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January 6, 2005

Damaged Goods? Law Suits Filed Over Construction of The Pete

Citing a host of design and construction-related problems at Pitt’s crown jewel, the two-year-old Petersen Events Center, the University and the state’s Department of General Services (DGS) sued the building’s architects and roofing contractors.

Included in the allegations are flawed designs that have caused heating and ventilation problems, unreasonable delays, poor craftsmanship, and damages due to improperly installed and defective roofing materials.

The University alleges that the joint architectural firm Apostolou Associates of Mt. Washington/Rosser International of Atlanta is in breach of contract due to “actions, errors and omissions during the design and construction” of The Pete, as well as “delays, disruptions, interferences and additional costs” caused by the architects.

The suit maintains that the University incurred substantial costs, losses, expenses and damages as a result of the architects’ shoddy and incomplete work and now will have to shell out more money to repair the problems.

In addition to breach of contract, Pitt is suing Apostolou/Rosser for breach of warranties; negligence, and reimbursement responsibility for more than $13 million that the state paid 14 prime contractors and the construction manager during the Petersen Center’s construction.

Specific problem areas cited in the suit against Apostolou/Rosser include: the food court roll gates and hood exhaust, loading dock areas, revolving doors, sprinkler system, insulation and wiring. Those and other problems have been rectified at the University’s expense, according to the suit.

However, other problems remain unfixed, the suit said, including problems with the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system related to temperature control; pipe failures; freezing lines and mechanical access; lighting design, and green space drainage.

The University also alleges that delays and disruptions caused by the architects resulted in $5.6 million in claims fees to the project’s contractors and construction manager that Pitt had to pay.

In a separate civil suit, Pitt, which owns and maintains the Petersen Center, and DGS, which oversaw construction of the 440,000 sq. ft. multipurpose facility, as co-plaintiffs, allege that the steel and aluminum roof work done by G&W Roofing and Construction of Eighty Four, Pa., Morin Corp. of Bristol, Ct., and Havens Steel Co. of Kansas City, Mo., is defective.

Havens installed the steel frame and metal decking to which the roof covering is attached. The firm was paid a total of $15.3 million, including more than $2 million in costs for post-construction repairs and other services, according to supporting documents in the civil suit. Havens, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last June, is cited but not named as a defendant.

The lawsuit does name Havens’s insurance company, the United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co. (USF&G), as well as G&W’s insurer, the Cincinnati Insurance Co., for defaulting on contracted warranties. According to the suit, USF&G’s bond is $12.54 million, while Cincinnati Insurance is liable for $1.3 million.

The suit states that in June 2004 G&W told Pitt it would no longer honor its warranty, and Morin Corp. that same month disavowed responsibility under its warranty.

Critical portions of the work done by Havens, G&W and Morin “fail to conform to specifications, are not fit for the purpose intended and are improperly installed,” the plaintiffs maintain in the lawsuit.

“The dome roof has developed leaks caused by more than 200 holes on its north and south sides in the vicinity of the brace and edge trusses.”

The lawsuit alleges a number of specific deficiencies involving the roof work, including roof trusses installed at incorrect elevations, preventing the roof from functioning properly; anchor clips to secure the roof inadequately fastened or out of alignment, and “defective and flawed fabrication, construction, quality control, erection and workmanship” that has caused severe deterioration of the roof and has allowed water leakage into the building.

Neither civil suit specifies the costs to fix the alleged problems.

Both lawsuits, which were filed Dec. 30 in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, seek judgment against the defendants “in an amount in excess of $25,000,” plus legal fees, for each count leveled in the suits (four counts in the Apostolou/Rosser suit and seven counts in the G&W/Morin suit). Further damages are unspecified.

The architects and the construction companies did not respond to the University Times’s requests for comment.

Pitt and DGS are represented by Charles B. Gibbons of the Downtown firm Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling. Gibbons is out of town and unavailable for comment this week, his office said.

Department of General Services spokesperson Frank Kane told the University Times that DGS is a “nominal partner” in the two lawsuits. “The party of interest is really the University, which owns the building,” Kane said. “But we felt that it was important to support the University when contracts involving us are concerned, especially when $69 million of state money went to build [the Petersen Center].” Kane declined to discuss specifics of either case.

Pitt spokesperson Robert Hill also declined comment on particulars. “We really don’t want to go beyond what is in the filed suits, which have plenty of specifics,” he told the University Times.

-Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 37 Issue 9

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