Womble Carlyle Construction Industry Blog

Following the construction industry and related legal topics in the United States.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

BIM for Facilities Management

Today I listened in on a webinar presented by Autodesk on the subject of BIM in Facilities Management. Although I am a construction lawyer, not an architect or a facilities manager, I could readily see the value of BIM to facilities managers. To be able to have at one's fingertips complete information on all your facilities, including the physical structure, the mechanical and electrical systems, furnishings, furniture and equipment is quite remarkable. And although FM Desktop can amass much of this information, it is lacking the information that a BIM can provide, and now can be exported, as I understand it directly from Autodesk's REVIT in which the model was created.

I realize that some federal and state governmental agencies are now requiring the use of BIM in designing new buildings. I think large private institutional owners are not there yet, and it may be because the architects they typically use are not educating the owners about the benefits of BIM and giving them the opportunity to take advantage of these opportunities. From what I understand, most architects are still telling their owner clients that "BIM will not be used on this project". It's time for that to change.

In fact, it seems to me that the greatest value of BIM, when all is said and done, may be in the area of facilities management. (This post submitted by Karen Estelle Carey, a member of the Construction and Real Estate Development team.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Couple Runs Afoul with Implied Warranty of Habitability

A recent NC case arises from an Outer Banks construction lot in Duck, which according to an online resource on Duck is a town established in the 1870’s and named for the many ducks and water fowl in the area. A migratory town with around 500 full time residents, nearly a quarter million people flock there every summer.

Waddling through the tangled web of the case, Developer One built a bulkhead retaining wall around a lot fronting the Currituck Sound in Duck. Later, Mr./Mrs. Mancuso purchased the lot individually, and then had their company, Developer Two, build a house, swimming pool and second bulkhead. Buyers bought the house and less than a year later, Developer One’s first bulkhead sagged and bowed. Not wanting to pay the bill, Buyers filed suit against Mr./Mrs., but not their company Developer Two.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals reaffirmed that North Carolina recognizes a claim for breach of implied warranty of habitability against a "vendor" who is in the business of building dwellings. The implied warranty covers recently constructed dwellings, including all "fixtures," so they are sufficiently free from major structural defects and constructed in a workmanlike manner.

After ruling the bulkhead a "fixture" due to its "annexation to the land", the court needed to find that Mr./Mrs. are "vendors" to hold them liable. Since (1) Mr./Mrs. signed the contract as individuals, (2) Buyers did not know that Mr./Mrs. intended to contract the construction to a separate company, and (3) Mr./Mrs. were actively involved in the construction, the court ruled that Mr./Mrs. were out of luck and could not duck their implied warranty responsibilities by contracting with their own corporation. (This entry posted by Ken Michael, a member of Womble Carlyle’s real estate development and construction law practice group.)

Source: Regis M. Burek and wife, Lynda G. Burek v. Bernard Mancuso, Jr. and wife, Frances Mancuso, 657 S.E.2d 446, 2008 WL 565112 (N.C. App. 2008)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Hidden Risks of Going Green

In a recent article entitled "The Hidden Risks of Green Buildings: Avoiding Moisture and Mold Problems", authors J. David Odom, Richard Scott and George H. DuBose of the Liberty Building Forensics Group, LLC caution owners and other parties thinking of building a "sustainable" or "green" building to pay close attention to the materials being used to determine whether the materials have been adequately tested to ensure that the materials not only qualify as sustainable or LEED certified materials, but also to ensure that the materials are durable and will last as long as other non-green materials. The authors note that "[w]e don't believe that anyone would deem a structure "sustainable" if it cannot survive the first five years without a major renovation because of moisture problems."

As with all buildings, the authors note that the most important components of a building to be scrutinized are the building envelope and the HVAC system. The authors conclude with several recommendations for dealing with the increased risk in using green designs including, 1) a technical peer review of the design focusing on the performance of the HVAC and building envelope systems, 2) adherence to institutional knowledge in the fields of humidity control, waterproofing and building envelope design and resistance against "building flush out" and other practices that have fallen out of favor, and 3) new green products should be examined and evaluated in order to weigh the green benefit against the likely performance of the product, particularly in areas of the building where the risk of failure and the resulting cost to remedy the failure are the greatest. (This entry published by Culley Carson, a member of Womble Carlyle's construction law practice group.)

Source: The Hidden Risks of Green Buildings

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mutual Waiver of Consequential Damages Re-Visited

From an Owner's perspective, the mutual waiver of consequences damages that was introduced into the AIA standard form design and construction contracts in 1997 and survives in the 2007 edition of these contracts continues to be problematic. While Architects and Contractors embrace this waiver, it is not so good for owners. In reflecting recently on how best to describe to an Owner the potential consequences of waiving consequential damages in the Owner's agreement with the Architect, I created the scenario below that illustrates how this waiver could be seriously detrimental to an owner. Although unlikely to occur exactly as played out below, the scenario is based on fact.

The Architect makes a negligent mistake in the mechanical design of the HVAC system in an assisted living facility. As a result, the air doesn't circulate properly. Word gets around about how terrible the air quality is in the facility. There is some bad press about it, and in fact the air quality is so unpleasant that a few people move out of their units. A particularly fragile lady falls and breaks a hip while moving out, and the family sues the Owner, claiming that she would not have had to move out except for the terrible air quality in her unit. Another resident develops pneumonia and dies, and the family sues the Owner claiming that the faulty air circulation was the proximate cause of the pneumonia. More bad press.

Whatever costs the Owner incurs in defending against these lawsuits and in repairing its public image, and whatever liability it is ultimately found to have would likely be consequential damages. If the Owner waives its right to recover consequential damages, the Owner would have no claim against the Architect for the damages the Owner suffered as a result of the lawsuits and the bad publicity it received.

The point is that Owners should not lightly accept a mutual waiver of consequential damages simply because it appears in the standard form agreement. (This entry was published by Karen Carey, a member of Womble Carlyle's real estate development and construction law practice group.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Centralizing International Study on Campus: FedEx Global Education Center at UNC-Chapel Hill

As noted in the "Buildings and Grounds" blog of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and recently highlighted at the Society for College and University Planning’s annual conference in Montreal, UNC-Chapel Hill has gathered its various international program elements under one roof at The FedEx Global Education Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, designed by Leers Weinzapfel Associates, and Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee. Having a central home has improved the global education profile at UNC-Chapel Hill, with faculty, students, international visitors and others making good use of the Global Center since its opening last year. Although some question the ultra-traditional, almost utilitarian style of the building, a look beyond the red brick exterior reveals "a green roof and a large glassy facade. It is oriented around a central atrium that provides for serendipitous meetings between students and faculty members and also offers ample space for banquets. Classrooms in the building are open not only to international programs, but also to programs like biology and philosophy that might benefit from the international atmosphere." (This blog entry was published by Liz Riley, a member of Womble Carlyle's real estate development and construction law practice group.)

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education