DCRA Increasing Safety Measures for Commercial, Multifamily Properties


On July 1, a five-story condominium project under construction in northwest D.C. collapsed, barely a week after the tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla. which has left at least 90 people dead. 

In response, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, along with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), will enhance safety reviews of multifamily and commercial properties in the District. 

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Among the new initiatives are mandating proactive reporting of unsafe structural conditions, increasing scrutiny of engineering, and implementing real-time reporting of all required inspections. 

“The tragedy in Florida and the frightening collapse of a building here in D.C. have created a new sense of urgency to find these problems before they put people in danger,” Mayor Bowser said in a prepared statement. “These initiatives will establish an early warning system to catch potentially unsafe building conditions and keep our community safe.”

In D.C., the collapse of the future 11-unit building at 916 Kennedy Street was caused by a heavy thunderstorm, and five workers were injured, including one who was trapped in the rubble for nearly 90 minutes, according to NBC Washington. The project is owned by a joint venture between Beck Vissat and 10Square Development.

A spokesman for the D.C. fire department revealed that buildings on both sides of the project were compromised as well, with residents from one side being evacuated, while the other side was vacant.

The cause of the collapse is still under investigation. 

The new DCRA initiatives also include a requirement for multifamily owners to file structural assessment reports and remediation plans drafted by a licensed engineer for all repairs to unsafe structural conditions prior to permit application; digitizing special inspections conducted by private companies and engineers-of-record with real-time tracking of periodic and continuous inspections; and retroactively reviewing wall designs in all new multifamily, light-framed, wood-construction buildings permitted over the last three years.

The DRCA will also review all active construction projects by the ownership group of the 916 Kennedy Street property to ensure it’s in compliance with all D.C. codes.

“Under the leadership of Mayor Bowser, DCRA is dedicated to the health and safety of District residents, businesses, and visitors,” Ernest Chrappah, DCRA’s director, said in a statement. “These new actions are designed to identify potentially unsafe structures and proactively prevent similar tragic events from occurring.”

Keith Loria can be reached at kloria@commercialobserver.com.