Public Entities

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: http://www.dailymail.co.uk, 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: http://stlrecord.com/, 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: http://www.securityinfowatch.com, 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

Roof issues delay opening of $1.5B Mercedes-Benz Stadium — again

Source: http://www.constructiondive.com, April 19, 2017
By: Kim Slowey

Dive Brief:

  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium officials have announced that issues with the retractable roof will delay the $1.5 billion venue’s opening for a third time, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Atlanta Falcons officials said the new opening date has been pushed from July 30 to August 26, when the NFL team’s first preseason game is scheduled. A spokesman said the roof’s steel work is taking longer than anticipated, and extra time is required to adjust the signature design so that the interlocking “petals” fit with each other.
  • The roof has been the source of all the announced project delays thus far. This latest postponement means that Atlanta United, scheduled to begin playing at the stadium in July, will play elsewhere until the facility is open.

Dive Insight:

It was just a few weeks ago that stadium officials floated the possibility of a change to the July 30 opening date amid rumors that the roof was not going to be complete. This latest delay pushes the opening almost five months behind schedule.

However, even the August 26 opening date doesn’t appear to be 100% firm, as team officials said the demolition of the Falcons’ former home, the Georgia Dome, has been put on hold as “an insurance policy” in case the team has to start out the season there. The Georgia Dome field has already been removed, as well as other equipment that would have to be returned so that the Falcons could play there, according to USA Today.

The roof design, while troublesome up to this point, is the focal point of the project. It is designed to open and close like the aperture of a camera lens, necessitating precision in design and installation. The steel delivery was also a challenge. Team officials said the manufacturing of roof material had to be coordinated between 32 factories in the U.S. and Canada.

When complete, the venue will be the first LEED Platinum–certified stadium and the first sports facility to earn all of the U.S. Green building Council’s available water credits. The project also received recognition from the White House last year when the Office of Science and Technology Policy used the stadium — which will have solar-powered electric-vehicle charging stations and solar panels — as an example of sustainability.…

April 19, 2017

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

Source: http://www.latimes.com, 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: https://therealdeal.com, 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: https://therealdeal.com, 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 Realtor.com.…

October 29, 2013

United States: Design Professionals May Be Liable For Economic Loss Caused to Residential Homeowners Under California's SB 800 Law

Source: http://www.mondaq.com, October 25, 2013
By: Scott Hennigh, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton

Typically an architect is liable under its contract to the owner if it negligently creates a defective design. But whether an architect is liable for the effects of a defective design on parties with whom it has no contract has traditionally been a more complicated legal question. That liability question becomes further complicated when defective design does not cause property damage, but rather a diminished value of the property which is known in the law as strict “economic loss”. Usually economic loss is not recoverable unless the parties are in “privity” (meaning that they have a contract with one another). But a California Appellate Court recently held that in residential construction, design professionals can be responsible for economic loss that their defective design causes to parties that never contracted to hire them.

The Appellate Court told a trial court to reinstate a complaint brought by an association of condominium owners who sued the architect that had originally designed their condominiums for a developer. The trial court adopted the architect’s argument that it had no liability without a contract with the condominium owners. But the appellate court based its ruling on two things. First, it determined that under a line of cases dating back 50 years, design professionals may have a duty of care to third parties if a certain checklist of factors is met concerning the foreseeability of impact to the third parties such that it creates a special relationship. Second, it determined that California’s SB 800 was intended to create responsibility for design professionals. SB 800 was State legislation passed in response to a California Supreme Court case in 2000 named Aas v. Superior Court that prevented homeowner lawsuits for buildings not built to code, but which had not suffered any property damage. The court held that SB 800 was passed with the legislature interpreting then-existing law as creating such liability for design professionals, and that the statute’s language reiterated such liability. Thus, the court held that that condominium owners could directly sue the original architect for the diminished value or cost of repair of their defectively designed condominiums. The case is Beacon Residential Community Assn. v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (2012) 211 Cal. App. 4th 1301.

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June 13, 2011

DJ New York State AG Sues Exxon Mobil Over Brooklyn Oil Spill

Source: Dow Jones Newswires, July 17, 2007
By: Matthew Dalton

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sued Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) on Tuesday to force a cleanup of oil and hazardous waste dumped into a creek that divides the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, said Exxon hasn’t moved fast enough to clean up oil and petroleum waste that was discovered in 1978 leaking from its former refinery and now-inactive storage facility in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn into Newtown Creek. The lawsuit claims the spill at one point totaled 17-million gallons, much bigger than the 11-million-gallon spill from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska.

“Exxon Mobil – the largest, most-profitable oil corporation in the world – has continually refused to accept responsibility for what is one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The lawsuit also seeks “damages for injuries to the affected natural resources; and substantial financial penalties.”

A spokesman for Exxon didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Cuomo sent a letter to Exxon Mobil in February warning of a lawsuit. “We’ve reached a juncture with them where the only avenue to pursue is a lawsuit,” said Jeffrey Lerner, a spokesman for the attorney general.

Cuomo sent similar letters to Chevron Corp. (CVX), Keyspan Corp. (KSE) and Phelps Dodge Corp. (PD), although he has yet to act against those companies.

“Conversations are ongoing with them,” Lerner said.…