A Collection of Sticks: Costco Apartment Construction Collapse

A 3-story section of The Collection, the Morgan Group’s 528-unit apartment complex under construction behind the new Costco on Weslayan and Richmond apparently collapsed early Sunday. A Swamplot reader sends in these photos of the scene following the accident, along with a few sharp comments:

The 4 story “stick built” apartment facility known as “The Collection” (www.collectionliving.com) became a “collection of sticks” early Sunday morning. It seems as if the contractors and the Morgan Group were in a Thanksgiving hurry to get home for turkey and giblets and forgot to “tie in” to the adjoining 3 and 4 story section of the main building.

Good thing it was a Sunday as Monday morning will bring back a tribe of contractors to push to get this facility on the Harris County Tax Roll by Summer 2009….Someone could have been seriously hurt if not killed. The Morgan Group should be “thankful” this Thanksgiving that it was not the case – and that they can “rush” to completion.


A view of the signs in front of the project, at 3333 Weslayan. The tag line underneath the Morgan logo at the bottom reads “Excellence from the Ground Up”:

A wider view of the scene from Sunday:

And another view of the downed 3-story section:

Our source claims the accident was waiting to happen:

This is another great example of cheap construction in Houston. I bet if someone checked (City Code Enforcement) one might discover that the Developer is building this “tinder box” marketed as a “high end” luxury residential rental with the wrong joists, braces and wood framing too. Could you imagine if this project was completed and this were to happen? Makes you wonder who approves these projects — City Engineers?

12 Comment

  • How is this an example of cheep construction allowed by the City of Houston?

    Universal Codes and ASTM standards for wood construction allow this and apartments are built exactly like this all over the country following these codes (variances do occur for weather zones). The city follows building codes that are used and accepted through the US and the modern world.

    Does Houston have a lack of inspectors in it’s Code Enforcement division? YES!!! Would the collapse have been prevented if the City had a well manned team of inspectors? Maybe.

    Does this indict all contractor and developers as greedy people building crap to just make a buck? NO.

    To me, this is an unfortunate incident with a contractor not following code. The developer may or may not have know this was going on (most probably not). I would guarantee this developer would hire an independent inspector, withhold some pay for the contractor (or even fire the current one), and correct this quickly. The developer won’t be able to make his “buck” unless he fixes this.

  • Why the glee with part of this project falling over? The “sources” seem to be too happy, too willing and too ready to grave dance at the first sign of trouble. I don’t get it. Is it just sour grapes or more NIMBY BS?

    With regard to the “sources” themselves, who are they? What are their qualifications to judge construction, especially pre-engineered floor joists, roof joists and rafters? Were these “sources” on the job and did they inspect the work and or accident? Seems to me they were lurking outside the construction fence with a camera and miraculously became construction experts.

    Also, “cheap construction” and “tinder box” seem a little over the top. It’s an apartment building for crying out loud. It’s not a ultra-high end custom home with a mammoth budget. By nature, the costs of construction need to be low to a degree to make the project work.

    “Tinder box?” What does that refer to? Using yellow pine wood framing? What else would you propose? Redwood? Teak? Ash? Structural steel? Cinder blocks? We are in Texas…that is what is used in 95% of residential construction. If “tinder box” refers to the potential for a fire loss due to the wood framing, then don’t look behind your own sheet rock!

    Give me a break with this stupid and alarmist non-story and ignorant “reporting.”

  • Why is it that all new apartment projects are called luxury condos, luxury patio-homes, luxury-lofts? No matter what you call it, in 10-15 years it will be a turd, with all that apartment living fun, plunger-flush toilets, patio-grilling with the toaster-oven, the whiff of freshly baked crack-cocaine, and raw sewage flowing down the staits from your neighbor who only chooses to consume cheese products. But everybody will have granite countertops and stainless applicances. woop.

  • As many old crappy apartment complexes that exist in this city, there are plenty of old and good ones.

    Most of the old good ones in the loop are actually disappearing because the demand is there for a larger apartment complex.

    Just look at the one that that is the subject of this post. Across the street (Cummins) there is three or four complexes that are nice older facilities. I’ve had friends that lived in two of them. They are limited in that they are only two floors.

    While the term “luxury” is as meaningful as the terms “green”, “eco-friendly”, “sustainability”, and “quality of life”; you need to realize they are just marketing terms.

    I guess the important thing is that they are a lot nice older apartment complexes that haven’t and aren’t likely to become slums in this city.

  • The developer is now stuck trying to lease units in “that building that fell down during construction”.

  • The reality is that the potentially leasers of this complex will not likely know about this at all.

    Many of the these “luxury” apartments appeal to recent college grads and young professionals that just moved to Houston. The higher rents charged in these buildings for the Houston area are often considered a value compared to prices in other markets (particularly the northeast and west) plus the amenities.

    While to many involved in reading the real estate news and blogs like this realized “luxury” are silly marketing terms, they actually work in attracting new residents.

  • FYI- The developer (the Morgan Group) is the probably the Contractor. This arrangement is typical for most multi-family projects as such. Construction accidents and defects are more prevalent than one might think. It is mostly related to the ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to construction that most buildings receive. The most exciting accident that I have witnessed on a project was for another major multi-family developer here in town where there was a fire at the bottom of a parking garage, which led to a secondary explosion of a pick-up truck. The fire doors were not fully active yet and the smoke damage was tremendous. This was not on a project in Houston for those who are wondering.

    I’m guessing that there will be a fairly logical explanation for the collapse (probably a lack of bracing to the main structure and the windy weekend that we had) as is usually the case in these situations. The COH building inspectors will be working overtime on this one from now on. I would not be too hard on the city given that they would have to be there 24/7 to prevent these kinds of situations. Thank god no one was hurt.

  • not that it can be told from the photo’s, but this looks like a case of framers not having fully braced the frame in progress and it meeting some high wind. the city of houston does inspect to code and although they may be understaffed, i have not seen them let code issues fly.

    i don’t see any reason to be happy. it is construction. if it went right all the time, those guys wouldn’t have jobs. the contractor would just have that little staples easy button.

    stuff happens, they fix it and move on down the road. this article doesn’t really reflect on the contractor, just the meeting of several problematic events.

  • Angostura said:

    The developer is now stuck trying to lease units in “that building that fell down during construction”.

    Kinda like Tremont Tower is stuck trying to sell condo units in “that building where a worker DIED during construction” (IIRC, he fell six or stories to the ground).

  • The Tremont tower had a host of other problems that residents that purchase units found out and that help kill future sales.

  • wood frame buildings are extremely vunerable while being framed, like this one. The sheeting on the roof and walls can only be installed after the sticks in the walls and roof are all done. A building with no sheeting is easily blown down by high winds. That does not necessarily reflect on the quality of work being performed. Just bad timing that a building with no braces on the walls or roof that is underway (carpenters framing it but not done).
    Also you would be surprised at how much strength the wall finishes like drywall and tile add to a wood building. Also the exterior siding or stucco. The way that a buidling is rated (any building bet it steel ,wood or concrete) against wind is based on the completed buildings performance.
    This type of collapse is very common (huundreds of times a year according to OSHA )

  • From the photos, this building doesn’t seem to be much different for typical wood framed, residential construction that’s common throughout the US. The collapse was probably more related to the timing of the construction than the quality of the ultimate product. But, I have my doubts about the safety of wood framed apartment buildings in general. In a single family detached house with sufficient fire clearance, a fire is likely to be confined to that unit; even townhouses make it hard for a fire to migrate quickly, unless there’s a common attic. On the other hand high-rise apartments typically have enough concrete to confine a fire to one or two units. But these low-rise blocks have maximum density and minimum protection, though cleaver use of fire-rated drywall and brick veneer can mitigate some of the risk. They seem like the least-safe form of new housing. One dumb neighbor can bring the whole place down.