World War II Museum sues engineer over costly design mistakes at downtown New Orleans hotel

World War II Museum sues engineer over costly design mistakes at downtown New Orleans hotel

Source: https://www.nola.com, July 17, 2019
By: Chad Calder

The National World War II Museum has sued the structural engineer of its eight-story hotel under construction downtown, saying some of the steel beams used were too short and unable to handle the weight of the building.

The lawsuit says mistakes made by subcontractor DeSimone Consulting Engineering delayed the construction of the $65 million hotel and have cost the museum well over $1 million.

The lawsuit was filed in Orleans Civil District Court in April by World War II Theatre Inc., the nonprofit entity building the hotel. It has since been moved to federal court.

The hotel is currently under construction at Magazine Street and Andrew Higgins Boulevard in the museum’s Warehouse District complex. The museum issued a statement saying the structural issues outlined in the lawsuit have been addressed.

“There are no concerns regarding the structural integrity of the building — this dispute concerns repair costs, delays and delay costs,” spokeswoman Michelle Moore said. “The hotel is scheduled to open later this year, and it has not impacted any other construction projects on the museum’s campus.”

The attorneys for New York-based DeSimone could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The 230-room hotel and convention center was announced in 2016 as a key part to the museum’s mission of becoming an education and research destination. It was slated to open earlier this year.

According to the lawsuit, general contractor Palmisano notified the museum in April 2018 that steel beams it had installed on the second and third floors on the east side of the building appeared to be sagging after the steel deck was installed.

It says DeSimone confirmed that the beams they had designed were undersized and insufficient to handle the weight of the building. Palmisano then had to construct additional beams and reinforce five beams on the second floor. It also had to remove six on the third floor and install larger beams in their place.

Then in August, Palmisano told the museum that another structural steel beam on the third floor was too small and insufficient to support the weight of the six floors above it. The suit claims DeSimone acknowledged the errors and conceded they needed to be taken care of.

The company notified Palmisano and told it to stop work on the concrete block wall while they addressed the problem.

For the next nine days, it said, “Palmisano repeatedly asked DeSimone if the building was safe and whether structural shoring was required.”

The suit does not say whether Palmisano ever got an answer.

In the meantime, the museum ordered a third-party review of the entire design and DeSimone told Palmisano to stop all work on the entire length of the building.

The lawsuit says DeSimone took no steps to review the structural integrity of its design, including the foundation, even though it issued the stop work order.

On Aug. 30, DeSimone told the museum that there were 27 additional places where undersized beams had been used, a diagnosis that would be confirmed several weeks later by Ysrael A. Seinuk Consulting Engineers, the third-party consultant.

The lawsuit describes museum officials as “greatly alarmed” and says they implored DeSimone to overhaul its design “to ensure the safety of the superstructure.”

The lawsuit says DeSimone said shoring was required in specific areas and that construction of walls on the seventh and eighth floors would have to wait.

But the suit says DeSimone refused to get started on the work immediately, which the museum says prevented Palmisano from finishing the roof and making the building watertight.

On Oct. 12, DeSimone told the museum that the foundation needed to be bolstered by two massive additional pile caps, each with sectional pipes that need to be driven 100 feet into the ground, further delaying the project.

The lawsuit says the museum had to cover costs of $433,100 to prevent Palmisano from stopping work on the project.

The museum is seeking a jury trial for costs and damages.

Also under construction at the museum site is the Bollinger Canopy of Peace, which was originally slated for completion in 2018. Completion of that project was delayed after problems emerged with the design of the canopy as it was being assembled onsite. The museum worked with the designer to correct the problem, but a completion date has not been released, the museum said.

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