PNN_1405Seen any changes the past thirty years in the delivery of professional design services?  Sure, you have—particularly in the area of construction documents. Raised stools and drafting tables, pounce, and lead-darkened calluses on the middle finger of the draftsmen have, for the most part, yielded to CAD. Although CAD’s promise of error-free drawing may have proven elusive, many of its other promises have been fulfilled. Some even appear understated in hindsight—in part because CAD and the Internet seem to have been made for each other. Their combined effect reduces trying to list all the ways CAD has changed project delivery to a futile exercise.

Like CAD in the ‘80’s, BIM seems to hold similar promise today—a fact not lost on contractors, A/E’s, and project owners alike. Digital models are more-and-more often offered or requested as “deliverables.”  And multiple models for the same project are not uncommon—as building team participants explore their usefulness at various stages of design and construction. Some models are used much like enhanced CAD construction documents, provided and controlled largely by the A/E. But many incorporate data contributed by sources other than licensed design professionals, including suppliers, fabricators, contractors, and subs. Not surprisingly, many contractors and construction managers view BIM as a means for carving out an increased share of the project delivery pie—and are taking full advantage of it as both a marketing and performance tool. Some of them have even become the primary creators and custodians of digital models. Of course, that is not altogether unnatural. After all, it’s hard to ignore a tool that can show what will be built—and also to be useful in actually building it. Continue reading “The Design Professional in the Age of BIM: Things that change; things that don’t.”

An expansive glass wall on the ground floor of the recently renovated TAT House opens onto a chic and spare outdoor living room. The third-floor of the house is wrapped in “an Ipe wood–framed rainscreen,” allowing “interior and exterior glass walls carry the sense of the outdoors throughout the interior.” We want to congratulate Santa Monica architecture firm fleetwood/fernandez on their beautiful design, as well as their clearly deserving win of Architect Magazine‘s top 2014 Annual Design Review Award.


Visit Architect Magazine‘s original post for more photos, elevations, and renderings of this beautiful project.

Shout-out Credit:

Alicia K. Igram, AAI, VP & Branch Rep
Design & Consulting Liability Specialist
IOA Insurance Services – Aliso Viejo, CA
Email: / Phone: 949-680-1789

Architect Creates LEGO Detroit


After all the bad press Detroit has received in the last few years, it’s nice to see that the city continues to inspire architects. For Jim Garrett of Redford, Michigan, it has motivated him to pull out his childhood LEGO sets and spend months faithfully recreating scale models of his favorite Detroit buildings.

“Twelve of those buildings are replicas of real Detroit structures, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Public Library in Midtown and the Fisher Building in New Center. Most of his downtown Detroit buildings are on view at The Henry Ford this month. Even the old red sandstone Union Depot, which stood at the corner of Fort and Third until it was demolished in 1974, is on display.”

The 51-year-old Garrett has been known to clear out LEGO sections in toy stores whenever they go on clearance, but these days it’s easier to find what he needs on the internet. For these kinds of detailed projects, he suggests the site, “sells specialized pieces like arched windows in bulk.”

When constructing Detroit’s tallest Art Deco skyscraper, The Penobscot building, Garrett was relieved to find “LEGO made some grooved bricks that perfectly matched the detail on the actual building.”

“I bought almost the entire world’s supply at the time,” he said.

“It took eight months to erect the Penobscot’s 47 stories. The model is 9.5 feet to the roof and 11 feet to the tip of the red ball at the pinnacle.”

Donna Terek penned the original article for the Detroit News, and it includes a video of the exhibit which is worth a watch.

As Garrett wholeheartedly admits, “It’s my hope that people who aren’t familiar with Detroit will realize there’s more to Detroit than crime stories and bankruptcy. I’d like to think it will help them get an appreciation of Detroit’s architecture.”

umbrellaWhat sets top-tier Professional Liability insurance companies apart from the rest are their risk management resources. These can include webinars and pre-claims assistance, which are usually made available only to their insureds. Other examples are contract review guides and newsletters. Travelers is one of the longest standing carriers of Professional Liability insurance (or Errors & Omissions insurance) for architects and engineers, and it makes several excellent resources available to all design professionals. In case you need a reason to visit their website, we suggest checking out their Lessons Learneda series of examples of claims causing loss and recommendations to mitigate risk in the future related to the type of loss. We pulled a recent one up to give you a taste!

The Incident

An architect contracted to provide design services for a retirement complex in the southwestern United States. In an effort to control costs, the owner chose not to retain the architect to perform construction phase services.

Upon project completion, the residents started complaining about various quality issues, including water intrusion, flashing problems and cracking stucco exteriors. The owner hired a forensic engineer who found numerous construction defects.

While many of the problems appeared to be construction related, the architect came under fire for failing to specify two layers of building paper as part of the exterior wall design. There was some question whether the architect, by specifying a single layer, had violated the local building codes.

The case failed to settle in mediation and went to arbitration.
During the three weeks of testimony, there were long debates about whether the contractor was required to provide one or two layers of building paper. The contractor argued that the specifications were confusing, which led to the installation of the single layer. The architect took the position that the specifications required the contractor to comply with applicable code requirements, which took precedence over the specified single layer of building paper.

The arbitration proceedings closed and the arbitrator rendered her decision. The architect was ordered to pay the owner in the
range of $500,000.

Lessons Learned

1. Construction Phase Services – Limiting or eliminating the design professional’s involvement during construction can be problematic. Many questions relating to the design intent can arise during construction. Keeping the design team on the sidelines can lead to problems during construction.

2. Specification Ambiguity – Clearly written specifications are important. Ensure that the specifications make sense. Have the specifications reviewed by someone who is unfamiliar with the project. As the author of the specifications, ambiguities most often become the design professional’s problem.

For more information, visit our Web site, contact your Risk Control consultant or email / Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America and its property casualty affiliates. One Tower Square, Hartford, CT 06183
The information provided in this document is intended for use as a guideline and is not intended as, nor does it constitute, legal or professional advice. Travelers does not warrant that adherence to, or compliance with, any recommendations, best practices, checklists, or guidelines will result in a particular outcome. In no event will Travelers or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates be liable in tort or in contract to anyone who has access to or uses this information. Travelers does not warrant that the information in this document constitutes a complete and finite list of each and every item or procedure related to the topics or issues referenced herein. Furthermore, federal, state or local laws, regulations, standards or codes may change from time to time and the reader should always refer to the most current requirements. This material does not amend, or otherwise affect, the provisions or coverages of any insurance policy or bond issued by Travelers, nor is it a representation that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any such policy or bond. Coverage depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss, all applicable policy or bond provisions, and any applicable law. © 2014 The Travelers Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. Travelers and the Travelers Umbrella logo are registered trademarks of The Travelers Indemnity Company in the U.S. and other countries. Doc#: LL1202 Rev. 3-14

Does utilizing construction contracts for design services impact my common law Standard of Care?

cmopassUsing a construction contract for design services may well alter a design firm’s Standard of Care, particularly if the construction contract contains warranties or guarantees. Warranties and guarantees may be found in numerous forms. They may include (but are not limited to) construction costs not exceeding original estimates, project completion by a specific date, time of the essence clauses, the design meeting the project objectives, penalties for project delays, construction safety responsibilities and other obligations normally the contractor’s responsibility. The common law standards for a design professional do not require the design professional to “warrant or guarantee” their design services, only that the design professional meet a standard that a prudent professional would perform with comparable education, training and experience in the same area of expertise and locale where the services are being rendered. HOWEVER, if a design firm AGREES to the increased obligations of a construction contract or any owner drafted agreement, in all likelihood, the design professional will be bound by the contract terms, regardless if the contract provisions impose responsibility beyond the common law standard. Signing a contract with an elevated standard of care is not necessarily binding on the designer’s insurance company. Agreeing to warranties and guarantees as well as other “excluded” activities will mean the design firm will be “uninsured” in these areas and claims for allegations excluded by the policy form will have to be defended and paid, if found negligent, by the design firm.

For more, related Frequently Asked Questions and Answers, visit our FAQ page.


Sometimes the grounds for termination are absolutely clear. And sometimes several legal options are available. But when preparing to terminate a subcontract, there’s one more question to ask: Is this the right business decision? We turn to Burns Logan’s Southeast Construction Law Blog for the answer.

The following is an excerpt from a September 2014 post on the blog titled Subcontract Termination: Not for the Faint of Heart:

After a few weeks of poor performance by the stucco subcontractor, my client and I sat down to determine all the possible avenues to resolve the issues. The first thing we did was pull out the subcontract which controlled the stucco subcontractor’s work. We wanted to be sure that the subcontract included all the necessary provisions to allow my general contractor client to remedy the situation. Some of the common default provisions in subcontracts include:

  • failure to prosecute the work promptly and with due diligence;
  • failure to prosecute the work in a workmanlike and safe manner;
  • failure to supply proper supervision;
  • failure to properly staff the job;
  • failure to supply materials and equipment of proper quality and quantity;
  • failure to promptly correct defective or deficient work;
  • failure to pay sub-subcontractors or suppliers;
  • failure to maintain the project schedule as directed by the contractor; and
  • failure to submit proper progress and completion schedules.

We found that this subcontractor had violated many of the standard default provisions in my client’s subcontract. Therefore, we felt we had the proper authority to issue notices of default.

Continue reading “Subcontract Termination: The right business decision?”

Sometimes it’s difficult to sort through all the resources available to design professionals on the internet. We recommend you check out this series of eleven free videos from aecKnowledge, each one an interview with a respected architect in California’s Bay Area.

aecKnowledge Insights video series

Jack McAllister, FAIA

Throughout his long career, Jack McAllister has placed value on understanding how materials were fabricated and buildings constructed, and the importance of working directly with clients, allied design professionals, and the craftspeople building his creations. Above all, Jack learned the value of mentorship, as he describes so poignantly in this in-depth interview curated by Tim Culvahouse, FAIA.

Chuck Davis, FAIA

At age 78, Chuck remains a partner in EHDD, a fabled Bay Area architecture firm with a distinguished international reputation. In this candid interview, Chuck shares his insights about his early years with pioneer Joe Esherick, working with David Packard on the design of the Monterey Aquarium, his post-partum blues, collaborating with clients, the “search and discovery” that makes great architecture, and passing the torch to a new generation of leaders.

Peter Dodge, FAIA

Peter is a founding member of EHDD–one of America’s most distinguished architectural practices. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Peter is the 2008 AIA California Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In this interview, he describes his circuitous path to architecture and talked about his contributions to the profession.

Visit the aecKnowledge website to watch these interviews. The following is a list of the rest of the interviewees:

  • George Homsey, FAIA
  • Odile Decq
  • Thom Mayne, FAIA
  • Gwynne Pugh, FAIA, ASCE
  • Steven Ehrlich, FAIA

“A hundred years after we began building with tall buildings, we have yet to understand how the tall, high-rise building becomes a building block in making a city… in creating the public realm,” says legendary architect and teacher Moshe Safdie of Safdie Architects in Boston. This is the driving force behind his TED talk on How to Reinvent the Apartment Building.

Emphasizing the importance of light, permeability, and nature, Safdie demonstrates how breaking the mold of the standard residential skyscraper could transform the urban environment and the experience of those living in high-density housing.


Dozens of a/e ProNet members from across the country are gathering in Chicago this week for the annual fall meeting. They will be joined by representatives from several top tier professional liability insurance companies and a few major design industry organizations, including the AIA, NSPE, and ACEC.

Over the course of three days, members will receive presentations from the following insurance carriers: Beazley, Ironshore, HCC, Victor O. Schinnerer, Axis, Catlin, Hanover, RLI, All Risks, Liberty, Travelers, Navigators and Arch. These presentations will help inform the specialist brokers of a/e ProNet about industry trends, policy language changes, new coverage opportunities, and the like. It will also give our members a chance to ask questions and make suggestions pertinent to their own clients.

Along with insurer presentations, there will also be ample opportunity for the brokers to network with one another, alerting the group to trends around the country and problem solving in the collective.

To open the week, the Board of Directors will meet, and to close, Kent Holland of Construction Risk will present to the membership on the second edition of a/e ProNet’s Risk Management and Contract Guide for Design Professionals.