Don’t Let Construction Problems Become Construction Disputes (guest post)

Chris HillTo start our week off right, today we have another important article from guest blogger Christopher G. Hill, LEED AP.  Chris is a Virginia Supreme Court certified mediator, construction lawyer and owner of the Richmond, VA firm, The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, PC.  He authors the Construction Law Musings blog where he discusses legal and policy issues relevant to construction professionals.  His practice concentrates on mechanic’s liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.  [His blog was also one of the first construction law blogs I found and followed, even if he is a Duke alum!]  Take it away, Chris!

First and foremost, thanks to Melissa for inviting me back to post here at her great blog.  She continues to invite me back despite my being a Blue Devil (and I try not to hold her Tar Heel status against her).

So much of discussion relating to construction law and construction lawyers centers on the litigation of disputes.  This discussion comes in many forms from avoidance of such litigation through the early intervention of good counsel prior to getting into a project to what sort of resolution mechanism to use. Another branch of this discussion is essentially the right way to pursue your claim (or as some may read it start the dispute ball rolling).  Sometimes a payment bond claim is the best method while others a straight up contractual suit is the best way to go.

Of course, all of this discussion presumes that there will be disputes.  While I agree to some degree that in the Murphy’s Law riddled world of commercial construction, problems will arise.  These problems need not rise to the level of a dispute that requires outside (read court or arbitrator) intervention.  A few tips that are easy to write, but admittedly hard to practice at times can hopefully keep problems from blossoming into disputes.  I’ve listed a three big ones here:

  1. Use “in house counsel.” Yes, I know that most of you engineers, architects, commercial general contractors and subcontractors out there aren’t big enough to either want or need a full time attorney on the payroll. What I mean by this is that when problems occur (or preferably before doing so), give your friendly local construction lawyer a call. As I learned from my dad, an ounce of prevention and all that. That 10 minute phone call may help avoid many hours of time and bills from your attorney later down the road.
  2. Build Relationships. This seems like more of a marketing tip, but it is also a risk prevention strategy. I have seen many a potential dispute get resolved with minimal or no intervention on my part simply because the general and subcontractor had a good working relationship. With the right team oriented approach and communication many a jobsite problem can be resolved in the pre-dispute stage. If the two companies don’t know each other, this is less likely to occur.
  3. Communicate Up Front. I know, I beat this drum a lot. Why? Because it’s a big deal. Setting the right expectations through proper communication and negotiation on the front end will set the terms of the “deal” and give all involved a guide for how to deal with problems as they occur.

Following these three tips will help you avoid construction disputes and the hefty attorney fees that come with the prosecution of those disputes.

Can you think of other tips that we can add to the list?  Let Melissa and me know.

Thanks Chris! As always, you hit the nail on the head (pun intended). For those that don’t already follow Chris’ blog (and why don’t you???), do check it out and show him some blog love. You’ll learn a lot, and be glad you did.

Wake County Justice Center- a LEED Silver Project done right!

Justice Center

The atrium

Yesterday evening, I had the privilege of attending the Triangle USGBC’s  “Talk & Walk” at the Wake County Justice Center.  The 576,996 square foot Justice Center was completed 6 months early and over 30 million under budget.  (The final cost, including soft costs, came in at ~$141,000,000).  Now that’s what I call a LEED project done right!

Interestingly, the County did not endeavor for a LEED Silver rating– the plan was to aim for a Certification.  However, as the process unfolded, the Team kept meeting the goals and points for a Silver certification without any appreciable additional costs.

The end result?  An “iconic but energy efficient building,” according to Tim Ashby, current Wake County Facilities Project Manager.  Tim was initially involved in the Project while working at O’Brien Atkins, which served as the architecture firm for the Project under the direction of Architect Andrew Zwiacher.

The Project was a Construction Manager at Risk project, involving a joint venture between Balfour Beatty Construction and Barnhill Contracting Company.   Did the contract type contribute to the success of the Project?  According to Project representatives, it likely was responsible for the 6 month early completion due to the high level of coordination.

Energy efficiency in the Building comes from the low flow plumbing (total water savings of 45%, 15% more than LEED requires), programmable and natural daylighting, and almost 98% construction waste diversion.

Jury Room

The large & relaxing Jury waiting room

Another interesting legal factoid: BIM (Building Information Modeling) was utilized.  Through BIM, a conflict was discovered in the space allocated for the air handling units versus the planned size of those units.  This discovery enabled a change to the AHU units (to make them wider and shorter) prior to manufacturer, saving untold delays in time and increases in cost.  We’ll talk more later about the pros (and cons) of BIM, but suffice it to say it worked very well on this Project.

If you haven’t been by to see the Justice Center yet, please do.  It’s a great design (17 elevators!), and a great change from the old Courthouse across the street.

Have you seen the Justice Center yet?  Thoughts on the design?  Share in the comments below.

Photos (c) Melissa Brumback. .Creative Commons License



Sobering Facts for Construction Safety Day

construction site fatalitiesHappy “Construction Safety Day” everyone!  James White of Maxwell Systems, has shared with me an infographic showing all sorts of data about construction fatalities.

As you might expect,  falls are the #1 source of construction-site fatalities, followed by being struck by falling objects, electrocution, and being caught between objects, in that order.  Together, these “fatal four” make up 57% of all construction worker deaths.

To view the complete infographic, click here.

Thanks, James, for the sobering reminder.

Cozy up with some good Construction Blogs (and a favor)

If you haven’t already, check out some of the blogs on my Blogroll.  These are other construction law writers from around the United States.  Even if they are not writing for your jurisdiction, most of the information is relevant to readers from any state- or indeed, for readers from many other countries.

In addition to the Blogroll, you can find a plethora of well-written, topical blogs in Construction Marketing Ideas, founded by Mark Buckshon.   Mark’s company is also responsible for publication of the North Carolina Construction News, which is on my “to read” list and should be on yours.

vote signAnd yes, if you think I have ulterior motives, I do.  This blog is one of the contestants, so if you feel so inclined to vote, please consider including this blog among your votes.  (In the alphabetized list, under “C”, “Construction Law in North Carolina,” which is the 14th from the top.

You can vote for multiple blogs, and I encourage you to do so as there are many good contenders this year.  The contest is open until the end of the month.  Happy reading & happy voting!

Recycling Your Construction Site: 5 Materials that Can Be Reused to Save Money (guest post)

Today’s guest post is  contributed by Madoline Hatter. Madoline is a freelance writer and blog junkie from You can reach her at: m.hatter12 @ gmail. com.  Read on to find out how those scraps and remainders could, in a pinch, turn into some cold hard cash.


During the construction project, there are a variety of materials that are simply tossed in the dumpster that can be re-purposed for other uses or used to enhance a last minute idea.  As you perform construction observation, take note: there could be tons of this material that can be used to save a great deal of money, if you know what you’re looking at. What recyclable materials are available on a construction site that can be reused later?

1. Wood – A lot of scrap wood is discarded during any given construction. While some of these pieces can be simply too small or odd-shaped to be of any real use, other pieces might be a perfect shape for other smaller projects. Frames, odd angle cuts, small pet doors, stairs, and a variety of other wooden uses can be created with this material that you may find yourself tossing in the dumpster. In any event, you could simply sell it by the pound to those who wish to burn or otherwise use the material which could recuperate some of the expenses of building the structure.
scrap wood
2. Drywall – Given the nature of renovations or new constructs, it is quite common place to have sections of drywall that are too small for a complete wall, but they could be used to patch holes or fit into smaller areas in other locations. As long as you can keep the drywall from experiencing moisture, it can be held for quite a long time before it is reused elsewhere.

3. Glass – If you’re planning a renovation project, keep in mind that securing the old windows can help you down the road in future projects. As long as the glass is intact, it can be cut down to fit a variety of other situations which could help save you a great deal of money on your next project. Although storing these pieces of glass may be a sensitive ordeal, the benefits could outweigh the risk as some plates of glass could be as much as $100 and up for each piece.

4. Concrete – Whether you are laying a new foundation or renovating a location, you could accumulate a great deal of wasted concrete. Although recycling concrete can help reduce the amount of waste in landfills, you can use pieces of this material to assist in other applications. Bits of concrete can be used to add stability to pipes and conduits that run underground, for example.

5. Copper – Not only does the wiring within a location contain copper, but pipes contain this metal as well. In some areas, recyclers will pay as much as $3 per pound for copper. In renovations or new developments, some of your expenses can be reimbursed by recycling copper. If you projects don’t produce a lot of waste from the metal, there is nothing that says you can’t simply save a collection of it until it becomes worthwhile to take to a recycler.

You don’t have to be a member of Green Peace in order to see the value of re-purposing or recycling materials from a construction site. There is a great deal of usefulness from these bits and pieces that can save you a great deal of money later on. The next time you walk a building site, take a look around prior to clean-up and determine what can help save money later.

Thanks Madoline for your thoughts. 

Your turn: ever recoup expenses through recycling or re-purposing construction debris?  Share in the comments, below.


Photo credit