The North American Deck & Railing Association (NADRA) has declared May as “Deck Safety Month”, although IMHO, every month should be Deck Safety Month.
Rarely does a day go by without my Google alerts, “deck collapse” & “deck fire” sending me an email about another balcony collapsing somewhere or someone’s grill or fire pit on their deck was the cause of a major house fire.
Two weeks ago the headlines were about the Malibu balcony collapse, where 16 people fell to the rocks 15 feet below while at a house party on the coast. Fortunately no one died. This time. Six years ago, six students died and seven were seriously and permanently injured…broken backs, crushed lungs, featured bones, when the balcony they were standing on to take a picture for a birthday celebration suddenly collapsed.
A balcony overlooking the Pacific collapsed in Malibu California over the weekend. Nine people were injured and four people went to the hospital.
Balcony Inspections on condos and apartments with 3 or more units are now required to have their decks balconies and stairs be inspected after a deck in Berkeley collapsed 5 years ago, killing 6 and seriously and permanently injuring 7 other people.
“Leys makes a good argument that even the other groups identified in the draft bill—general contractors, architects, and engineers—aren’t qualified to perform these inspections, despite their skills and training.”
Andrew Wormer Editor Professional Deck Builder Magazine
If California’s Senate Bill 721 is adopted without modification by that state’s legislature, periodic inspections of enclosed balconies and similar structures on multi-family buildings that are higher than 6 feet above the ground would be required statewide. This is a common-sense measure, especially in light of the Berkeley balcony collapse in 2015 that killed six students. But as Bill Leys points out in an interesting post on PDB’s LinkedIn group, one of the groups that would be authorized under the law to perform these inspections, make repair-or-replace recommendations, and certify that repairs have been properly completed are structural pest control licensees.
I would like to provide a different look at SB 721 Contractors-Inspections of Decks & Balconies that the Community Legislative Action Committee (CLAC), the lobbying arm of Community Associations Institute, is now mustering its members to oppose and why this bill may actually benefit multi-family housing, including CID’s.
You may, or may not know that this bill has come about because of the parents of the six dead and seven seriously injured Irish students who were on a balcony in an apartment building when it collapsed. At the time of this opinion, the builder has settled claims with the families and while the settlement is confidential, experts estimate the payouts by insurance carriers was around twenty million dollars. Now imagine if a deck at your Association fell and what the costs of settling that might be vs the costs of an inspection of your decks.
DeckExpert.com supports the inspection bill for decks. The Berkeley tragedy, the lives lost and the survivors who are left with serious life long injuries, has brought us all to realize the need to implement an inspection & repair program on a statewide level. This “accident” was no accident.
The collapse at Berkeley was on a path to occur somewhere-the building industry in California and beyond will argue against my points, but this tragedy was years in the making. There are many reasons for this-from architecture schools that don’t teach it’s students the basics of waterproofing. For example, right here at Cal Poly SLO, many courses, not one on waterproofing. I’ve offered to give a lecture at Cal Poly; my offers have been meet with silence.
Following the collapse of the balcony in Berkeley, that killed 6 and seriously injured 7 others, the California Building Safety Commission adopted me regulations on building and waterproofing Elevated Exterior Elements EEE for short.
The adoption of these emergency regulations will increase balcony safety standards by increasing load design, using decay resistant wood and Inspections of waterproofing before covering with other materials, such as a concrete overburden.
Testimony from the Irish families and victims has helped cause these changes. Jackie Donohue, mother of one child killed in the collapse has been leading the charge in bringing changes to balcony construction along with requiring inspections.
After Berkeley adopted ordinates requiring inspections, over 800 balconies in that city alone have been found to be deficient.