The ACEC has announced the winners of its five national student awards, and among them is Lauren Grimley, winner of a/e ProNet’s first annual engineering scholarship.

grimley_acecGrimley will graduate from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan this year and enter the University of Iowa’s master’s program in water resources and environmental engineering in the fall. Grimley’s credentials as a student, her experience, and her enthusiasm for her selected field set her application apart. We’re excited to be a part of her journey toward professionalism and wish her the very best going forward.

Visit our scholarships page to read more about the two annual awards we sponsor every year.

We partner with the AIA to give two scholarships to architecture students each year, and, as usual, we’re excited to announce the winners.

Laura Colagrande completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013 and is enrolled in the M.Arch program at the University of Pennsylvania. With a background in design, she has worked as a designer for Middle of Broad in Richmond, VA, Wolcott AI, and Wirt Design, both located in Los Angeles. A constant desire to learn pushed Colagrande to add business skills, completing a business program at UCLA Extension and studying global marketing, branding, and risk and crisis management. She has learned the value of limiting risk and containing the negative consequences of a crisis, and is now implementing these lessons in the context of her studies in architecture.

Jonathan Teng graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies with Distinction in 2010, receiving a Faculty Award for Scholarship and Design and is enrolled in the M.Arch program at Washington University in St. Louis. He has held internships at Heliotrope Architects and Mahlum Architects, both of Seattle, WA. Teng has developed his ability to represent the LGBT community in architecture, and has set his focus on practicing design that provides inclusive and diverse spaces for everyone. As part of this process, he has learned to incorporate communication across the levels of the project, not just between the architect and the client, but also including the end-user when possible.

“The scholarship applicants this year demonstrated strengths in diversified areas within the submission requirements that made it challenging to select our winners,” said juror, Lira Luis, AIA. “The scholarship winners however, stood out among the rest because not only did their essays address the practice management topic in an articulate to-the- point manner, but also the suggested solutions demonstrated clear understanding of best practices such as peer reviews and the value of accountability, where risk is reasonably managed and future potential liabilities mitigated and the value of communication that includes in person interactions.”

Our scholarship was renamed in 1999 for David W. Lakamp, a founder of a/e ProNet and a trusted advisor to the profession. He left behind a legacy of professionalism and integrity that set new standards in the field of insurance services. The jury for the 2016 David W. Lakamp a/e ProNet Scholarship includes: Thomas G. Coghlan, Integro Insurance Brokers; David B. Richards, FAIA, LEED, AP, PMP, Rossetti and A. Lira Luis, AIA, RIBA, LEED AP BD+C.

Learn more about he a/e ProNet scholarships for both architecture and engineering students on our Scholarships page. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter! We tweet application openings and deadline reminders each year.

Congratulations, Laura & Jonathan!

Read the full AIA press release here.

Are Hackers a Threat to My Design Firm?

Hackers make headlines daily with targets ranging from major Swiss banks to Minecraft users to German nuclear power plants. But what are the risks to architects and engineers?

keyboard

Professional Liability carrier Victor O. Schinnerer urges design professionals to Take Cyber Liability Exposures Seriously in a recent blog post:

Cyber liability problems that have disrupted firm operations often are based on one of three vectors:

— insiders who are dissatisfied or recognize their ability to tap firm assets and use that access for harm or personal profit;

— past employees who either take digital assets with them or to enact revenge against their former employers corrupt firm systems and information; and

— hackers who know that confidential project data is vulnerable and hold digital information hostage until a ransom is paid.

Hackers Can Wreak Havoc on a Firm

Although internal threats cause many cyber liability breaches, a malicious outsider is one of the greatest fears of professional services firms. A hacker could cause data inaccessibility through alteration or destruction. A firm would lose intellectual property and no longer be able to meet contract objectives and deadlines. Attackers who gain access to a firm’s data can encrypt it using ransom-ware and extort payment to regain access to information. Firms that do not properly preserve digital assets through robust back-up systems often have no alternative but to pay the ransom.

Construction projects today are increasingly dependent on digital technology. The adoption of BIM and the increasing use of digital technologies in designing, constructing, and operating buildings and infrastructure are transforming the way the industry works. The concept of collaborative work through the sharing and use of detailed models and large amounts of digital information requires that parties be aware of vulnerability issues and take appropriate control measures. Improper access controls could lead to an attack severely disrupting progress on a project, causing delays or remedial work that could lead to significant claims from owners, lenders, or other stakeholders. And if confidential information on the structure or systems of projects is accessed by unauthorized parties, the safety of the owners and users of the buildings or infrastructure could be put at risk.

It is possible to insure against these vulnerabilities. Schinnerer’s Cyber Protection Package is one example of such coverage. Here are a few others:

Give your local a/e ProNet broker a call to discuss your options today.

Inquiring Minds and the FMLA

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Complying with the many provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a concern for even those well-versed in the Act. Recently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals clarified when the FMLA applies, and spelled out an affirmative duty of the employer to inquire and confirm if an employee wants to take FMLA leave if eligible.

What Is the FMLA and How Does It Apply?

The FMLA entitles some employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. It applies to employers that are public agencies and to private employers with 50 or more employees who work at least 20 weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. An employee is eligible for FMLA leave if they:

  • Worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months;
  • Worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of their FMLA leave; and
  • Work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed or within 75 miles of that location.

An eligible employee has the right to take 12 work weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. In general, the employee can take leave due to their own serious health condition; for the birth of a newborn child; to care for a newly-adopted child; or to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition. This right means that if an employer terminates or otherwise retaliates against an employee for taking leave, it can result in a civil lawsuit or administrative proceeding against the employer for back pay, reinstatement, and other damages.

When a state provides greater protections than the federal FMLA standards, an employer must comply with state law as well. For example, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) also covers same-sex domestic partners, and provides more privacy protections. Continue reading “Inquiring Minds and the FMLA”

smoothsailing_engineeringinc

Design firms preparing to purchase or renew professional liability insurance ask the same few questions every year.

How will my professional liability premium be calculated? Will my professional liability premium go up? Should I change professional liability insurance companies?

One helpful resource to answer these questions is the 2015 Professional Liability Insurance Survey of Carriers, a report published annually by the ACEC along with a companion analysis in Engineering, Inc. that includes insight from insurance companies and other experts  This year, the title of the article says it all: 2015 was “Smooth Sailing” for the professional liability insurance industry, and that means good things for architects and engineers.

“The ACEC Risk Management Committee worked with the American Institute of Architects, the AIA Trust, and the National Society of Professional Engineers to survey 18 carriers.” With construction spending higher than it’s been in years and expected to rise, the number of insurance companies providing professional liability insurance to architects and engineers is also growing. New markets increase the competition for more established companies, and keep rates stable, which means Eric Moore, President of a/e ProNet and Vice President of Moore Insurance Services, is optimistic.

“Nonrenewal is about the only reason Moore would suggest changing carriers” this year. “If you do see a claim, a carrier you’ve been with a few years is less likely to drop you, he says.”

Also quoted in the article are representatives from several of the top-tier professional liability insurance carriers, like a/e ProNet sponsors Travelers, Beazley, and Victor O. Schinnerer, as well as Tim Corbett of SmartRisk, a performance management consultant for the design and construction industry, who has written for a/e ProNet many times.

You can read a digital version of this article in the January/February 2016 issue of Engineering, Inc.

As always, if you have any questions about this report or the professional liability market, please contact your local a/e ProNet broker today.

poetry_foundation_building

Chicago architecture firm and a/e ProNet client John Ronan Architects is one of seven finalists for the design of the Obama Presidential Library, which will be built on Chicago’s South Side. The remaining seven firms hail from all over the world, so it’s exciting that at least one “local” architect made the cut. John Ronan Architects may be best known for the dramatic Poetry Foundation building in Chicago. Best of luck to the team!

Shout-out Credit:

Mike Welbel
M.G. Welbel and Associates
650 Dundee Road, Suite 170
Northbrook, IL 60062
Phone: 847.412.1414
mwelbel@mgwelbel.com

PNN_1511In what attorney Brian Stewart calls a “disturbing trend,” more and more project owners design professionals to procure separate questionnaires from their insurance brokers. These “broker-verification questionnaires” are meant to re-state or re-affirm the limits, exclusions, etc. of the relevant insurance policies to the project.  If you’re an architect or engineer who has met push-back from your broker on this issue, our November 2015 issue of ProNetwork News explains why:

I:  The Problem with Broker Verifications

The use of broker-verification questionnaires has been a growing trend seen most commonly in the context of construction insurance… Historically, a broker has satisfied this requirement through the production of a certificate of insurance or, if necessary, a copy of the policies themselves which demonstrate that the insured had the applicable coverage.  However, a number of project owners have recently been refusing to accept certificates alone and are requiring brokers to complete a questionnaire and verification, with the understanding that a failure to complete the questionnaire will cost the broker’s client the job.

The increasingly frequent use of such broker-verification questionnaires raises a number of legal issues for the broker.  The first issue deals with the broker’s authority to interpret the underlying policy between the insurer and the insured and whether a broker has the authority to confirm in writing whether a specific policy meets the requirements, not of the contract between the Owner and the insured but rather the requirements contained in the broker-verification questionnaires.  The second legal issue deals with the effect of a conflict between the underlying policy and the language of the questionnaire.  Specifically, what is the legal consequence when a broker completes a questionnaire that potentially contains conflicting language from the actual policy?  Finally, this opinion will analyze what risks and liabilities a broker is exposed to when completing  a questionnaire that contains language that is in conflict with  or amends, modifies, expands, etc. the underlying policy.

II:  Principles of Contract

Insurance is a matter of contract governed by the rules of contract. Unlike the ordinary commercial contract where the parties seek to ensure a commercial advantage for themselves, an insurance contract seeks to obtain some measure of financial security and protection against calamity for the insured.

Being a voluntary contract, as long as the terms and conditions made therefor are not unreasonable or in violation of legal rules and requirements, the parties may make it on such terms, and incorporate such provisions and conditions as they would see fit to adopt.  The rights and obligations of parties to an insurance contract are determined by the language of the contact and the insurance policy is the law between the parties unless the contractual provisions are contrary to public opinion or law.

III:  Role of the Broker

An insurance broker provides a professional service for the insured, its client and goes to the insurance market to determine what policy or policies best fit the needs of its clients.

Relevant distinctions exist between an insurance agent and an insurance broker.  Whereas an agent generally represents a particular insurance company, an insurance broker generally represents only the insured. Consequently, an insurance broker owes a duty to the insured and not the insurer. Continue reading “The Down-Low on Broker-Verification Questionnaires”

drone

They offer a bird’s eye view of construction sites. They provide breathtaking photographic opportunities for architects looking to showcase their work. And they’re fun to fly. However, while they may be intriguing tools for architects and engineers, drones open up the design firms that use them to many possibly unanticipated risks. These days, obtaining a drone is as simple as stopping at your local WalMart, but all drones are not created equal, nor are all drone pilots equally skilled and certified.

Victor O. Schinnerer’s Risk Management Blog recently offered an overview of this issue. Should your design firm use a drone in your administration of contracted services? Read on:

“Professional service firms have to be aware that the use of drones is not a simple transition in the process of observing the work on a project site. As with web cameras, drone cameras often produce far more images than are used in the evaluation of a project. If not properly denoted in a contract, the scope of the firm’s services could include the use of all the available images as part of the firm’s duty to observe and evaluate the project as part of construction contract administration duties.

“Additionally, while licensed drone operators are undoubtedly careful about having general liability insurance that protects others from their negligence in aerial activities, and follow the FAA’s rules and guidelines, many firms using drone photography are doing so as amateurs. Turning hobby activities into commercial uses is likely to be unlawful, dangerous, and uninsured.”

Continue reading Drone use can put firms at risk beyond their knowledge by Frank Musica

Scottsdale’s Dramatic ‘Scorpion House’ Can Be Yours For $5.5-Million

Undoubtedly one of the most dramatic homes in the American Southwest, the so-called Scorpion House has recently been put up for sale in Scottsdale, Arizona. Designed by a/e ProNet client Eddie Jones of Jones Studio in 2001, the 4,700-square foot Scorpion House blends “poured concrete, glass and oxidized titanium panels into a curvilinear plan that spans the desert and boulder outcroppings in an organic form to protect the natural setting.” It holds an impressive roster of design awards, including ‘Gold, Architecture under 5,000 Square Feet’ by The Arizona Home Book Design Excellence Awards. The property has also been featured in Architectural Digest and Desert Living Magazine.

Scottsdale’s Dramatic ‘Scorpion House’ Can Be Yours For $5.5-Million

Scottsdale’s Dramatic ‘Scorpion House’ Can Be Yours For $5.5-Million

See more beautiful photos of this luxurious private residence on the Xtravaganzi blog.

Shout-out Credit:

Jeff Gerrick
Professional Underwriters of Az., Inc.
Scottsdale, AZ
Ph: 480-483-0440