Building collapse could have been prevented
In a 2013 interview, the CEO of the company building the parking garage spoke about how he was able to save 2–3% on building costs by using an architect as opposed to an engineer; engineers suggest that this was the deadly decision which led to its collapse.
A giant pile of dust stands where just Monday stood a four-story underground parking complex, close to completion, and slated to soon be opened to the public. It appears, though, that this collapse in Tel Aviv could have been prevented.
In 2012, Africa Israel won the contract from the Tel Aviv Municipality to build the parking garage next to Assuta Hospital. Yet before construction even began in 2014, the CEO of Danya Cebus, the subsidiary company carrying out the construction, Ronen Ginsburg, described in a 2013 interview how the company was chosen to carry out the project. He explained to the Calcalist, Ynet's sister publication. that they chose to use an architect rather than an engineer to save money.
"For the project to construct this new public parking structure in Ramat Hahayal in Tel Aviv, which we were chosen to build, we decided that an architect will be the general manager," Ginsburg said. "He understands problems with planning, environment, and others, and is able to solve these problems faster than an engineer—who is basically a construction worker whose only responsibility is to make sure that the building won't collapse."
Ginsburg explained that by using an architect instead of an engineer, "we have already reduced the building costs by 2 to 3%. By doing this when constructing apartments, it's also possible to save 2 to 3% on building costs."
For the parking garage, this meant that the company was able to save approximately two million shekels.
The decision to use an architect as opposed to an engineer is completely legal, and there have been many building projects which saw architects manage construction. The number of construction managers in Israel has exploded, and while many other countries require special training to become a construction manager, anyone with an engineering degree or architecture degree is able to be a construction manager on complex projects.
A veteran engineer said on Monday that the way that the skeleton of parking garages are built is critical, and therefore, the decision not to use an engineer to manage construction was especially problematic. On top of this, there have been many government decisions as of late to further cut down on the number of engineering supervisors due to requests by the Israeli construction worker's union. The Engineer's Association has warned that this may lead to disasters.
"We request that engineers supervise any and all engineering project," said Chairman of the Engineer's Association Danny Marian. "These (government) exemptions reduce the ability of companies to deal with projects where there is a high level of danger for the construction workers."
Israel David, Acting Chairman of the Engineer's Association explained, "Half of the work for a parking structure is on the skeleton, which should be managed by an engineer. The second half—the finishing work—should be handled by an architect. When the project was started, there was a shortage of engineers in the country, and therefore, it was cheaper to use an architect (on the project)."
Africa Israel responded by saying, "Ginsburg's attitude highlights the importance the company has in increasing to supervisory procedures, along with the supervising architect who acted as the chief supervisor on the project. The company will do everything in its power to assist the relevant authorities in an investigation. The company expresses its deep sorrow over the tragic deaths, and wishes a speedy recovery to the wounded."
The parking garage was supposed to hold up to 540 vehicles—and a greater tragedy could have occurred had the structure been open to the public. The Tel Aviv Municipality was to have operated and financed the structure for 20 years.
An investigation was already opened on Monday, and investigations into high-ranking officials within the company have already begun.