Could it happen again? Boston buildings under scrutiny after Allston collapse

Could it happen again? Boston buildings under scrutiny after Allston collapse

BOSTON, Mass. — Building facades like the one that gave way in Allston aren't something many of us notice, until something goes wrong.

Two people were hurt when that one came tumbling down Sunday; one of them was a young woman who was trapped and left with critical injuries.

But if you look around certain parts of Boston, you'll see lots of buildings of the same style, most built in the 1920s.

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Mike Chapman owns a building right around the corner from the one that gave way. Like that one, Chapman's had parapets along the roof line. He's since renovated it, and what he found during that process was eye-opening.

"This storefront was going to do the same thing if I hadn't totally demolished it and rebuilt it," Chapman said.

A major flaw in buildings of this style is the exposed brick at the top of the parapets that cracks over time.

"It's a big worry. If I owned the building, I wouldn't be sleeping at night," Chapman said.

He said renovating his building wasn't easy or cheap. The permit just to have scaffolding on the sidewalk was more than $6,000.

City investigators have not identified a cause in the Allston case, but  Boston's Inspectional Services Commissioner Buddy Christopher said Monday that investigators are looking into the issue of water getting into the bricks over time and pushing them apart.

Chapman said that's exactly what happened in his building.

"If the parapet develops cracks, which its liable to do after 100 years, as almost all of these buildings date back to 1922, the water starts to get in," he said.

Chapman found the water over time had not only pushed the bricks in the parapet apart, but even rusted out the iron girder beneath it.

After what happened Sunday, he said it's scary to think how many buildings all over his neighborhood could be falling apart from the inside out.

"I would say just about every 100-year-old storefront could easily have this problem," he said, adding that he thinks that "there's a lot of these storefronts that are in danger of collapsing."

Boston 25 News has reached out to Inspectional Services for comment on how they're dealing with this issue going forward, but has yet to hear back from the department.