By Beth Germano

BOSTON (CBS) – It was once a swamp, the Back Bay of Boston getting its name from just that. It was eventually filled in over a period of years and supporting the city it is today.

“We’ve done a lot of filling, putting foundations through that to support buildings adequately,” said James Lambrechts, an engineering professor at the Wentworth Institute of Technology.

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It’s a city largely built on pilings to get through that fill which leaves Lambrechts feeling confident that the tragic building collapse in Surfside, Florida would likely not happen here. “The foundations of buildings always have to go down below the Back Bay mud to a firmer layer,” he explained.

What those wooden pilings, supporting Boston’s many 18th century buildings need is groundwater to keep them saturated, and prevent any rotting with exposure to the air. That’s largely the job of Christian Simonelli with the Boston Groundwater Trust. The group monitors 800 wells placed throughout the city for groundwater levels.

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While it’s not yet determined what caused the Florida collapse, he has a theory. “Anytime you see something that sudden it’s an indication something with the foundation contributed to it,” Simonelli said. “For it to be that rapid.”

According to Boston’s Façade Ordinance, buildings in the city 70 feet high and taller must be inspected every five years. In Florida that requirement is every 40 years.

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“We’re looking for affidavits from structural engineers, reporting any conditions that have to be addressed on that building itself,” said Sean Lydon, a commissioner with Boston Inspectional Services. Lydon says many will be looking at Florida’s tragedy and asking “what if”. “It’s an eyeopener, keep an eye out, eyes tell you a lot, sounds tell you a lot,” Lydon said.

Beth Germano