The Old Well gets ADA-accessible Face Lift

Long time readers may know that my blood runs Carolina Blue.  As a double Tar Heel and a Chapel Hill resident, I’ve seen the Old Well, the symbolic center/emblem of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for many years.

The Old Well, before the renovation, (c) Kelly.arch3, CC by SA 4.0 via Wikimedia

Today, she’s sporting a new look:  an ADA accessible look.  UNC reported yesterday that it has completed its project to make the Old Well accessible to those in wheel chairs through a ramp project that has been artfully integrated into the area.

The adaption looks like it was always part of the original plan, and, far from being an eye sore, looks pretty spiffy.

Read about the renovation and see the new Old Well (an oxymoron?) and see the construction and finished project by clicking here.

Thoughts on the design?  Do you agree or disagree that it looks intentional and not out of place?  Share below in the comments, or drop me  a note.


Vacation during a Project? Time for your Construction Documents to Shine!

Happy Lazy Day Everyone!  What’s that?  You didn’t know that August 10th is considered National Lazy Day?   Well, it is.  And it ties nicely in with today’s theme: how to take a vacation during the thick of the construction project.

Everyone needs a break.  You are no different.  It can seem, however, that it is impossible to disconnect from the ongoing onslaught of questions, requests for information, change orders, pay applications, and the like.  But you can.  The key to taking–and enjoying–your vacation is to plan ahead.  This is the time for your construction documents to shine.  Make sure that your designs are on schedule; make sure that the change orders and RFIs have been processed so there is no backlog.  And make sure that your second in command is familiar enough with the day to day details to step into your shoes for the duration.


Then– be sure to give everyone notice.  Is it any of their business that you are taking some time off?  No.  However, everyone procrastinates.  So, if you give the entire team advance notice that you will be “off grid” starting on X date, they will be more inclined to get pending issues to you sooner rather than later.  They won’t want to be stalled on progress, and with a heads up on when you are out of pocket, they will make it a priority to get requests to you ahead of your departure date.

Will this be more work for you before you set sail? Yes.  A recommendation:  consider fudging the truth a little on your departure date.  Don’t tell the team the *exact* date you start your vacation— give them a day or two ahead of that.  Then you can use that “extra” time to respond to all of those last minute inquiries, and still be on time for your actual holiday.

Will things go wrong while you are on vacation?  Probably.  But will this advance notice help?  Absolutely.  Give it a try.

Do you have vacation-work horror stories?  Tips that made it easier for you?  Share in the comments below, or drop me an email. 

Photo Vacation by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Pix4free

Being the Bearer of Bad News (Sounding the Alarm on construction issues early and often) (law note)

Our recent look into termination brings up another issue important to architects and engineers–  how to sound the alarm about construction or building code violations.  Sometimes, a project owner may be so focused on project completion that they want to overlook the sub-par work that may be occurring in an effort to get project open “on time”.  In such cases, only if a life safety violation is reported to the authority having jurisdiction will the owner finally terminate a faulty contractor from a construction project.

Bad News

They kill the bearer of bad news sometimes, don’t they?

Even if the work is not a life/safety issue, it is important that when delivering bad news about the quality of work that your notice be early, loud, and frequent.  Basically, everyone involved should be aware, through written communications, that there is an issue that needs to be addressed on site, the contractor is messing up the construction, and what needs to be done to fix the issue(s).  If the owner is willing to live with the faulty work (and it is not a life/safety matter), then at least you’ve provided notice and warned them of the issue.

Even then, you could get dragged into litigation later on.  That’s right– even if you state, in writing, that something is happening which you do not approve of, and you limit your own further involvement in the project, you can be sued.  So if the issue is significant enough– you may have to walk off the job yourself.  

Think of the recent Titan tragedy.  One OceanGate employee has claimed that he was  fired after he raised safety concerns.  Despite warnings some several other experts that the submersible was not properly designed and safe for the underwater exploration, the company went ahead with the ill-fated trip.

As a design professional, you cannot always help owners help themselves, but you must try to do so.  You must document the issues, multiple times, multiple ways, to multiple individuals.  Even if that means losing out on a job.  As you watch others (but not your own Firm) get dragged into litigation over construction issues that you previously warned the owner about, your future self will thank you.

Your turn:  have you ever had to deliver very bad news about a project to the owner?  How did you do it? Did the owner take action?  Share below in the comments, or drop me an email.  

Photo (c) Bad by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images


Construction Termination Issues Part 6: This is the End (Tips for the design professional)

Whether your role is in helping analyze the contractor’s work on the project to certify a contractor’s termination for cause, or you are being shown the door yourself, and everything in between, termination is a subject that is ripe with potential problems.

pencil tipsConsider these summary tips as part of your practice, every time the termination idea arises:

  1.  Remember that you are the neutral and must be impartial between Owner and Contractor
  2. After you have made a fair decision, document your decision to the Owner and Contractor
  3. Provide options less nuclear for Owners– stop work; removing scopes of work; etc.
  4. Guide your Owner on proper termination, notice provisions, and the like
  5. Document project status, regardless of who is doing the firing and who is leaving the project
  6. Document next steps in the work on the critical path if you are the one leaving the project
  7. Discuss the use of your subconsultants if you are leaving
  8. Protect your plans and specifications, and only release them with protections (licensing fee; limiting language on the plans; and/or indemnity agreements)

Did you miss any of the series?  You can find it all at these links:

Or, use this link if you’d rather have a downloadable PDF of the entire series.

Still have a burning question that I haven’t yet addressed?  Let me know below or drop me an email.

Until next time……… Hasta luego!

Photo by Petr Kratochvil /Public Domain Photos

Construction Termination Issues Part 5: What if You are the One that Wants to Quit?

Architects and Engineers are sometimes pleasantly surprised to find out that they, also, can terminate those crazy, hard to deal with Owners—at least, if the Owners fail to make payments as required.

breaking heart

“It’s not you, it’s me!” (It’s you)

You can also terminate for Owner delays to the work, or where you think the contractor should be fired but the Owner disagrees.   Again, the standard 7 days written notice is required.  (See B101 §9.4).

Do you have to walk off the job if they are not paying you?  No—you could exercise the smaller remedy of suspending services (with 7 days written notice) until payments are caught up or the contract performance is corrected by the Owner.   (See B101 §9.1).   Suspension rather than outright termination is a softer approach when working with an owner you do not want to burn (too many) bridges with.

Can the Owner use your plans and specs?

The default AIA design professional contract provides that the drawings and specifications are the copyrighted work of the DP (B101 §7.2) and that the Owner is given the limited, nonexclusive license to use them only for the Project.  (B101 §7.3).  However, all bets are off if you quit because they are not paying you.  [Under ConsensusDocs, copyright issues are essentially the same].

 In a “rightful termination”, the owner’s license to use your work terminates.

So, you should remind the Owner– in writing, of course– that they are forbidden from using your plans.  Now, you can negotiate a release of the documents in exchange for a release of liability or indemnity agreement.  The AIA provides for a “licensing fee” under B101 §11.9.

The right to your designs is a critical one—protect it, and use it to protect yourself.  Consider both the licensing fee and an indemnity agreement to protect you in the case where you are leaving a project that is still being constructed.

Have you ever “fired” a client?  How did they take it?  Was it a relief to not have to continue working with them?  Share below, or shoot me an email.

And stay tuned for the conclusion of our series next week, in Part 6:  Termination Final Remarks

Photo (c)