Why Building Collapses Might Be More Likely in Winter

Could winter collapses be more likely due to water?

Last month’s roof collapse at Lululemon on Walnut Street is sure to have rattled most of us who remember the June 2013 building collapse that left six dead.

Fortunately, only minor injuries were reported and the yoga store has since set up a temporary base elsewhere. However, the question remains: What exactly caused our most recent (at least, according to public knowledge) collapse scare?

Billy Penn’s Anna Orso spoke to Robert Mongeluzzi, an attorney who specializes in collapse cases, who pointed to winter-weather water as the possible culprit:

 — the physical change that occurs when H20 freezes and expands, and thaws and contracts wreaks havoc on aging brick and mortar construction; how many landlords or building owners are checking the condition of their brick facades and construction, and sealing accordingly? This is the most likely what caused the building next to Lululemon to crumble, sending 3,000 pounds of debris (literally a ton and a half of material) through the roof of the store.

Mongeluzzi also said that most building collapses occur either during construction, demolition, or during a time of “non-construction, meaning whatever fell apart was likely due to a lack of maintenance.” Meanwhile, Orso provided an alternate view from contractor Stephen Estrin who says most collapses happen as a result of demolitions “being carried out by incompetent contractors without a plan.”

Whatever the cause, Philadelphia’s Licenses & Inspections department has found itself under severe scrutiny following the tragedy and other minor related incidents. Just last October, Mayor Nutter’s Special Independent Advisory Commission, a group he appointed to assess L+I and provide recommendations for its improvement, released their findings, which may support the re-compartmentalizing of L+I.

Why, every winter, Philly’s buildings start to fall apart [Billy Penn]