Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park / Drawing: Hargreaves AssociatesIn Barcelona last month, a/e ProNet client Hargreaves Associates received the Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Senior Principal Mary Margaret Jones was on hand to collect the 15,000 Euro prize and spoke briefly about the project, which she helped design for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The park converted an abandoned industrial area of the capital. After years of pollution damage, the riverbank needed rehabilitation, and Hargreaves found a way to do it. At 270 acres, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the largest park created in Europe in more than 150 years.

As Jones said, the goal was to develop the area in a beautiful, sustainable way. Hargreaves Associates collaborated with London’s LDA Design on the innovative master plan. They combined traditional British landscapes with forward-thinking trends in green design. They hoped it would continue to be an asset to the city in the years after the Games had come and gone. The theme of the 9th International Biennial of Landscape Architecture was “Tomorrow Landscapes,” so the olympic park was the perfect candidate for the prize.

Learn more about the development of the park

Watch a short film on the creation of the park posted by the UK Landscape Institute. Or read more about the design at the Hargreaves website:

“The head gardener of the Olympic Park says,”This may have the feel of a Chelsea show garden, where everything has been grown to be at its best for the same limited period of time, but it really isn’t. After the Games, everything will be allowed to flower at its natural time of year. I’ve been a gardener for 35 years and I’d always previously worked on private estates because most municipal gardens are a bit crap. But this park is absolutely stunning.”

Congratulations to Hargreaves Associates! Read more about the award and ceremony at World-Architects.com.

Shout-out Credit:

Leslie Pancoast, CIC, RPLU
Managing Partner
IOA Insurance Services – Pleasanton, CA
Email: Leslie.Pancoast@ioausa.com / Phone: 925-416-7862

The word standard implies many things. A bar to be cleared; a rubric to be followed. But for design professionals, the word becomes tricky when applied to contracts. Project owners often want to keep things simple by requiring so-called Standard Contracts for all parties. This is a problem for architects and engineers, especially from an insurance perspective.

Construction contracts cause problems for design professionals.

The following are a few Frequently Asked Questions we see from architects and engineers on this issue:

My project Owner insists on using their own contract for hiring my professional services. They are adamant this is a Standard Contract. How should I respond?

There is no such thing as a Standard Contract. Be sure to read each contract submitted by your clients carefully. You need to understand both the client’s expectations and your firm’s rights and responsibilities. It is a good idea to have all owner-drafted agreements reviewed by your attorney and/or insurance broker. This will help to determine whether you are accepting responsibility beyond what common law would hold you to in the absence of the agreement.  If, for example, you agree to accountability beyond the protection afforded by your professional liability insurance, that’s a problem.

When I perform professional services for a Contractor in lieu of an Owner, should I be concerned?

Yes. Construction contracts are not meant to be used in this arrangement; they are not designed to meet the needs of the design professional.

What are some of the problems with using “construction contracts” for design services?

Construction contracts are problematic for design professionals. A General Contractor’s contract with a project Owner includes certain requirements (e.g. means, methods, procedures, sequences, safety, etc.). These requirements trickle down to construction subcontractors the verbiage of construction contracts. Beyond that, none of these requirements meet the test of what a design professional should required to do on the same job.

Contract document libraries available via the AIA and EJCDC can be a good place for design professionals to begin. These are standard in the sense that they are templates. However, it’s still important to seek individualized guidance from your attorney and/or insurance broker.

What are some of the other problems with utilizing “construction contracts” for design services?

Most construction contracts contain warranties/guarantees, and some have performance standards. To our knowledge, all professional liability insurance policies for design professionals exclude coverage for warranties/guarantees and (likely) performance standards. Remember: if you commit your design firm to more responsibility than the law expects of you, your insurance policy cannot protect you the way that it should.

We hope you’ve found this helpful. As always, be sure to contact your local a/e ProNet broker if you have further questions.

Some of the most frequently asked questions we hear are triggered by the disparities between the insurance coverage available to design professionals and the demands made for coverage by general contractors and their standard contracts.

 

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This is a nuanced area, and you should call your local a/e ProNet broker if you have specific questions. In the meantime, here are a few quick answers to the biggest FAQs concerning this issue:

Is it wise of General Contractors to require professional subconsultants to sign their usual sub-contract form?

No. Contractors that require the use of the same contract form used for construction sub-contractors may unwittingly void the precise coverage they are seeking from their design professional. Professional Liability (Errors & Omissions, or E&O) policies for design professionals typically exclude warranties and guarantees, which are generally an integral part of construction sub-contracts. If the design firm “agrees” to the warranties and guarantees or any other responsibility excluded by their professional liability policy, the design firm will be assuming the defense costs and payment obligations if an award is granted by the courts.

The General Contractor has requested to be named as an “Additional Insured” on my professional liability policy. Can I accommodate this request?

It is not a good idea to name the contractor as an additional insured in the sub-consultant’s design E&O policy, because an “Insured vs Insured” exclusion exists in virtually all design E&O policies. If the contractor believes he has a cause of action against his subconsultant design firm, this exclusion will eliminate coverage for both the contractor and the design firm.

How can the General Contractor protect themselves?

The General Contractor may purchase Contractor’s Professional Liability insurance. This will protect the General Contractor from vicarious liability claims from third parties and also solves the problem of the “Insured vs Insured” exclusion that would apply if the contractor brings an action against the subconsultant design firm, when named as an additional insured. Another benefit is a separate set of insurance limits. The General Contractor would have their own set of insurance limits that would not be subject to dilution or reduction from other claimants against the design professional’s E&O policy covering their general practice.

Why would the General Contractor need Professional Liability coverage?

Several reasons:

The General Contractor has the same “vicarious liability” for the negligent acts, errors or omissions of their professional subconsultants as they do for the non-professional subcontractors.

The General Contractor cannot rely solely on the hold harmless indemnity clause in the contract document. The hold harmless may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions because of the language of the indemnity clause.

The subconsultant may not have sufficient insurance or their policy limits may be reduced or exhausted from other claims.

The subconsultant’s policies may be cancelled by the carrier giving notice or for non-payment of premiums. The General Contractor is then left with a false sense of security if they rely on the general liability insurance of the subconsultant, which excludes professional design activities and responsibilities.

Meeting halfway, in this case, really involves helping everyone acquire appropriate coverage. If you are a General Contractor in need of Professional Liability (E&O) insurance, or if you are a design professional who needs someone to explain all this to a General Contractor demanding such ill-advised insurance/contract decisions, please don’t hesitate to call on us.

More answers to Frequently Asked Questions can be found on our FAQ page.

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

ConstructionTradeContractors

The appropriate classification of employees is a frequent source of confusion for design firms, usually coming up around the renewal of a firm’s Workers’ Compensation policy. It is an issue ripe with risk on an Employment Practices level. Recent court rulings in Arizona and Utah have resulted in construction firms paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages, damages, and penalties.

As explained on the Schinnerer Risk Management Blog:

In an age of rising benefit costs and other constraints on the operations of professional service firms, some firms are turning to a range of tactics to reclassify workers to take them off the formal payroll and, therefore, lower their costs and administrative burdens. However, doing so may subject the employer to state and federal employment law fines and penalties.

All this is happening against the backdrop of a broader shifting of risk from employers to workers, who are shouldering an increasing share of responsibility for everything from health insurance premiums to retirement income to job security. While the future might present a model where everyone is truly an independent contractor and neither those actually providing services nor those using the services have any continuing or controlling interest in each other, such a situation does not currently exist and any firm that thinks it can avoid employment responsibilities, tax obligations, or employment practices liability needs to carefully consider alternatives to hiring workers.

Regulators and courts have increased their scrutiny of the relationship between business entities and independent contractors. Alleged misclassification of workers has been one of the primary battlegrounds of this shift, leading to high-profile lawsuits.

For decades, some professional service firms have shifted work from employees to independent contractors to cut their overhead and labor costs and, at times, to qualify for special government procurement assistance. Often, this has been accomplished by relabeling workers and slightly altering the conditions of their work. And some professional service firms have simply ignored regulatory and tax guidance and “informally” used the services of professionals and clerical workers as “consultants” or “leased personnel” or “temps.”

Now, however, businesses—including design firms and construction contractors—are turning to other kinds of employment relationships, such as setting up workers as owners of limited liability companies (LLCs) in an attempt to shield the businesses from tax and labor statutes. In response, some state and federal agencies are aggressively clamping down on such arrangements, passing local legislation, filing briefs in workers’ own lawsuits, and closely tracking the spread of what they see as questionable employment models.

Visit the Schinnerer Risk Management Blog to continue reading.

If you have questions about the appropriate classification of your employees prior to your next workers’ compensation renewal, contact your local a/e ProNet broker. We’re happy to help!

Tired of reading article after newsletter after white paper after blog post on risk management? (We hope not! But just in case…) Here’s another option:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2ioR9X05Qo]

Longtime a/e ProNet affiliate Kent Holland of ConstructionRisk, LLC has translated his impressive catalog of resources into a series of short videos available on the ConstructionRisk.com YouTube Channel.

“If you’re involved in the construction project, whether as a contractor, a designer, or a project owner, you will get real benefit from the practical ideas, suggestions, and law presented in these videos.”

A few of the playlists available now:

J. Kent Holland is a construction lawyer located in Tysons Corner, Virginia, representing design professionals, contractors, and project owners.

Don’t forget the popcorn!

EngineeringInc_aeProNetad_2014

Incredibly, even the global economic crisis hasn’t hardened the Professional Liability Insurance market for Architects and Engineers. Today, there are more insurance companies offering A&E policies than ever. And, thanks to the increasing insurance savvy of Design Professionals (particularly those utilizing the services of specialist brokers), new Professional Liability insurers are offering more in the way of risk management and pre-claims assistance, too.

You’ll find all this information and more outlined in the The Hard Market That Never Came, an analysis of the 2013 Professional Liability Insurance Survey of Carriers, in the February 2014 issue of Engineering, Inc. Continue reading “Engineering Inc. – 2013 Professional Liability Insurance Survey of Carriers”

The NEW Schinnerer Risk Management Blog

Happy New Year, friends & followers of a/e ProNet! We thought we ‘d take a moment to congratulate our friends over at Victor O. Schinnerer–one of the leading Professional Liability insurance companies in the industry today–on the new, updated Schinnerer Risk Management Blog.

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For a number of years, Schinnerer’s Risk Management Blog has been an excellent source of up-to-date industry news. Recent posts have included:

If you’re an Architect or an Engineer or a Design Consultant, whether or not your current professional liability insurance carrier is Victor O. Schinnerer, their blog is a great place to look for answers to your everyday questions about insurance, best practices, and, of course, risk management. These referenced posts on the old blog, so be sure to check out the archive. We also encourage you to subscribe to the new WordPress blog if you find this info relevant to you and your business.

Make sure to contact your local a/e ProNet broker if you’re interested in obtaining a Professional Liability quote from Schinnerer. Have a great 2014!

pronetworknews_august2013This issue of ProNetwork News is meant to serve as a basic reference guide to the property insurance coverages typically purchased by design firms. Last month we posted a companion piece, Insurance 101: The Things You Always Wanted to Know About Liability Coverage But Were Afraid to Ask.

We continue our overview of insurance products of interest to design professionals with this review of property coverages that may apply to the needs of your particular practice. As always, we encourage you to ask your broker what insurance is right for you.

BUSINESS PROPERTY INSURANCE

Whether you lease or own your office, you need to insure office equipment, furniture, fixtures, computer equipment, phone systems, fax/copiers, valuable papers and fine arts for fire, theft and water damage. Insuring these valuables for “replacement cost” on an “all-risk form” means that your business is most likely to be reimbursed properly for a covered loss. If you lease furniture and equipment, the lessor will require this coverage and will be designated as a “loss payee.” Landlords of rented property usually require their tenants to maintain property coverage for the rented space to cover improvements and betterments provided to the leaseholder.

Since most design firms are heavily dependent on computer systems, it is important to properly inventory equipment and software.. For example, the cost to reproduce plans and specifications kept on computer files is significant when considering the insured value of valuable papers and records. However, no limit of insurance is a substitute for reliable backup procedures.

Stand-alone IT coverage packages, including security breach, are evolving almost daily. They can cover both first party losses (yours) and third-party losses (those for which you may be liable to others). Ask your broker what products may best apply to your needs.

VALUABLE PAPERS INSURANCE

A/E firms have in their possession valuable papers and documents whose destruction would prove very costly. Maps, plans, specifications and books are some examples. All-risk protection is generally available excluding wear and tear, gradual deterioration and vermin. Certain valuable papers may be insured specifically, or “scheduled.” More commonly, a blanket limit is established to cover all valuable papers. Articles insured on a blanket basis are covered for their replacement cost. Scheduled items are covered on a valued basis even though it is not possible to replace them with like kind and quality. Continue reading “Insurance 102: Property Coverages for Architects & Engineers”