Engineering for the Earthquake- Dumbarton Bridge (News Note)

Engineers who design in earthquake-prone areas know that they need to design the seismic loads of their bridges to account for potential massive shifts during a quake.  (This is what is legally known as the professional standard of care, which takes into account what similar engineers, in the same conditions and community, would consider acceptable design)**.  The Dumbarton Bridge, the farthest south bridge across the San Francisco Bay, is no exception to this rule.

Currently, the Dumbarton Bridge is being renovated as part of the San Francisco Bay Area Toll Bridge Seismic Retrofit Program.  When the bridge is finished (expected in early 2013), the bridge will increase its ability to move from 20 inches of lateral movement to as much as 42 inches of lateral movement.

Dumbarton BridgeThe retrofit includes friction pendulum bearings designed by Earthquake Protection  Systems, Inc., which will isolate the superstructure from two pier structures where the main span of the bridge meets the approach structures.  A concrete taper will be used from the joints to the main span to ease the transition, as the approach span is 5 inches lower than the main span.

According to Earthquake Protection Systems president Victor Zayas, in a statement to Roads & Bridges magazine, the most critical part of the bearing is the bottom lining, which is a self-sacrificing, solid-lubricant polymer composite that was developed based on earlier research done by NASA in the 1960s.

Click here to read more on the Dumbarton Bridge retrofit.

**  If you missed my post on the jury instruction on standard of care, be sure to check it out here.

 

Photo (c) Jill Clardy via CC.

 

Should You Guaranty Performance on a Green Project? (Law note)

guarantee sealBy now, I hope you know me well enough to know that I’d never, ever say you should make a guaranty of performance, period, let alone guaranty the green performance for a new building.  However, sometimes caution has to be thrown to the wind to get the job– at least in the case of a recent GSA design-build project in Seattle.

There, the design-build team agreed that the GSA could withhold 0.5% of the original contract amount, or $330,000, pending the achievement of energy goals.  As writer Suzanne H. Harness, J.D., AIA, noted recently

The GSA’s approach is diametrically opposed to the recommendations of the American Institute of Architects, which advises both architects and contractors not to guarantee or warrant the achievement of a sustainability goal.  The AIA’s 2011 Sustainability Guide explains the obvious:  contractors and architects can design and construct a building, but the owner operates it, and the owner’s actions are beyond the control of the design and construction team. If the owner operates the building differently from the assumptions used during design, performance goals will likely not be met, even if the building is perfectly constructed. [Emphasis added].

Ms. Harness also correctly noted that professional liability insurance would not cover such a guarantee of performance.  So beware to the design team who takes such a project on: they can be held contractually liable, but there will not be insurance to cushion the fall out from any lawsuit.

Just DON’T do it!

 

 

Understanding & Modifying Key Construction Contract Terms

As I mentioned, I  was one of three amigos who spoke on a Construction Contract webinar last week.  We had a good turn out and lots of very astute questions during the Q&A portion.  While you will miss all of my witty insightful helpful commentary, you can check out the slides for my portion, on understanding and modifying key terms, here:

Drafting Construction Contracts

My comrades’ presentations can be found by visiting Chris’s blog (for payment provision issues) and Craig’s blog (for damages and dispute resolution issues).  Happy viewing!

Standard of Care for Engineers- the Jury Instruction (law note)

Not perfection I’ve previously talked about the standard of care for design professionals on construction projects. 

As you should be aware, the standard is reasonableness, not perfection.  To illustrate the point, consider a standard North Carolina jury instruction on the standard of care for engineers:

 “Under our law, a professional engineer is required to exercise that degree of care which a professional engineer of ordinary skill and prudence would exercise under the same or similar circumstances, and if the engineer fails to exercise such degree of ordinary skill and prudence under the same or similar circumstances, the engineer’s conduct would be negligence.”

For an architect, just substitute the word “architect” for ”engineer” in the jury instruction above.    Sometimes it can be challenging to meet a client’s expectations, and some clients believe that plans should (and can) be perfect.  In your discussions about the project with the client, be sure the client has reasonable expectations.  It is not reasonable to expect perfection in design plans.  Unforeseen conditions, changing criteria, and differing code inspector interpretations are all to be expected.  Educate your client about typical errors & omissions at the start of the construction project.
 
Do you have a question about the standard of care?  Drop me an email at mbrumback@rl-law.com.  Be sure to sign up for email delivery of blog posts directly to your inbox so you never miss a post!
 

Yes? Never? Maybe? Contract Clauses for Architects & Engineers (Tue Tip)

Make plans to attend a free webinar specifically for design professionals.  Entitled “The Bright Gray Line: “Yes”, “Never”, and “Maybe” Contract Clauses for Design Professionals (and how to find the difference)”.

The presentation will highlight challenging contract clauses and approachs to evaluating, negotiating, and managing those clauses.  Among the clauses which will be discussed are those relating to indemnity, the standard of care, code compliance, and document ownership.

The seminar is sponsored by Hall & Company and  presented by attorney David Ericksen, President of Severson & Werson.

When:                  Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Time:                   1:00 pm EDT

How:                    Click here to register

If you attend the webinar, let you know your thoughts afterwords.  I’m planning to attend as well, so we can compare notes.

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