Cosmopolitan’s building flaws downplayed

The Cosmopolitan high-rise under construction on the Strip has recently been faulted by county building inspectors for pervasive work flaws that would compromise the structure’s fire safety if left uncorrected.

The flaws will clearly cost bucks to fix.

But severity of the problem is in the eye of the beholder.

Spokesmen for the Cosmopolitan’s general contractor and for Clark County both downplayed the significance of notices issued by building inspectors at the job site since late December.

“It’s customary” for a project to receive correction notices, said Dan Kulin, a county spokesman.

The county won’t sign off on a building until all deficient work is brought up to building codes, he added.

The general contractor, Perini Building Co., echoed those sentiments. Spokeswoman Leslie Pittman said the correction notices have “nothing to do with the stoppage of work on interiors” on some floors of the Cosmopolitan, which the Review-Journal reported Friday.

But an independent fire consultant, who reviewed the Cosmopolitan’s correction notices for the Review-Journal, said they suggest “a lack of proper supervision” of construction workers at the job site.

“And, it proves why you need building and fire inspectors,” added the consultant, Terry Taylor, who is based in Northern Nevada and has worked as a deputy state fire marshal in two states.

According to a Feb. 2 notice, Cosmopolitan workers, in effect, eliminated the fire resistance of doors throughout the 2,998-unit condo-hotel tower, by making unauthorized alterations to the doors and their door frames.

The changes occurred “on multiple levels and in multiple locations …. too numerous to specify,” the notice reads.

A door’s fire rating is its ability to withstand heat, smoke and flame for a set amount of time.

A testing laboratory doesn’t rate a door in isolation, but as part of an assembly. The rating is premised on all components — door, frame, hinging — being installed in the manner designated by the lab.

The same notice reported that some doors that require a fire rating are missing smoke seals, some do not self-latch and “others have excessive gaps at bottoms of doors … (and) at tops.”

Kulin said county inspectors do not routinely count up the number of times a flaw occurs, because once work has failed an inspection, the count doesn’t matter. So Kulin could not quantify the number of doors involved. He said terms that appear in a notice, such as “numerous” or “many,” could refer to as few as 10 instances.

Taylor complimented the county inspector, Tracy Fernelius, for documenting the problem.

But the consultant also said he was disturbed by the extent of altered doors. The notice describes numerous types of alterations, which is different than the repetition of a single error.

A Jan. 29 correction notice, also issued by Fernelius, focused on Perini’s lack of fire-rating documentation for the installation of 14-inch drains to take rainwater from the Cosmopolitan’s roof to its base.

Workers cut holes in floors and ceilings to allow passage of the drain lines. Those holes then need to be sealed in a manner that maintains the fire rating of the floors and ceilings.

The notice about drain lines orders Perini to either provide a lab’s approval for the installation method it chose, or have an engineer judge the method.

Another Feb. 2 notice, again by Fernelius, identifies a fire-rating deficiency in enclosed shafts that will hold stairs for emergency use. The notice orders Perini to document how it will protect pieces of tube steel, located in multiple stair shafts, which currently are unprotected and could be damaged by fire.

Taylor said the minimum consequence of the flaws is the likelihood of sizeable extra cost to repair improper work and replace damaged components. But he was more concerned with the safety ramifications.

Taylor characterized Pittman’s attempt to minimize the recent county notices, which document safety issues, as “a strange response for a top-notch construction company that builds things all over the world. …

“It’s OK for them to install things that are wrong and gamble with everyone’s potential life, in the hope that the fire or building inspector will find it?” he asked.

Contact reporter Joan Whitely at jwhitely@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0268.

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