There’s a lesson in the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in the Miami suburb of Surfside.  Infrastructure is key to our lives.  Maintaining it and upgrading it is crucial to our role as the most advanced  nation on earth.  A role that is rapidly slipping away. 

To have infrastructure you can count on, you have to spend money.  In the case of the Champlain Towers South, three years ago, in 2018 a consultant warned that the base holding up the twelve-story building was deteriorating.  The condo’s board took three years to decide on spending $16 million dollars for repairs.  Those repairs were due to happen this summer.  But the building’s board had waited too long.

Bridges, overpasses, and buildings under construction collapse in the United States every year, and you and I don’t hear about them.  But there has never been a spontaneous building collapse in the USA like this one. The Champlain Towers South disappeared in a cloud of dust in just 20 seconds[i].  On June 24th, its  136 apartments[ii] crumpled into a heap of concrete pancakes.  Only ten people were found alive and hospitalized.  And a mere eighteen bodies have been discovered.[iii] 145 residents are still missing. 

President Joe Biden has declared the collapse a national emergency.  The Chief Financial Officer of Florida Jimmy Patronis, called the collapse “the third-largest building failure in the history of the United States,” after only the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 2005.[iv] Miami’s top prosecutor, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez, will convene a grand jury to investigate the collapse and pinpoint “steps we can take to safeguard our residents”[v] in the future.  And QAnon believers have declared the collapse a deep state plot.

Three years ago, the consultant hired to inspect the Champlain Towers South complex found evidence of “abundant” cracking and crumbling of columns, walls, and beams in the parking garage.  Those columns, walls, and beams are what held the building in the air.  They were made of reinforced concrete—concrete poured around a thick wire of high-carbon steel[vi] called rebar.  In 2018, not only was the concrete in the columns and beams crumbling, but the steel was apparently rusting away.  

Champlain Towers South was supposed to be built to withstand the rigors of its position on a barrier island, a shifting sandbar on the sea.  It was supposed to be built to withstand salt water, storm surges, and hurricanes.  But on a sandbar, sinkholes appear and swallow entire cars and buildings.  Could the piles sunk deep below the sandbar’s heart have withstood a sinkhole?  

There was another problem. In 2019, the digging and construction for a building next door shook Champlain Towers South so much that one board member complained to a town building official that the construction threatened to undermine the Champlain Towers foundation.  

What’s more, in 1981 when Champlain Towers was built we were in the Reagan Era.  The safety regulations required of building construction were lax.  And that lack of safety regulation plus possible shoddy construction could have killed the 153 apparent victims of the Champlain Towers collapse.

In the end, the Champlain Towers collapse is a lesson in infrastructure neglect.  

America has failed to upgrade its infrastructure since the 1980s.[vii]  In the name of not leaving a government debt for the kids and grandkids of baby boomers, we have saddled those kids and grandkids with a $5 trillion dollar infrastructure deficit.  

We are in a race for world leadership with China.  We need to have the most advanced infrastructure in the world.  an infrastructure other nations envy.  But today china has the world’s most advanced infrastructure. What’s more, Europe, Japan, and china all have high speed rail  while we are stuck in traffic jams. 

We need to build the infrastructure of the 22nd century.  instead, we have potholes, sink holes, and a building that just collapsed and left us a warning. 


Howard Bloom has been called the Einstein, Newton, Darwin and Freud of the 21st century by Britain’s Channel 4 TV.  One of his seven books, Global Brain, was the subject of a symposium thrown by the  Office of the Secretary of Defense with participants from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT.