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July 25, 2013

Salk Hall project delays examined


Foundation design problems have delayed the Salk Hall addition and renovation project. Completion now is expected in August 2014.

The Board of Trustees property and facilities committee has authorized the University administration to negotiate resolutions and litigate claims related to delays in the Salk Hall addition and renovation project.

The 81,000-square-foot building includes expanded laboratory space for the School of Dental Medicine and School of Pharmacy.

The $50.6 million project was approved in 2010 (see Nov. 24, 2010, University Times) and work began in early 2011. Construction was expected to take two years, but the University is blaming faulty foundation design for delays that have pushed the estimated completion to August 2014.

In requesting the committee’s approval at its July 15 meeting, Executive Vice Chancellor Jerome Cochran explained: “In the early stages of this project, some errors by the design team — specifically the architect and subsurface engineering firm — resulted in a design for a foundation that ultimately proved not to be a foundation that could be used on the building. This resulted in the necessity of significant design changes both for the foundation and the retaining wall to be built behind the annex.”

Philadelphia-based architectural and engineering firm Ballinger, which selected structural engineers Hope Furrer Associates and geotechnical engineers Geo Tech, led the design team.

When work commenced on the site in 2011, it became apparent that the team’s foundation design would not be effective and the University directed that geotechnical engineers GeoMechanics replace Geo Tech on the project, according to trustees’ documents.

Although state funding covers the project design and construction costs, the University has incurred costs including expenses related to personnel assigned to the project, which are not reimbursable by the state, said Joseph Fink, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management. He characterized the costs as “minor” but did not quantify them specifically.

In addition to costs for the design and implementation of a new foundation and wall design, Cochran said delays due to the design changes have resulted in multiple claims for damages by the project’s prime contractors.

“To keep moving this project forward, we would like to attempt to negotiate settlements with the prime contractors and keep our damages as low as possible and then have a claim against the design team for the damages that we ultimately incur,” Cochran said.

The committee voted to encourage the administration to attempt to resolve claims through negotiation with the prime contractors and design team with the understanding that if negotiations fail, the administration intends to litigate claims involving the prime contractors and pursue all claims against the design team for damages due to the design errors “in order to maximize the recovery to offset the increased costs to the University.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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