June 8, 2017

The New York disaster that never happened: How one phone call from an architecture STUDENT saved the 915ft Citigroup skyscraper from crashing onto Manhattan during a hurricane

Source:, April 21, 2014
By: James Nye

  • New York City authorities and 2,500 Red Cross members prepared for the Citigroup Center to come crashing down on Manhattan in the summer of 1978
  • A catastrophic design flaw was uncovered when an architecture student phoned the building’s chief engineer
  • He discovered that the building could not withstand high winds
  • Hurricane Ella began to form off the East Coast in August 1978 – launching authorities into action
  • Disaster planners believed that 18 blocks of Midtown would be destroyed if the building came down
  • Contingency plans were made in secret and the story was not made public for nearly 20-years

With its distinctive 45-degree diagonal crown the Citigroup Center is one of Manhattan’s most prominent skyscrapers.

But nearly 40 years ago, as a hurricane threatened the Eastern Seaboard, New York’s Office of Emergency Management was hurriedly planning a mass evacuation of Midtown in case the tower collapsed – decimating 18 blocks of Midtown like dominoes all the way to Central Park.

Thankfully, that plan was never put into action, and the story of how just one phone call from an architecture undergraduate set off the chain of events that saved New York City from certain disaster went untold for almost 20-years.

When it was topped-out in 1977, the 59-story, $195 million skyscraper on Lexington Avenue was the seventh-tallest building in the world.

In fact, the most distinctive part of its construction are its four massive, 114-foot-tall stilts that are located in the center of the building, rather than its corners.…

May 18, 2017

Appeals court finds C.B. Engineering responsible in dispute over condemned Lake St. Louis home

Source:, May 17, 2017
By: Sam Knef

A dispute between a homebuilder and engineering firm over who was to blame for a newly constructed home being condemned shortly after the owners moved in has been decided by the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District.

In a decision handed down May 9, the appeals panel upheld a St. Charles County Circuit jury verdict holding C.B. Engineering Inc. of Union responsible for the condition of the Lake St. Louis home at 115 Place de Yeager because it failed to test the compaction rate of at least one layer of fill below grade upon which the home’s foundation was laid. The $615,000 home slid down the rear slope of the property, according to court documents.

The engineering firm faced cross-claims brought by Beris Construction LLC of Wentzville, which discovered in litigation brought by homeowners Carl and Jessica Eisenmann that, even though C.B. Engineering provided a certification letter to the city’s building department indicating testing was completed and ensuring the bearing capacity of the subgrade, it actually did not test or observe a layer of soil between 6 feet and 7 feet below grade.

According to the ruling, the certification letter stated that “the materials placed under observation met or exceeded the minimum compaction requirements and are suitable for support of the residential construction.”

Three months before the Eisenmanns were to close on the house, they had noticed cracking and leaking in the basement. As a result, the builder had a retaining wall installed, the ruling states.

The ruling also says that the engineer who was consulted for the retaining wall had not been aware of any problems related to slope failure when he was asked to design and install it, and he therefore did not perform any additional soil stability or global stability analysis of the area.…

April 28, 2017

Insurer alleges improper installation of sprinkler system in lawsuit over fire that destroyed Pa. building

Source:, April 26, 2017
By: Keith Gushard

A $5.2 million civil lawsuit has been filed in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas in connection with a fire that gutted the Titusville Towne Square building more than two years ago.

The 17-count lawsuit has been filed by Erie Insurance Exchange, as it was the insurance agent for Titusville Redevelopment Authority, and Melissa Bergman, a tenant of the Towne Square. Erie Insurance is suing architects, contractors and the owner of an adjoining building claiming negligence. No trial date has been set in county court.

The suit claims negligence and breach of contract by architects and contractors in the design and installation of an automatic fire sprinkler system on the fourth floor of the Towne Square building. The owner of an adjoining building is being sued for both negligent security of her building and general negligence for letting a March 17, 2015, fire spread from her building to the Towne Square building. The suit alleges the March 17, 2015, fire at the adjoining building rekindled and set the Towne Square Building on fire March 18, 2015.

According to the suit, Erie Insurance has paid out $5,246,662.15 in insurance claims so far and wants to recoup that money plus interest, attorneys’ fees and any other costs the court “deems just and proper.”…

April 19, 2017

Serious design, construction and maintenance defects doomed Oroville Dam, report says

Source:, April 17, 2017
By: Ralph Vartabedian

Design flaws, construction shortcomings and maintenance errors caused the Oroville Dam spillway to break apart in February, according to an independent analysis by Robert Bea for the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at UC Berkeley.

Bea, a co-founder of the center and retired civil engineering professor, found that in the 1960s, when the dam was being planned, designers did not call for a thick enough concrete spillway floor. Nor did they require the continuous steel reinforcement needed to keep its slabs intact during decades of service.

The design also did not require strong enough anchors into the underlying mountainside to resist movements downhill and from side to side.

The analysis is the first major assessment of what caused the massive damage that forced the evacuation of nearby Oroville and left the state with a repair bill likely to reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

It also sends a warning that the state’s aging fleet of dams may contain unknown defects that would threaten public safety in future wet years.

California Department of Water Resources spokeswoman Erin Mellon said the agency has not seen Bea’s analysis.…

April 18, 2017

Developer McKafka sues architect, alleging construction delays and defects at the Crimson

Source:, April 17, 2017
By: Francisco Alvarado

An Aventura-based architecture firm allegedly left McKafka Development Group hanging, delaying construction on its 90-unit high-rise called the Crimson in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood, according to a lawsuit.

McKafka, through its limited liability company Alpine Estates, accuses International Design Engineering and Architecture, or I.D.E.A. for short, of breaching its contract and negligence, in the lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month.

Stephane L’ecuyer, I.D.E.A.’s principal, did not return two phone messages seeking comment. McKafka principal Stephan Gietl also did not respond to The Real Deal, but his lawyer Bruce King said, “We had several discussions to get a resolution and have been unable to do so.” He declined further comment.

According to the lawsuit, McKafka hired I.D.E.A. on Feb. 8, 2013 as the architect of record and Facchina Construction of Florida as the general contractor for the Crimson. However, the architecture firm performed poorly, the lawsuit alleges. The Crimson, at 601 Northeast 27th Street, remains unfinished today.

“I.D.E.A. failed to timely coordinate with or respond to Facchina, prepared incomplete or inconsistent drawings and specifications, and failed to perform in a manner consistent with the design schedule,” the lawsuit states.

McKafka alleges that I.D.E.A. also failed to timely respond to requests for information, change order requests, or provide staff to ensure continuity of service. In addition, according to the suit, I.D.E.A. improperly designed the garage ramps that led to substantial structural changes. The company also improperly designed the temperature control system, resulting in high humidity in the condo units, the lawsuit alleges.

Other significant revisions at the Crimson included the relocation of piles and beams and the redesigning of the height of the building’s stairs and the size of an emergency generator room, McKafka alleges. As a result of the repairs and revisions, the project was delayed and Facchina charged the developer for the delays, as well as additional construction costs, according to the suit.…

March 2, 2017

Edgewater condo owners sue engineering firm for $1M in damages

Source:, March 1, 2017
By: Francisco Alvarado

Property at 2121 N. Bayshore Drive was affected by leaky HVAC, residents say

The condominium board at an older building in Edgewater is suing the engineering firm that designed the HVAC system at the property, alleging that the system caused extensive damage to the building.

In a Jan. 26 lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Biscayne 21 Condominum Inc., which represents the 192 unit owners of the mid-rise tower at 2121 North Bayshore Drive in Edgewater, is suing Fort Lauderdale-based Hillman Engineering. Biscayne 21 alleges that Hillman was professionally negligent and breached its contract by designing a leaky system that caused damage to the building’s interiors.

The condo board is seeking more than $1 million in damages, plus attorneys’ fees. Representatives for Hillman declined to comment, and Harry Malka, the attorney for Biscayne 21, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Biscayne 21 determined near the end of  2010 that the HVAC system needed to be upgraded and repaired. On Feb. 15, 2011, Biscayne 21 hired Hillman to determine the extent of the repairs to the existing equipment, design a revamped HVAC system approved by the association, and oversee the installation of the new system and repairs.

“Shortly after the conclusion of the project, the new HVAC system began to experience many leaks in the new insulation,” the lawsuit states, “causing damage to drywall and flooring throughout the hallways and corridors of the property.”

Biscayne 21 hired Bosch Group, a construction consulting firm, to inspect the work performed by Hillman. On Nov. 12, 2015, Bosch issued a report documenting “numerous design and construction administration errors and omissions” by Hillman, the lawsuit states.

Biscayne 21 was built in 1964. Prices of available units start at $279,000, according to…

March 10, 2016

OSHA: Contractor died because floor designs for Kiln building unsafe

Source: Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS), March 9, 2016
Posted on:

OSHA has cited two companies for unsafe wood floor designs that led to its collapse in 2015 and the death of Bary Berthelot, 54. He and three other workers were rebuilding the Jourdan River Steamer restaurant in Kiln, which had been damaged by Hurricane Isaac.

Berthelot Design Systems and subcontractor Great Southern Building Systems LLC, doing business as Bayou Steel Fabricators Inc., have been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“On Sept. 8, 2015, as workers poured concrete above, Berthelot and three workers employed by Great Southern Building Systems were placing additional supports beneath the concrete form when it collapsed,” OSHA said in a press release. “Falling concrete and other debris struck and trapped the father of four, who had 30 years of construction experience and was the project’s general contractor.”

The other workers escaped the collapse.

The OSHA investigation found the project’s original flooring plans called for a wood floor, but OSHA said the contractors did not get new engineering plans for a concrete floor and used designs that could not support the weight of the concrete.

OSHA’s actions pertaining to the collapse:

— Great Southern Building Systems was cited March 2 for one willful and two serious safety violations.

— The agency waived the citations and penalties against Berthelot, as he was the company’s only employee.

— OSHA issued one willful citation for exposing workers to being struck by material, because the concrete formwork was not built to handle the load on it.

— Great Southern Building Systems received serious citations for not installing formwork to support the concrete floor as it was poured and not having engineering plans for the concrete floor on site.

— Proposed penalties for Great Southern Building Systems total $79,800.

“Great Southern Building Systems LLC failed in its responsibility to protect its employees, despite being warned that the floor was unstable,” said Eugene Stewart, director of OSHA’s Jackson Area Office. “This tragedy could have been prevented had the employer obtained new engineering plans and followed the requirements.”

Great Southern, based in Pearl River, La., has 15 business days to comply, to request a conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


December 17, 2015

Limitation of Liability Clause Enforced in Favor of Architect by Georgia Court

Source:, January 2011
By: J. Kent Holland

A $50,000 Limitation of Liability clause in a contract was enforced by the Georgia Court of Appeals in a case where a developer sued an architect for breach of contract and negligence when a retaining wall designed by the architect failed.   The architect’s motion for partial summary judgment to enforce the clause was denied by the trial court which found the clause to be unenforceable.  In reversing the trial court and holding the clause enforceable, the court found that no Georgia statute or public policy prohibits a professional architect from contracting to limit its liability.

In Precision Planning, Inc. v. Richmark Communities, Inc., 679 S.E.2d 43 (Ga. App. 2009), the contract between the developer and architect contained a limitation of liability (LoL) clause as follows:

“D.  It is agreed that the [developer] will limit any and all liability for any damage on account of any error, omission or other professional negligence to a sum not to exceed $50,l000 or the amount of the fee, whichever is greater.  If [the developer] prefers to have higher limits of professional liability, the limits can be increased to a maximum of one million ($1,000,000.00) dollars upon [the developer’s] written request at the time of acceptance of this proposal provided that  [the developer agrees to pay additional specified consideration].”

As noted by the court, the developer did not exercise the option of the higher limits.…

December 16, 2015

Limitation of Liability Clause Protecting Owner is Not Voided by Owner’s Breach of Contract or Alleged Bad Faith

Source:, February 2011
By: J. Kent Holland, Jr.

A Limitation of Liability clause (LoL) in a contract was upheld by a court notwithstanding allegations that the project owner had acted in bad faith in its treatment of the contractor.  It was held to apply, however, only to the damages that would be awarded under the contract and not to limit additional damages for interest, attorneys fees, and other costs that were imposed under state statute.


Where a painting contractor and the project owner, Sun Company, could not agree on inspection standards and whether the contractor’s paint stripping met the contract specifications, the contractor left the job and Sun eventually issued a letter to cancel the contract.  Sun offset its costs of re-procurement and completion of the paint job against the balance claimed by the contractor for work it had performed.  The contractor filed suit to recover the balance of what it thought was due for the work that had been performed.  The trial court trial court rejected Sun’s claim that any remedies were subject to the contract’s LoL clause because it found Sun had acted in bad faith.

In reviewing the matter, the appellate court stated that limitation of liability clause provisions are not disfavored by the state and that such clauses are binding on parties unless they are unconscionable. Regardless of whether there was an unjustified breach of contract, the court explained that by their contract language parties may agree to waive remedies that they would otherwise have under contract law. The court’s decision suggests that this could be applied to both statutory and common law remedies if the limitation of liability clause was clearly drafted to express that intent.…

February 11, 2015

Oklahoma State University stadium lawsuit gets settled

Source:, February 9, 2015
By: Randy Ellis

Representatives of contractors who did renovation work on Oklahoma State University’s football stadium agreed to pay $700,000 to settle a lawsuit over plumbing system failures that caused sewage stench to permeate the locker room four years ago.

The university’s insurers paid for the initial repairs. Money from the settlement is being used to reimburse those insurance companies, said Gary Shutt, spokesman for the university. The settlement was reached in December and the lawsuit was dismissed in January.

The settlement resolves a 2013 lawsuit in which OSU and its insurers sued Cowboy Athletics Inc. and other contractors involved in the renovations.

Although it seemed odd for the university to sue its own support organization, Cowboy Athletics Inc. was named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit because it served as general contractor on the renovation project. Cowboy Athletics Inc. is a nonprofit corporation formed to raise money to support OSU athletic organizations and educational programs.

Insurance companies representing various contractors are making the payments, Shutt said.

The biggest portion of the settlement, $400,000, is being paid by representatives of Crafton, Tull & Associates, which did the architectural, engineering and design work on the renovations.…