Petersen architects owe Pitt $5.9 million

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2011
By: Chris Ramirez

Two architecture firms must pay $5.9 million to the University of Pittsburgh for problems stemming from bad heating and air conditioning work in the Petersen Events Center, an Allegheny County judge ruled.

Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James ruled last month after a nonjury trial that Apostolou Associates/Rosser International Inc. breached its contract with the school and failed to perform its work “with due care and in a manner that met the applicable standard of care” during the arena’s construction, court documents say.

Apostolou Associates/Rosser International is the name of a joint venture of Apostolou Associates, in Mt. Washington, and Atlanta-based Rosser International Inc. They worked together to install the on-campus arena’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, and are asking for a new trial.

The judge awarded the contractor $204,000 to be paid by Pitt based on a counterclaim from the contractor that it was entitled to an additional fee after the project cost was increased by $4 million.

John Fedele, a spokesman for Pitt, declined to comment Wednesday. Alan A. Garfinkel, the university’s general counsel, and lawyers for Apostolou and Rosser could not be reached for comment.

Named for Pitt graduate John M. Petersen and his wife, Gertrude, the 12,508-seat arena hosts men’s and women’s basketball games and other events. It was constructed for $119 million and was opened in the spring of 2002.

Among the complaints that surfaced were inadequate ventilation, problems with sprinkler and communications systems and more than 200 holes in the roof. The university’s board of trustees in 2005 approved a $5.6 million project to replace the roof.

In his Jan. 7 ruling, James ordered the university to receive $3,614,026 for “heating, ventilating and air-conditioning remediation,” $1,367,365 for professional errors and change order omissions and $378,419 in administrative costs.

The university will recover $600,000 it paid to settle claims that occurred during construction involving the architects and a steel contractor.

Following James’ ruling, attorneys for Apostolou and Rosser argued in court filings that a new trial is warranted because Pitt offered no evidence the heating and air conditioning system was improperly installed or that it failed to do the work. They claimed that damages reported by university officials were “inflated and beyond reasonable amounts.”

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