As the world rings in 2013, The ProNet Blog is celebrating its one year anniversary. We had high hopes for the blog at the start of 2012, but those expectations have been exceeded in every way. In the last 12 months, we’ve posted 68 articles on architecture and architects, engineering and engineers, and the insurance industry that backs them up. This has allowed several thousand visitors to find the information they wanted and needed.

Burj Khalifa 2012 Fireworks. Photo via arabianbusiness.com.
Burj Khalifa 2012 Fireworks. Photo via arabianbusiness.com.

In the spirit of hopefulness that should belie the eve of any new year, we turn now to what got us off to such a great start last year, Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and one which is dominating headlines this New Year’s Eve.

For starters, tonight’s fireworks display is highly anticipated. One Lebanese businessman is reported to have shelled out almost $20,000 to spend New Year’s Eve in a 7,000 sq-ft penthouse apartment in downtown Dubai with an excellent view of Burj Khalifa. He’s just one of the more than one million people expected to party-in the new year Dubai-style. Good news! For those of us who can’t quite make it downtown by midnight, we can watch the Burj Khalifa fireworks live on YouTube!

Besides, squeezing in close to the overwhelming structure might be better in theory than in fact, especially given Kate Ascher’s recent  interview with NPR’s Terry Gross. The author of The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper revealed that, as Gather.com put it, “Yes, the tallest structure built by man could also be considered to be the smelliest.”

GROSS: Well, it really illustrates one of the paradoxes of modern life, that we have these just incredible structures that reach, you know, that seem to reach to the sky and then in a place like Dubai you have a 24 hour long line of trucks waiting to dispose of the waste from those buildings.

ASCHER: Right. Well, you know, you have to remember that a place like Dubai really emerged in the last 50 years. It was a sleepy, you know, Bedouin town half a century ago. And what you do is when you bring in the world’s, you know, most sophisticated architects and engineers, you can literally build anything, including a building of 140 or 150 stories. But designing a municipal network of sewage treatment is in some ways more complex.

Supermodel & Superskyscraper. Photo via Emirates 24/7.
Supermodel & Superskyscraper. Photo via Emirates 24/7.

Maybe the smell explains why, earlier this month, supermodel Heidi Klum tweeted a picture of herself with the superskyscraper far, far, far off in the distance. “If you can see past my loud outfit….that is the worlds tallest building!”

Some people remain undeterred, however. An Emirati mountaineer, Saeed Al Memari, has been given the green light to climb the side of Burj Khalifa and perform a base jump from the top on January 1. Al Memari had originally wanted to make the jump on New Year’s Eve, but the fireworks spectacular would, apparently, have made the stunt “too dangerous.” Once the fireworks are done, it should be no problem. Call me crazy, but this sounds… crazy.

Meanwhile, last week, a 32-year-old Commando in the Royal Navy, fueled more by charity than by adrenaline, climbed more than 3,000 feet of rope to raise money for the Children’s Happy Hospital Fund. Sergeant Rob Garthland began the Burj Khalifa Rope Climb Challenge at 7:00 a.m. and “completed 110 climbs of a 30 foot rope in HMS Raleigh’s gymnasium” by 4:00 p.m. He hopes to raise about 1,000 GBP for the charity. Help him reach his goal by donating today!

We wish all of our readers a safe, celebratory New Year! And we hope you’ll visit us for more design industry resources, updates, and information in 2013.

In 2013, Professional Liability insurance provider Victor O. Schinnerer will host independent subject-matter experts for four webinars, all geared toward Architects, Engineers, and other Design Professionals:

Computer-aj_aj_ashton_01.svgEmployment Liability Issues in a Recovering Economy

February 13, 2013, 1:00 – 2:00 pm eastern

Thomas L. McCally, Esq., Carr Maloney, P.C., Washington, DC

Design firms face various types of employment liability issues during the normal course of business. However, the downturn and subsequent recovery of the economy have brought these issues to the forefront of concerns for design firms. An attorney expert in litigating design firm employment practices claims will discuss the issues firms need to recognize as the economy improves and firms prepare to staff-up for the recovery.

Business Models and Financial Opportunities in a Recovering Economy

April 10, 2013, 1:00 – 2:00 pm eastern

Michael O’Brien, ASA, Rusk, O’Brien, Gido + Partners, Washington, DC

From funding sources to procurement procedures, the financial environment for professional services has significantly changed since the pre-recession economy. Both in the public and private sectors, the rules, risks, and routes to financial success are different. Professional services firms need to adjust their business plans to remain viable and to benefit from the opportunities in a recovering economy. Specializing in solving the business management and ownership challenges of consulting firms, our expert will share thoughts on the needs and responses of firms in the new service environment.

Technology Risks for Design Professionals

September 11, 2013, 1:00 – 2:00 pm eastern

David J. Shannon, Esq., Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman, Goggin, Philadelphia, PA

Technology risks associated with the business operations and professional services of design professionals is not new. However, the increased use of building information technologies and collaborative delivery methods, such as integrated project delivery, may increase the exposure of firms to traditional technology risks, as well as introduce new risks. Join our discussion with an attorney expert in technology risks to learn what exposures design firms need to be aware of and how to manage those exposures.

Insurance and Legal Questions for the Collaborative Design Team

October 9, 2013, 1:00 – 2:00 pm eastern

Rebecca H. Farnum, Esq., Thompson & Bowie, LLP, Portland, ME

Building information modeling and integrated project delivery provide a platform through which all members of the design and construction team collaborate. As with all new technologies and delivery methods, there are important questions the collaborating team should ask to identify and respond to legal and insurance issues in the open transfer of information in a contractual arrangement of shared risk and reward. Our expert will discuss what types of questions the team should ask before formally entering a collaborative agreement.

Visit our website to download the full PDF version of the 2013 Victor O. Schinnerer webinar schedule.

Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La LA!

Gingerbread used in architectural engineering competition

Tristen Black makes some repairs on her gingerbread building Thursday at the Tulsa Alliance for Engineering competition. She won first place in adult category. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Tristen Black makes some repairs on her gingerbread building Thursday at the Tulsa Alliance for Engineering competition. She won first place in adult category. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Santa visits the Living Roof at the Cal Academy of Sciences

A pair of reindeer graze on the undulating 2.5-acre living roof that tops the Renzo Piano-designed museum. (In lieu of a chimney, Santa uses an operable skylight.) Photo courtesy of the Cal Academy of Sciences.
Reindeer graze on the undulating 2.5-acre living roof that tops the Renzo Piano-designed museum. (In lieu of a chimney, Santa uses an operable skylight.) Photo courtesy of world-architects eMagazine

Whether you celebrate Christmas, or Hanukkah, or anything else this season, we at a/e ProNet wish you a happy, safe holiday. We hope you spend it with the people you love.

100 Years of Zurich

zurich100years_adA treat for Architects, Engineers, and roller coaster enthusiasts alike.

In 2012, Zurich Insurance celebrated their 100th anniversary. A century spent insuring people, places, and things has given the company a fascinating historical perspective, from covering one of the rides at the Chicago World’s Fair to utilizing special training to help employees handle the first computers.

Visit 100 Years Insuring America, Zurich’s special anniversary web feature, to explore the last century through the eyes of one of the country’s leading insurance companies. Check out cool black and white photos, old advertisements, and a timeline organized by decade.

“Zurich first brought its knowledge and experience in workers’ compensation insurance from Switzerland to America in 1912 to help its customers take intelligent risks.” Today, “Zurich employs about 60,000 people serving customers in more than 170 countries.” Read more about Zurich at their website.

Learn more about Zurich’s insurance program for Design Professionals here. And if you have any questions or if you’re interested in obtaining a quote from Zurich, contact your local a/e ProNet broker today!

Excerpted from the September 2012 issue of ProNetwork News, part one of a two-part series:

pronetworknews_sept2012What if Caesar had written “I came to the project site, I observed for general conformance with the Contract Documents but not for means or methods or work covered since my last visit” and then wrote a three word report? Caesar was a master of understatement and understatement leads to misunderstandings and, well, understatement. Architects have always faced liability for undiscovered construction defects but current economic times have forced many contractors out of business. With the typical lack of contractor insurance for defective work, A/E’s are the only solvent or insured pocket, leaving design professionals more vulnerable to construction defect claims than in the past.

Veni – I went to the site

Those preaching risk reduction used to urge that architects and engineers leave construction administration to construction managers and contractors. This approach allowed or even encouraged contractors, CMs, program managers and owner’s representatives to take market share for services formerly performed by A/E’s. It also missed the point. Design professionals do not seek to eliminate liability, but to manage the reasonable risks of design practice. Reasonable risks are those placed with the party able to control them.

If an owner wants an A/E to ensure perfect construction, the project is doomed to fail for two reasons. First, there hasn’t been perfect construction since the Pyramids (and they had different labor and insurance agreements in those days). Second, the A/E does not control all of the variables that go into a construction project. There are elements of construction installed and concealed by the time the A/E arrives for a weekly or monthly meeting and site tour and even the most gifted A/E is powerless to see through walls. Continue reading “Veni, Vidi, Vici, Lis Pendens: I came, I saw, I got sued – Part 1 of 2”

The Textiles of a Not-So-Famous Skyline

Photo by Jonathan Camp

Oslo, Norway’s waterfront has undergone major reconstruction and renovation in the last few years. Following the completion of Oslo Operahuset (white building at the left of the photo) in April 2008, developers pushed forward with several new commercial high-rises nearby. It appears that the architects of each building created a unique textile for the building’s face by utilizing a wide range of materials, colors, window patterns and building silhouettes. While nowhere near the height, number, or drama of other major world skylines, Oslo’s is fresh, clean, and has quickly become a favorite of mine.

In October alone, this eclectic and fancifully-curated blog jumped around from Pre-Islamic Civilization in Madain Saleh in Saudi Arabia to Volkswagen’s Car Towers at Autostadt in Wolfsburg, Germany to the Construction of an Amazing Underground Hotel in Songjiang and the triumph of a Polish Architect who designed the World’s Thinnest House. If your workday needs a dose of hilarity, trivia, or awe, we recommend a visit to Amusing Planet’s Architecture section straight away!

It’s true. The insurance industry has a reputation for bringing doom and gloom to an otherwise cheery outlook. Forgive us. Our business relies on our being able to spot negative trends in advance so that we can assist our clients in preparing for the worst. That doesn’t mean we don’t also hope for the best! Economic recovery is still ongoing, and we are thrilled that this means our architect and engineer clients are working and growing again.

That’s why, in our May 2012 post, To Hire or Not to Hire?, we mentioned some of the considerations and concerns facing design firms as they take on work that “could require additional hands,” including the need for accurate Professional Liability limits on their insurance policies… just a little worth-thinking-about-in-advance gloom.

Then this week, leading Professional Liability insurance provider, Victor O. Schinnerer, released its most recent Risk Management Guidelines, including an item on the Expanding Employment Liability Risks of recovering architecture and engineering firms.

“As firms downsized to face an economic downturn and restructured due to changing technology and new project delivery systems that required altered business models, employment practices claims rose. Add to that the challenges presented by the new generation of employees—many of whom consider their lives and the operations of their employers as public information, and a number of whom find the workplace to be a forum for their opinions—who are flooding the market during difficult economic times, and by returning military who must be accommodated in their former civilian positions or given preferential treatment, and firms are faced with a demanding and confusing employment perspective as they begin to staff up.”

Continue reading “Expanding Employment Liability Risks for Design Firms”

Homes designed by a/e ProNet client Andrew Skurman have been featured in a wide variety of publications, including Architectural Digest, The New York Times Magazine, Western Interiors, California Homes, San Francisco Magazine, This Old House, Luxe. Interiors + Design, House Beautiful, and Gentry Design. Work by the firm is also included in the books Napa Valley Style (2003) by Kathryn Masson and San Francisco Style (2004) by Diane Dorrans Saeks. And now, Andrew Skurman has a book of his own!

In August, Princeton Architectural Press published Contemporary Classical — The Architecture of Andrew Skurman.

Excerpted from Princeton’s website:

“Skurman draws on an extensive architectural library of European and American design with the precision of an eminent art historian, skillfully adapting timeless design elements to suit today’s lifestyles. Collaborating with well-respected contractors, interior and landscape designers, lighting and audiovisual experts, and other consultants, Skurman blends modern comfort and conveniences into traditional settings. Featuring gorgeous photography and exquisite watercolor studies, Contemporary Classical showcases an exceptional range of residential work, including projects in San Francisco (Nob Hill, Pacific Heights), the Newport Beach coast, and Northern California.”

ProNet first got wind of Skurman’s new publication from lifestyle blogger The Style Saloniste who said, in her “fall preview”:

“San Francisco architect Andrew Skurman’s new book is essential for the collections of architectural students, interior designers, potential clients, and everyone who wants to learn about classical architecture—the real thing.”

And the San Francisco Chronicle’s review of Contemporary Classical was a rave!

“One of the guilty pleasures in reading coffee-table books about stunning residences is trying to determine which homes are pictured. Locals will have fun guessing from among the 20 anonymously featured in a new book by one of San Francisco’s most respected architects. [The book] features 255 pages of colorful photos of residences inspired by his love of French chateaux and classical Greek and Roman forms….”

The book retails for $60.00, but can be purchased now on Amazon for $37.80, and would make an excellent gift for your favorite architect. Happy shopping!

Item contributed by Leslie Pancoast of a/e ProNet Member firm IOA Insurance Services in Pleasanton, California.