tower collapse was a wake-up call to everyone.”
During his extensive career, Batista witnessed many other construction-related tragedies, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake that claimed 200,000 lives. Although few heeded his warnings, Batista continued to advise individuals, address government officials, and speak with fellow industry experts about the risks associated with engineering neglect and the importance of timely maintenance.
Batista stresses that the responsibility for necessary changes extends beyond the engineering and construction industries. “We often find ourselves caught in a complex web created by those at the top. It gets frustrating because, similar to the situation with the Champlain Tower, unless a catastrophe occurs, nobody takes a moment to consider that the warnings my colleagues and I had raised were not just whimsical attempts at challenging authority.”
With the Champlain Tower specifically, the tragedy was the result of a combination of issues, but the main culprit was spalling. Spalling occurs when salt water seeps into the concrete, damaging the reinforcing steel and causing the concrete to rupture.
“The Champlain Towers Board had prior knowledge of the building’s structural issues, including spalling. Despite that, they chose band-aid solutions instead of addressing the root cause,” Batista reveals. “This is at the heart of the problem: boards are grossly uninformed, and they place cost-saving strategies above everything else.”
Just a few decades ago, cutting corners and bribing inspectors have unfortunately been practiced in the Florida construction industry. “These unethical practices not only compromise the structural integrity of buildings in the remaining useful life of many structures, but also jeopardize the lives of residents, workers, and visitors. Now more than ever, we need an industry culture shift that puts long-term structural integrity as the top priority,” Batista says.
Batista emphasizes that adequate funding, extensive structural assessments, strengthening building codes, and prompt repairs are crucial to preventing construction catastrophes. Above all, authority figures need to listen closely to industry experts and collaborate with them to ensure the passage of effective laws.
Batista’s passion for promoting safety and preventing negligence in the engineering industry has also inspired him to write several books that include many safety recommendations based on his and his colleagues’ expertise. In the second edition of his recent book “Negligence! Averting Disaster at Your Building: Lessons Learned from the Champlain Towers Collapse,” Batista taps into his experience of the tragedy, offering insights on how the disaster could have been prevented and highlighting the lessons the public can learn from it.
Owing to Batista’s relentless dedication to creating positive change, many of the recommendations from the book were passed in the form of new laws by the Florida Legislature. Nonetheless, with the national infrastructure crisis continuing, marked by a number of occasional collapses across the country, he refuses to stop raising awareness and pushing for more legislative progress.
“We must strive for a future where tragedies like this become relics of the past,” he says. “The Champlain Tower collapse was preventable, but sadly, no one listened to our warnings. Still, we need to keep in mind that the power to transform the tragedy into a catalyst for change is in our own hands. If we work together and share knowledge, we can build resilient communities where everyone feels secure in their homes and places peace of mind in our collective foundation.”
Members of the editorial and news staff of the Daily Caller were not involved in the creation of this content.