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.

boxhouse

Signs of recovery in the American housing market–in architecture, engineering, construction, real estate–are increasing. Yet, in 2014, the market saw a new, disappointing record:

The number of homeowners under the age of 35 hit its lowest point ever.

Home ownership has long been synonymous with the American Dream. But where are the young people in this game? Some have turned to alternative housing solutions.

Pacific Standard magazine recently blogged the experience of Luke Iseman, a 31-year-old graduate of the Wharton business school, who lives in a white shipping container on a small lot in West Oakland. Driven from the traditional urban housing market as a renter by exorbitant rates in San Francisco, and holding more than $60,000 of student loan debt, Iseman is putting his burgeoning business savvy to good use for himself and others with the establishment of an alternative housing start-up called Boxouse. Continue reading “Boxouse: Young Americans Turn to Alternative Housing”

“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.

A steadily improving economy is spurring on construction activity in most regions of the county, and stimulating speculative development.

2012_ABIgraph

The following is an excerpt from the AIArchitect Blog post on the annual Architectural Billings Index report for 2012:

Final ABI for 2012 Caps Strongest Year Since 2007

“Architecture firms continued to report improving business conditions in December, with an Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score of 52.0. (Any score above 50 represents billings growth). While the pace of billings growth slowed slightly from November, it is still the fifth consecutive month of growth, which means eight months of 2012 showed improving business conditions, the most in one calendar year since 2007. Inquiries into new projects remained strong, and firm backlogs for the fourth quarter inched up slightly from the third quarter to an average of 4.5 months.

Business conditions continued to improve at firms in all regions of the country in December with the exception of firms in the West, which continued to struggle to recover from nearly five years of declining billings. Firms located in the Midwest reported particularly strong firm billings last month after suffering a period of softness in the middle of the year. And for the third consecutive month, firms of all specializations reported experiencing increasing firm billings. The pace of growth has slowed significantly from the middle of the year for firms with a residential specialization, but continues to improve for firms with a commercial/industrial specialization.”

You know all this good news makes you want to read on… and you can! Visit the AIArchitect blog for the rest of it.”

Shout-Out Credit: 

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

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.

Excerpted from the August 2012 issue of ProNetwork News:

Commissioning is a quality-oriented process for achieving, verifying, and documenting that the performance of facilities and systems meets defined objectives and criteria. It is a quality-based method that is adopted by the building Owner to achieve successful construction, and it is not intended to be an additional layer of construction or project management. When applied comprehensively, the purpose is to reduce the overall cost of a construction project and increase long-term value to the building owners, occupants, and users, better ensuring reliability of performance.

New Building Commissioning (Cx)

The purpose of New Building Commissioning (Cx) is to facilitate and verify proper system performance of a new building. The Process begins at project inception (during the Pre-Design Phase) and continues for the life of the facility (through the Occupancy and Operations Phase).

Why should Building Commissioning be done?

ASHRAE performed a study of 60 commercial buildings and found that more than half suffered temperature control problems, 40% had problems with HVAC equipment and one-third had sensors that were not operating properly. Amazingly, 15% of the buildings were actually missing specified equipment.

The Commissioning Process is intended to reduce the project capital cost through the first year of operation. It also reduces the life-cycle cost of the facility. By utilizing this process a fully functional, fine-tuned facility is provided, with complete documentation of its systems/assemblies, and with operators and maintenance personnel fully trained.

Building commissioning is of greatest value to the owner when it provides a means of continuously communicating their building systems criteria and rigorously verifying compliance with them, throughout the many phases of design and construction.

Prior to design, the Commissioning Authority (CxA) will assist the Owner in evaluating the facility’s requirements regarding such issues as energy conservation, indoor environment, staff training, and operation and maintenance. Continue reading “Building Commissioning: Process Types & Definitions”

To Hire or Not To Hire?

As the American economy recovers, all eyes are on the construction design industry, a key indicator of the economic climate. Design professionals are preparing for the next phase of recovery in a variety of ways. Not only is there the hope that new projects will begin to come in soon, but there is a backlog of projects which began two or three years ago, but stalled. These projects have been pending in different stages, some abandoned completely, many without funding to continue. Unfreezing from that limbo would mean the potential for immediate work in many design firms, and that work could require additional hands.

In the April issue of CSPE Online, The Official Newsletter of the California Society of Professional Engineers, a/e ProNet Member Reno Caldwell published a column which addresses this exact scenario. For architects, engineers, consultants, and other construction industry professionals, this will bring up one very important question:

To Hire or Not to Hire?

Excerpt:

“Raise your hand if you were thinking of hiring someone this time last year.  Had I posed this question to a group of business owners in April 2011, I am confident not too many hands would have gone up.  The following two questions may still be far fetched, but if the tide begins turn and the project light-switch flicks up it’s worth asking both:

  1. When will your firm begin hiring?
  2. Will errors and omissions liability affect your hiring decision?

“You may be thinking that errors and omissions liability has nothing to do with a hiring decision.  Are you sure?  Most business owners understand the importance of balancing risk for the potential reward.   The term ‘reward’ probably seems distant, but many design and engineering firms have multiple projects that have long been in a perpetual ‘waiting’ mode.  Your office could get busy very quickly should these projects become active within a few months of each other, and as new projects come in the door.   Yes, this will be a happy day!

“However, many business owners have depleted their retirement savings in order to keep the lights on and doors open over the past three years.  It will be very tempting to replenish the bank account when the economy improves.   The risk management pendulum could swing quickly from ‘low risk / low reward’ to ‘high reward without considering risk.’  This move would be understandably tempting, but I urge you to take a closer look beforehand.”

To continue reading (and to get some valuable advice) visit IOA Insurance Services’ website for the full text of this article, as well as a downloadable PDF.

About the Author: Reno Caldwell is Vice President of IOA Insurance Services. He operates from the San Francisco Bay Area office in Pleasanton, CA, which he joined in 2007. He has specialized in providing professional liability insurance for design professionals, construction managers, law offices and other professional consultants since 1996. Reno is an affiliate member of the California Society of Professional Engineers; IOA is the exclusive broker of CSPE’s endorsed professional liability insurance program. reno.caldwell@ioausa.com

Pinterest Pride: An Homage

a/e ProNet has been an advocate for architects, engineers, and other design consultants for more than 20 years. This advocacy includes an abiding interest in protecting the integrity and sanctity of the products delivered by design professionals. We’re proud of what our clients can do and have done to better and beautify communities across the globe.

Taking that pride one step further, we’ve created a Pinterest board dedicated to showcasing the fantastic designs of our ProNet Members’ clients!

Buildings, bridge, amphitheaters, parks, homes, aqueducts, highways, theme parks, wineries, storefronts, and resorts surround and inspire us daily. But as Peter W. Jones, AIA, President of AIA Florida recently reminded us, “Behind every magnificent structure is an architect who helped create it.” In fact, behind every magnificent structure is a team of imaginative, experienced professionals who worked together to meet that goal. And we’re proud to say that many of those professionals are the clients of our members.

If you love design, follow our Pinterest board today!

There’s something happening in Vegas, and we’re happy to break the rules and share the event here. Construction began in earnest yesterday on the new 500-foot SkyVue observation wheel across from Mandalay Bay, a project for which ProNet client Wallace Morris Surveying, Inc. is providing engineering services.

More than 100 concrete trucks rumbled in before dawn on Thursday, March 1 to pour the foundation. Per the Las Vegas Sun:

The five-hour process, which began at 2 a.m., sets the stage for building the $200 million project that will change the landscape of the southern Las Vegas Strip.

Developer Howard Bulloch said passersby would see the wheel take shape this summer but the venue won’t open until July 2013.

“We have to build the wheel first before we build the retail building below,” he said.

The retail portion will include seven food-court options, five sit-down restaurants and a dozen stores ranging from clothing outfitters to electronics, Bulloch said. Developers declined to identify the establishments but said they would be recognizable names.

A 30-minute ride will take visitors 50 feet higher than Mandalay Bay with views facing north on the Strip.

The construction climate in Las Vegas has been notoriously sketchy since the global economic downturn in 2008, but Bulloch is pledging to see this project through to completion. Certainly, the SkyVue Observation Wheel will be a flashy ornament to the legendary city’s skyline, including 32 gondolas, each seating 24 people, and a 50,000-square-foot LED sign which will project from the wheel’s center. But better still, the wheel will ultimately employ a full-time staff of 500. Click here to see renderings of the envisioned project.

Congratulations, WMS!

Wallace Morris Surveying, Inc. (WMS) is dedicated to delivering professional land surveying services throughout Nevada and Arizona with a highly skilled professional team working together. It is also our mission to exceed your needs by dedicating to you a Professional Land Surveyor with years of surveying experience, respecting your need for timely services and by having the expert you hire be the actual person working on your survey. (Excerpted from the firm’s bio on the WMS website.)