Balcony report issues rot warning
New safety rules for buildings in a US university city have been drawn up after investigations found severe dry rot in a balcony that collapsed killing six students a week ago.
As the first funerals of the five Irish victims took place on home soil, city officials in California confirmed suspicions that the exterior wooden beams on the fifth-storey apartment had been extensively weather-damaged.
Emergency orders have been set out to enhance the safety of all new and existing buildings in the city, officials said.
The Irish students who died were all from south Dublin - medical students and friends Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh; Olivia Burke, who went to school with Eimear; Niccolai Schuster, who was at the same college at Lorcan and Eimear, and his friend from school Eoghan Culligan.
Irish-American Ashley Donohoe, who lived in California and was a cousin of Olivia's, also died.
Seven others were badly injured, with one of them being released from hospital in the US today and others expected to undergo treatment over the coming weeks.
The City of Berkeley released the findings of dry rot and included a memo by inspectors to senior management.
Among the new rules set down are for new balconies and other sealed areas exposed to weather to face stricter regulations on the type of materials which can be used and ventilation.
Regular maintenance inspections all also being ordered.
In the memo on the inspections, which began within two hours of the tragedy last Tuesday morning, Alex Roshal, manager of the city's building and safety division, reported dry rot on the joists which propped up the cantilevered balcony.
"From this location, the supervising building inspector observed that the joist ends protruding from the exterior wall appeared to be extensively rotted at the failure points," he told director of the city's planning and development department Eric Angstadt.
The City of Berkeley officials remained in contact with investment house Blackrock, which owns the building, property managers Greystar and others involved in removing material and safety checks in the wake of the accident.
The new inspection regime will enforce maintenance checks on buildings within six months of the rules coming into effect and then once every five years.
During inspections after the accident a second balcony was found to have suffered dry rot and was declared unsafe and a collapse hazard.
City safety officials said the plans for the building, completed in 2007, complied with all requirements in place at the time and inspections of the work were carried out.