Student wellness facility at UNLV requires retrofit to meet earthquake code

Because of a design error, the new student recreation and wellness building at UNLV needs a major retrofit to meet the code for withstanding earthquakes, according to the university’s legal team and two independent engineers.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has already gone at least 10 percent over the "guaranteed maximum price" listed in the contract to build the center, which opened in 2007. But the spending is far from over. And it’s not clear where the retrofit money will come from.

Richard Linstrom , UNLV’s general counsel, said, "We feel like we were the victim of severe professional malpractice" by the design team — DMJM Design, which is in Arizona, and a Las Vegas engineering firm, Bennett & Jimenez, which closed its doors in December. The university intends to sue for damages, Linstrom said.

The recreation building’s general contractor, Kitchell Contractors of Arizona, did not detect the seismic error, though it was paid an extra $150,000 up front, to serve as a so-called "construction manager at risk." That means it entered the project before construction started, in order to trouble-shoot questions about what state construction law calls a project’s "constructability," as well as its scheduling.

A mandatory pre-construction check of plans by the Nevada State Public Works Board did not uncover the seismic design error either, according to Linstrom.

Big flaw, small signage

The four-story facility houses a running track, two swimming pools, courts for basketball and racquetball, work-out machines, health service, spa, cafe and meeting rooms. Students, not Nevada taxpayers, footed the bill to construct the rec building, through an academic-credit fee.

Today, a small notice posted at its main entrance warns users that the building falls below seismic requirements, "but engineering consultants don’t see a safety issue" if the building is occupied until repairs are made.

"UNLV is providing this notification in the interest of full disclosure and transparency," the notice also says.

Sophomore Chris Butler, who was eating a snack from the cafe, didn’t know about the hazard. But after the disclaimer was pointed out to him and he read it, he said he trusted the consultants.

"Earthquakes here (in Las Vegas) are so small anyways," said the criminal-justice major.

Apart from the building’s seismic deficiency, it also suffers from a leaking roof, thousands of cracked floor tiles and racquetball courts with buckling floors, according to a UNLV legal document.

Those lesser flaws will be fixed, according to Linstrom, when the whole structure is brought up to seismic code. He said the university has set aside $500,000 for the lesser repairs. Also, it has already handled repairs of several pressing flaws in one portion of the building, involving bent trusses and missed welding.

For the seismic repair, UNLV is currently evaluating proposals submitted by 11 parties, to assess strategies and potential costs, Linstrom said. He added that UNLV intends to force the designers to cover the cost of the retrofit plus the $2.75 million it recently agreed to pay Kitchell for change orders that came up during construction.

Guaranteed price didn’t stick

The construction contract with Kitchell had set a guaranteed maximum price of $43.9 million. In theory, a construction manager at risk gets to keep any remaining money if a project comes in below budget, but the manager at risk should cover the costs if a project exceeds budget.

Yet, UNLV agreed last month to pay the company another $2.75 million, for change orders that arose during construction because of structural design problems unrelated to the recently documented seismic design flaw. The new payment comes on top of $1 million extra that UNLV already paid Kitchell in 2006, also for change orders.

The parties signed the settlement Feb. 8, just before arbitrators were to start deliberating. Kitchell had sued the university and its regents in spring 2009, seeking funds to cover the cost of re-manufacturing new steel after structural design errors had to be corrected during construction. Kitchell took the position it is not responsible for change orders caused by design error.

State law governing the UNLV-Kitchell construction contract required the university to undergo binding arbitration, instead of going to open court, to solve the dispute. But arbitration does not occur in public.

In February, the Review-Journal was requesting permission to attend the private arbitration sessions, when it learned the parties had settled.

In 2009 the Legislature changed state law on construction contracts. Now, public entities must try non-binding mediation first; but if it doesn’t work, they can take the dispute to court.

UNLV’s lawyer said the $2.75 million settlement was reasonable, as Kitchell had initially demanded $9 million in compensation. In the settlement, Kitchell agrees to help UNLV’s recovery effort against the designers, by making documents and witnesses available.

Regents did not vote on the settlement because discussing a proposed deal in a public forum would have given Kitchell, then UNLV’s adversary, an unfair advantage.

According to Linstrom, UNLV President Neal Smatresk signed the settlement after obtaining approval from Dan Klaich, who is Nevada’s chancellor for higher education. Linstrom also said that as the dispute unfolded, he periodically briefed Regent Michael Wixom, who heads a regents’ committee on real estate.

The Arizona office of DMJM Design declined to comment about the UNLV recreation center. It referred the newspaper to the Los Angeles office of AECOM, a global enterprise that acquired DMJM in January.

Paul Gennaro, an AECOM spokesman, said his company has "on multiple occasions offered our assistance to UNLV in resolving the issues that they have faced on this project. … However, we do not agree with all of UNLV’s assertions."

But UNLV spokesman Dave Tonelli parried Gennaro. "We would not have gone out to solicit for a new design team" on the retrofit, Tonelli said, "if DMJM would have moved forward to correct the seismic design error."

J. Francisco Jimenez of Las Vegas, who was president of Bennett & Jimenez, declined to comment on the existence of mistakes in any of its calculations. The economic downturn led to the firm’s demise, he said.

Both Lochsa Engineering in Las Vegas and Filip Filippou, a seismic expert at the University of California, Berkeley, have questioned the building’s ability to weather a quake, in reports commissioned by UNLV.

cautioning against hysteria

Filippou told the Las Vegas Review-Journal by phone that he is concerned about the mix of rigid and flexible elements in the structure. Rigidity is one strategy for coping with vibration, flexibility is a different, conflicting strategy.

"That natatorium area has very high columns that are relatively flexible," he said. "As the columns flex (in quake), the roof may lose its support." The natatorium also has one large glass wall, which could "deform outwards" if severely shaken, causing overhead trusses to detach from the walls.

But Filippou cautioned against hysteria. "I am much more worried about going on the highway in Las Vegas, than going into that building."

Gus Nunez, manager of the State Public Works Board, defended its examination of the building’s plans, which it had outsourced to Schirmer Engineering in Las Vegas for $164,000. Schirmer did detect the separate structural steel problem, whose correction caused some of the cost overrun.

According to Nunez, "What a plans checker does is, make sure the proper code provisions are being applied, … not to check every math calculation or redo the computer modeling. That would be another (multi-million dollar) design fee."

Las Vegas lawyer Alan Lefebvre, who often represents school districts or other public owners in construction disputes, said that public entities are "generally considered to be ‘sitting ducks’" in the construction-manager-at-risk method. A manager can subtly use the planning phase to increase a project’s costs and its own profit margin, according to Lefebvre, who did not comment on the particular circumstances of the UNLV building in question.

Filippou said that Berkeley — because of its quake-prone locale as well as the growing complexity of seismic codes — now goes beyond mandatory plans examination when it adds buildings to its campus. It also hires a second engineering firm to check design calculations by the original engineering firm.

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

ad-high_impact_4
News
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Gold Point townsperson talks about why he choose to live in a ghost town
Gold Point townsperson Walt Kremin talks about the ghost town in Nevada he calls home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like