Friday 21 October 2016

Over 600 faulty balconies found in wake of Berkeley disaster

Ciara Treacy

Published 26/04/2016 | 02:30

Workmen examine the scene of the Berkeley balcony collapse. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Workmen examine the scene of the Berkeley balcony collapse. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

The planning director for the city of Berkeley, Carol Johnson, has outlined the construction precautions that have been taken in the aftermath of the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse.

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On June 16 last year, an apartment balcony at the Library Gardens complex in Berkeley collapsed during a birthday party.

It caused the deaths of five Irish students; Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke, and Irish-American Ashley Donohoe.

Ms Johnson told the California State Committee on business, professions and economic development of three key developments in changing balconies and exterior structures.

These include ensuring building materials are water resistant and that there is proper ventilation in apartment blocks.

"Firstly we changed requirements for materials that can be used on balconies and other exterior structures," Ms Johnson told the committee.

"Building materials are now required to be more resistant to moisture.

"Secondly we changed the design of the structures. Not only do they need to have ventilation but also access for visual inspections.

"Thirdly we required inspections of all exterior structures for buildings with an R1 or R2 occupancy within six months after adoption of our ordinates and for every five years thereafter."

It also heard that in the wake of the tragedy, 2,900 properties in Berkeley with balconies or exterior structures were inspected, of which 604 needed corrective action.

The hearing was organised to determine what state agencies and the building industry have done to tighten regulations after last June's tragedy.

Berkeley city officials and trade licensing bodies representing contractors, architects and engineers also appeared before the committee.

Ms Johnson also addressed the families of the victims who died as a result of the collapse.

"In conclusion, our heartfelt condolences go out to the family members who lost loved ones or who were otherwise affected by the collapse," she told the committee.

"We hope that the significant programmes we put in place assure that nothing like this will ever happen again," she added.

According to investigations, the balcony collapsed as a result of severe and extensive dry rot.

Irish Independent

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