Saturday, April 22, 2017


I finally made it! As of this week, I have more than one thousand Twitter followers! 
Okay, that’s small potatoes by most standards.(1) On the other hand, most of these tweeps are targeted followers, that is people who are interested in my tweets and will read them. A good number of these people will in turn read SW Oregon Architect because many of my updates announce and link the latest posts on my blog. As I wrote back in 2011 when I first signed on, the goal was to use Twitter to broaden the reach of my blog. I think it’s worked well in this regard. 
Twitter is a good place for bloggers to find targeted traffic. Do I want people to read SW Oregon Architect? Sure. It’s gratifying to know—through interactions on Twitter, Facebook, comments on any of my blog posts, or otherwise—that people find what I write interesting or newsworthy. I realize my blog will almost always be limited in appeal and audience, if for no other reason than my focus has always been first and foremost to provide a forum for the discussion of items of interest to AIA-Southwestern Oregon and CSI-Willamette Valley Chapter members. Nevertheless, attracting the interest of readers outside this limited sphere is also something I aim for.(2) 
I’ve never used any of the popular strategies to secure additional Twitter followers. I’ve gained (and lost) quite a few—most often users associated with accounts involved with Internet marketing or something like that—that are obviously buying or fishing for followers in return. I almost always never follow these people back, and invariably they unfollow me. A high percentage of these are probably not even human; instead, they’re fake Twitter users—auto-following robot accounts. 
For my part I restrict who I follow on Twitter to my friends, folks involved with architecture or construction, those who tweet about local news here in Eugene, or personalities involved with Oregon Ducks athletics (my guilty pleasure). These users generate an endless stream of focused, quality tweets, more than I can ever hope to consume. They make Twitter endlessly fun and interesting. 
Forgive me for tooting my own horn. If you like reading my blog, you may share my Twitter interests. I retweet the best and most relevant content I come across. I take part in Twitter conversations with some of the most knowledgeable and remarkable people. I do these and other things because I enjoy everything the Twitterverse offers. News of its pending demise notwithstanding, I believe the platform will survive because of its directness, brevity, and ability to forge connections. 

(1)   Katy Perry can boast the most of all, with an absolutely incredible 97 million followers. Donald Trump, the Twitterer-in-Chief, has 20 million followers.

(2)   Of course, the quality of content or lack thereof plays the biggest role in determining whether my blog attracts eyeballs. For good reason, Bob Borson’s very popular Life of an Architect blog is literally visited millions of times each year. By contrast, since I first began writing SW Oregon Architect in 2008 the total number of unique pageviews is only now approaching a half-million. Still, that’s thousands of pageviews per month. Even if only a small percentage of these are legitimately interested in what I have to say, that’s amazing to me. FYI, Bob has more than 15,500 followers on Twitter.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Missing Middle

Every seat was taken at The Studio in the Hult Center for Daniel Parolek's presentation on Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A packed house was on hand at the The Hult Center in Eugene last week for the 2017 AIA-SWO Design Excellence Series lecture by Daniel Parolek, AIA. Daniel is a principal of Opticos Design, a firm with a passion for vibrant, sustainable, walkable urban places. The Design Excellence committee invited Daniel to speak here to address the growing need for a diversity of affordable housing types that bridge the gap between single-family residences and large multifamily housing complexes. Daniel coined the term “missing middle housing” in 2010 to advocate for a paradigm shift in the way homes are designed, located, regulated, and developed to help fill this gap. 
It’s with good reason the catchphrase “missing middle” is the flavor du jour in urban planning circles. It refers to a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types compatible in scale with single-family homes that help meet a demand for walkable urban living. As Daniel explained, well-designed missing middle buildings greatly diversify the choices available for households of different age, size, and income. This diversity of choices is much needed in cities like Eugene, where our population growth threatens to widen a disparity between the supply of and demand for affordable housing. 
Daniel pointed to the mismatch between what the housing market wants and what it provides. Part of this is due to dramatic shifts in household demographics. 30% of households today are single-person. 35% are renters and not property owners. Analysts say by the year 2025, 75% to 85% of households will be childless. Nationwide, 7,000 people turn 65 every day. And yet, the housing industry is geared toward the production of large homes on suburban lots owned and occupied by single families on the one hand, or high-density multifamily housing in large developments on the other. These tendencies ignore the growing segment of our society who are not looking at those ends of the spectrum to fill their housing needs. 
Missing Middle housing types (click image to enlarge)
Missing middle housing is a response to our changing demographics, population growth, and the lack of diverse housing options. Missing middle housing types—which include side-by-side and stacked duplexes, bungalow courts, carriage houses, fourplexes, townhouses, courtyard apartments, and other types—provide a range of choices, a range that is too often absent in many markets. 
The physical appearance of missing middle housing belies the density possible; higher densities do not necessarily translate to bigger buildings. Keeping the individual units small is the secret; 600 to 700 square feet apiece is often enough. Side-by-side duplexes can achieve a density of 12-19 dwelling units per acre; townhouses, up to 29 units per acre. As many as 50 DU/acre are possible with courtyard apartment configurations. Densities of 16 DU/acre or more are sufficient to support a nearby main street with locally-focused businesses and public transportation. 
In a nutshell, the characteristics of missing middle housing include the following:
  • Walkable context (people want proximity to services and amenities)
  • Lowered perceived density (missing middle types don’t look like dense buildings)
  • Small footprint buildings (compatible with the scale of neighboring single-family homes
  • Small, efficient units (smaller units keep costs down)
  • Fewer off-street parking spaces (no more than one per unit)
  • Affordability by design (simple construction)
As Daniel put it “what millennials want, baby boomers need.” For the younger generation, particularly those who delay having children, a walkable lifestyle, close-in to the amenities of stimulating urban centers, is attractive. Significantly, a smaller percentage of millennials than previous generations own cars; those that do not gravitate to areas offering multimodal transportation options. Baby boomers likewise wish to stay active and engaged, but without the need for the large suburban homes they raised their families in. They’re downsizing and seeking a convenient, easy lifestyle in retirement. Missing middle housing can fit the bill for both groups.
Daniel says exclusionary zoning bylaws too often present barriers to the development of appropriate and desirable housing options. In his view, cities need to remove these barriers to give missing middle developments a chance. Some of these barriers include regulations that cater to the automobile (i.e. demanding more parking spaces than practically necessary), unnecessarily segregate uses, or inadvertently foster overly large, overly expensive units. Rather than codes that encourage maximization of developable space by means of uncoordinated parameters, Daniel is a champion for form-based codes that foster predictable results. Form-based codes dictate the urban form, scale, and configuration of buildings to ensure design compatibility and thus the assent of longtime neighbors. 
Daniel believes another key to acceptance of missing middle housing is to remove the baggage that comes along with talking about non-single-family housing choices in communities. He avoids using the terms “density” and “multifamily,” choosing instead to explain to skeptical neighbors why a proposed project will make their community a better place and how it will benefit them individually. Often, this discussion will point out how increased density can help a valued commercial node thrive or support expansion of mobility options. 
An example of missing middle housing: The Arcadia Community project in Eugene, designed by studio-e architecture and now under construction (rendering by Hopper Illustration) 
Some critics, including neighborhood advocate Paul Conte here in Eugene, contend examples of missing middle dwellings are often too small, too expensive, fail to provide adequate off-street parking, or are by economic necessity part of large greenfield developments distant from the urban center (Crescent Village being a case in point). In their view, the introduction of missing middle housing types in healthy, established neighborhoods can only work if it is the outcome of a community-driven process that dives deeply into issues of structural form, market demand, affordability, and traffic impact. Absent such a process, the inevitable results are resistance to change. 
Affordability is certainly a huge issue and a deterrent to the construction of missing middle developments. Housing costs in Eugene during just the past five years have increased by 45%. Household incomes have not kept pace, growing only 16% on average over the same period. Clearly, if a city is to remain a sustainable community it must have an inventory of “workforce housing” targeting households ranging between 60% and 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI). The problem may not be so much a matter of missing middle housing types as it is missing middle economics. Do the attractive housing forms Daniel included in his presentation always pencil out? His answer would be there is no reason why they cannot. He contends affordability is really a matter of design, one that shouldn’t have to rely upon subsidies. 
A bungalow court (photo from the Missing Middle website)
Is truly viable missing middle housing simply a fantasy? I for one don’t want to discount the possibility that such a unicorn is a reality. It isn’t necessary to introduce all the missing middle housing types in and about a given neighborhood. For example, what’s wrong with only inserting alley-way carriage houses in Eugene’s south and west university districts, targeting occupancy by individual college students? I may be na├»ve but I’d prefer to see distributed, small-scale examples of missing middle housing rather than block-busting student housing mega-developments that radically alter the morphology of neighborhoods historically comprised of single-family houses. MMH elsewhere in Eugene would obviously cater to other market segments as well. 
Architects (and planners) have a propensity for latching onto the latest fad, cult, or silver bullet. That said, the missing middle concept has legs. This isn’t a fad. The market is waiting. Done right, missing middle housing can help provide a critical mass for supporting complete, diverse, and walkable neighborhoods, while reducing pressure on the urban periphery. I think the recipe for success demands creative, inspired design, but that may also be the reason why it is elusive: the making of good, deferential architecture that respects its context hasn’t always been our profession’s strong suit. Regardless, it’s clear our housing stock needs diversification. In Daniel’s words, “it’s time to rethink and evolve, reinvent and renew.” 
*    *    *    *    *    *
Daniel Parolek’s lecture to a full house was due to the efforts and support of the following impressive roster of co-presenters and sponsors: 
  • 1000 Friends of Oregon
  • AARP Oregon
  • AIA Southwestern Oregon
  • American Planning Association – Oregon Chapter
  • Architects Building Community
  • Better Eugene-Springfield Transit
  • Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Eugene Association of Realtors
  • League of Women Voters of Lane County
  • Springfield Chamber of Commerce
  • The University of Oregon Transportation and Livability Student Group (LiveMove)
  • University of Oregon School of Architecture & Allied Arts
  • Walkable Eugene Citizen Advisory Network
AIA-SWO’s Design Excellence Committee certainly deserves singling out for yet another noteworthy installment of its Making Great Cities series of lectures. As with every previous presentation, the committee has contributed to a timely, meaningful, and defining dialogue about how to improve our built environment. Daniel Parolek’s visit to Eugene (and likewise to another sold-out audience in Bend) has undoubtedly spurred a conversation that will continue for years to come. 

Daniel Parolek, AIA

Following up the next day on Daniel’s lecture, AARP Oregon hosted a forum on the future of housing at the Sprout! Market Hall in Springfield. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend but I did hear there was consensus around using missing middle housing in our community to improve housing diversity and affordability. I’m hopeful we’ll soon see an increasing number of exemplary missing middle developments, easing our housing crunch by providing reasonably priced homes of varied types for our rapidly changing population and demographics.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Architecture is Awesome #14: Harmony

Scroll detail, Santa Maria Novella church, Florence; designed by Leon Battista Alberti. Photo by Amada44 licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

This is another in my series of posts inspired by 1000 Awesome Things, the Webby Award winning blog written by Neil Pasricha. The series is my meditation on the awesome reasons why I was and continue to be attracted to the art of architecture.

Historians regard Leon Battista Alberti to be one of the principal figures of the early Italian Renaissance. He was the epitome of the Renaissance Man: at once an author, artist, humanist, linguist, mathematician, poet, philosopher, and architect. Perhaps due to his wide-ranging curiosity, he never singled out one field of his studies as prevailing or governing over the others. Instead, Alberti regarded all his interests equally; however, he did consider mathematics to be common ground for both the arts and sciences. It was from the perspective of mathematics that he would formulate his seminal views on art and architecture. More specifically, he believed beauty in painting, sculpture, or architecture to be the pleasing agreement of parts in a composition, very much contingent upon the number, proportion, and arrangement demanded by harmony.

The word harmony derives from ancient Greek, in which it meant “to fit together” or “to join.” Alberti broadly invoked ancient Greek and Roman theorists, who believed as he did that harmony is fundamentally a mathematical construct. In large part due to Alberti’s influence, Renaissance architecture would come to be characterized by mathematical proportion and units of measurement based on human scale as much as it would a borrowed classical vocabulary of columns, pediments, and arches.

For many of us, harmony finds its most accessible expression in music. The basis of musical sound can be described mathematically. Playing multiple notes at the same time can produce aesthetically pleasing harmonies. Discrete pitches correspond to particular frequencies, which can be expressed numerically. A musical scale has an interval of repetition—the octave—that is exactly twice that of a given note. In Western tradition, composers used chords to manipulate harmony. A chord is a harmonic set of pitches consisting of two or more notes. We naturally recognize and enjoy pleasing harmonies when we hear them.

Alberti reasoned that “what is pleasing to the ear should be pleasing to the eye,” so it followed that beauty should be a harmony inherent in a building, a harmony which can be detected through rational means—mathematics. He further asserted in his treatise De Re Aedificatoria that harmony consists of the relation of all parts to each other and to a greater whole, all governed by mathematical laws:

“Beauty is that reasoned harmony of all the parts within a body, so that nothing may be added, taken away, or altered, but for the worse. It is a great and holy matter; all our resources of skill and ingenuity will be taxed in achieving it; and rarely is it granted, even to nature herself, to produce anything that is entirely complete and perfect in every respect."

So defined, harmony is the essence of beauty. Alberti recommended simple proportions—one to one, one to two, one to three, two to three, three to four—which he found to be the elements of musical harmony as well as the basis for the proportioning systems of ancient architecture.

In architecture, the expression of harmony is conveyed through composition, proportion, and scale of parts in balance with one another. We regard certain buildings as harmonious and pleasing because their parts play well together to achieve a whole that likewise is consonant with its surroundings. Harmonious buildings are not dissonant. They are rich in their diversity but in tune with their neighbors and the natural world. Harmonious buildings abide by grammatical rules founded upon mathematical and aesthetic principles. Like nature does, they exhibit a living structure and recurrent patterns.

Fundamentally, everything in our world displays its own level of harmony with its surroundings. If there is artistry at work in the work humans do, greater harmony is achieved. The connectedness, the sameness, the oneness underlying all things—be it music, nature, art, or building—is invariable in the wholeness of a world in harmony.

Like the ancients he admired, Alberti believed harmony could be mathematically deduced and represented in the proportions of architectural elements in a structure. We may not be able to generate harmony mechanistically, but it is achievable through intuition, inspiration, learned experience, and artistry. We’ve long had the means to mathematically measure harmony in design, music, or the natural world. It all implies a cosmological underpinning for everything that is nothing short of AWESOME.
Next Architecture is Awesome: #15 Optimism 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Poetic Impact

Hasht Behesht Palace, Isfhan, Iran (Photo by Diego Delso,, License CC-BY-SA)

It’s time for another installment from the late Bill Kleinsasser’s self-published textbook SYNTHESIS. In the selection below he tackles the challenge of defining what constitutes poetry in architecture, that which elevates mere building to art by heightening the awareness of, and laying open and vulnerable the mind of the observer. For Bill, the realization of poetic impact in architecture must arise naturally, if it comes at all, as it cannot be imposed. 
Architects risk living in an aesthetic bubble of irrelevancy. Poetic impact is not a matter of taste, nor should it be the sole province of an initiated elite. Bill believed the poetic potential of architecture derives from a process of studying, developing, and responding to a broad range of very real concerns, only revealing itself after great effort as a synthesis of many factors. 
Bill seldom shied from invoking the words of others to reinforce his own points, in this instance quoting Le Corbusier and Harold Taylor directly. Bill’s eclectic and broad list of those who inspired and influenced him comprised a highbrow who’s who. The words of intellects as disparate as Jacob Bronowski, Jerome Bruner, Jean Cocteau, Carl Jung, William Faulkner, John Keats, Jackson Pollock, Wallace Stevens, Aldo Van Eyck, Eudora Welty, and William Strunk and E.B. White served as frequent touchstones. I may write a post someday that compiles many of the quotes Bill drew upon to illustrate the principles he espoused. 
Poetic Impact
The ultimate goal of all forms of art is poetic impact, that sudden realization of the extraordinary and the transcendent—the awareness of a profound and noble achievement. Le Corbusier expressed this well when he wrote: 
“You employ stone, wood, and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces; that is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good, I am happy and I say: This is beautiful. That is architecture. Art enters in. My house is practical. I thank you, as I might thank railway engineers or the telephone service. You have not touched my heart. But suppose the walls rise toward heaven in such a way that I am moved. I perceived your intentions. Your mood has been gentle, brutal, charming or noble. The stones you have erected tell me so. You fix me to the place and my eyes regard it. They behold something that expresses a thought. A thought which reveals itself without word or sound, but solely by means of shapes which stand in a certain relation to one another. These shapes are such that they are clearly revealed in light. The relationships between them are not necessarily any reference to what is practical or descriptive. They are a mathematical creation of your mind. They are the language of architecture. By the use of inert materials and starting from conditions more or less utilitarian, you have established certain relationships which have aroused my emotions. This is architecture.” 
Poetic impact, however, is a perplexing subject. Experience in today’s world tells us that it has many more definitions that the one stated above—so many, in fact, that it seems often to lose all meaning. It seems to exist sometimes when we don’t expect it. It seems not to exist for others sometimes when it does for ourselves. Some people seem to be greatly affected by it while others are not. We sometimes hear people say, “this is beautiful,” but when we inspect the object of their enthusiasm we feel that they must have been referring to something else, or to something other than the intrinsic qualities of the object. 
Indeed, people seem to have an easy time liking something—a place for example—for reasons that come not from its inner strengths but from causes that are external, even superficial. The place may conform to tenets of their preferred lifestyle. It may fit a momentary mood. It may be comfortably conventional (or fashionable). It may appeal because of the fact they made it (or part of it) themselves. Any or all of these causes seem able to induce the label “poetic,” and this is perplexing because it suggests poetic impact is ephemeral and just a personal matter, that it is achievable by accident as by great effort and serious intent. 
The definition of poetic impact stated earlier, however, instructs and ordains that this is not so. If poetic impact is truly about the realization of the extraordinary, the transcendent, the noble, the profound, then it involves experiences that are more than merely momentary and personal. It involves experience that is both real and allegorical, concrete and spiritual. 
Dr. Harold Taylor (in Art and the Intellect): “ . . . the experience of art is one that quickens the human consciousness to a greater sensitivity of feeling and a higher level of discrimination among ideas and emotions. The experience of art is a way of enriching the quality of the human experience and reaching a precision in the choice of values. It is not an experience that takes an artist out of the context of his society, but an experience which moves through contemporary reality into new levels of awareness of what human society is. It draws attention to other values in the world than those of material, social, and political power. The experience of art leads each of us into discussions of ultimates, into questions of truth, into serious philosophy, since the responses evoked in each of us becomes part of our way of looking at the world and part of our stated and unstated vocabulary of response.” 
And with specific insight regarding the elusiveness of poetic impact, Dr. Taylor goes on to say: 
“. . . the experience of art is a particular kind of experience which requires for its fulfillment a discipline freely undertaken, a knowledge firmly grasped, a heightened consciousness and an intensity of interest in the creative and imaginative aspects of human life.” 
In other words, the transcending experience of art, the “touching of the heart” as Le Corbusier put it, is dependent upon an awareness in the observer that is established by experience, curiosity, sensitivity, preparation. Poetic impact is then, at least by the definition set forth here, much more than simply a personal matter, and it requires for its full realization that the observer be able to come part way. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Construction Insurance, Bonds, and Warranties

Doug Gallagher (left) and Rob Funk during their presentation at the March 23, 2017 CSI-Willamette Valley Chapter meeting (photo by Marina Wrensch)
Despite having worked in the trenches of the profession for over three decades now, construction insurance, bonds, and warranties remain among the most confusing and inscrutable matters of those requiring my everyday attention as an architect. Consequently, I looked to the March meeting of the Construction Specifications Institute – Willamette Valley Chapter as an opportunity to acquire clarity about a grouping of topics that are often the cause for misunderstandings and misconceptions amongst those in my profession. 

Our knowledgeable speakers for the evening were Doug Gallagher, Attorney of the eponymously named Douglas Gallagher Law Office PC , and Robert Funk, CIC of KPD Insurance and Risk Solutions. Their task was daunting—to describe the various forms of construction insurance, bonds, and warranties, and the salient features of each that distinguish their fundamental purposes—and they had only an hour within which to accomplish it. Given this constraint, the two men truly did their best to cover subject matter deserving the attention of an all-day seminar or much more. 

In a nutshell, Doug and Rob defined construction insurance, bonds, and warranties as follows: 

Construction Insurance
Fundamentally, insurance is a financial risk management tool, the primary concept of which involves the transference of the risk of potential financial loss from the insured to an insurance company in exchange for a monetary premium. 

Most everyone is familiar with insurance in one form or another, such as automobile insurance, homeowner’s insurance, or health insurance. Construction industry insurance is similar, protecting policy holders from catastrophic financial losses in the event of a claim or occurrence. 

Construction insurance includes coverage for general liability related to claims for bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, and others that can arise from construction-related activities. There are also professional liability policies, that protect individuals and companies from the full cost of defending claims of negligence, primarily for errors & omissions (after all, humans sometimes will make mistakes). Other forms of liability insurance include policies for managerial liability, and liability risks related to pollution, the actions of company directors and officers, cyber activities, and workers’ compensation. Excess liability policies provide coverage limits above those of an underlying liability policy, and are sometimes a contractual requirement on construction projects. 

Construction insurance also includes property insurance. Builder’s risk policies offer coverage in the event of property losses, protecting the insurable interests in materials, fixtures, and/or equipment being used in the construction or renovation of a building. Builder’s risk insurance can be purchased either by the owner or the general contractor, depending upon the terms of the Contract for Construction. It is usually a statutory requirement for public work. Inland marine coverage (a peculiar term as Rob pointed out) protects property in transit, as well as the instrumentalities of transportation (the bridges, roads, and piers, etc.). 

Property insurance purchased by one party can also provide coverage for the business or personal property of others, who become additional named insureds on the policy. This kind of coverage is often used in the instances where an owner may rely upon the insured contractor to provide protection of property the owner has paid for but is not yet part of the completed work (such as for materials stored in an off-site warehouse). 

Rob did leave us with cautionary words on the subject of construction insurance: Insurance, the saying goes, is like Swiss cheese. There’s a lot of substance to it but a lot of holes as well. It’s in everyone’s best interest to understand required and recommended coverages for any construction project. Doug seconded this point by saying it’s important to avoid limiting coverage through poor contract language. Equally important for everyone involved with a construction project is to review contractual requirements related to indemnification with their respective insurance providers. Finally, coordinating, verifying, and tracking certificates are keys to effectively managing insurance products. 

Surety Bonds
The easiest way to distinguish surety bonds from insurance policies is to understand that insurance provides protection from things beyond your control, whereas bonds come into play upon a breach of a contractual obligation. A bond is itself essentially a form of contract between a principal (the contractor) and the surety company (the “rich uncle” as Rob characterized it). It is a third party, usually the owner, who is the claimant when a bond is exercised. 

The various forms of surety bonds include bid bonds, performance bonds, payment bonds, and maintenance bonds: 

Bid bonds provide financial protection to the owner if a bidder is awarded a contract pursuant to the bidding process, but fails to sign the contract and provide required performance and payment bonds. The bid bond process also helps to screen out unqualified bidders and is often necessary to the process of competitive bidding.

Performance and Payment bonds protect an owner from financial loss in the event the contractor fails to perform the contract in accordance with its terms and conditions. With cause, an owner can declare a contractor in default and terminate the contract, and then can call on the surety to meet the surety’s obligations under the bond. 

Surety companies prequalify contractors based on their financial strength, construction expertise, and ability to perform the proposed work. By requiring surety bonds, owners present themselves with a level of assurance that the selected contractor will fulfill its contractual obligations successfully. Regardless, private owners do not always require contractors to furnish bonds because they increase the cost of a project. On the other hand, all public agencies do require performance and payment bonds. The bonds provide subcontractors and suppliers with remedies for losses for non-performance by the principal in the absence of construction lien rights on public projects.

Interestingly, Doug said AIA Document A312 – Performance Bond & Payment Bond does not entirely comply with the Oregon Regulatory Statutes. I’m not sure exactly how A312 fails to do so, but if I correctly recall what Doug said, it may have something to do with Oregon’s civil statutes of limitations. 

Maintenance bonds are purchased by a contractor and protect the owner of a completed construction project for a specified period against defects and faults in materials and workmanship. The purpose is to provide the owner with a means to ensure the cost to resolve problems is not an issue. 

A key concept associated with surety bonds is that a contractor who has had a claim filed against a bond must repay the surety for any compensation it makes to the obligee (the owner). 

One of the more vexing topics for anyone involved with construction is the purpose and true scope of warranties. Warranties are not to be confused with the correction period (usually one year in duration from the date of Substantial Completion), which is the time during which the contractor has the obligation to rectify deficient work. The correction period is associated with the contractor’s responsibility to generally correct deficiencies, whereas warranties apply to the need to complete a project in accordance with specific requirements of the contract documents. Warranties are a representation made by one party that another party can rely on. Warranties may be expressed (in writing) or implied (not directly stated but assumed to exist under common law). 

The problem with written warranties is that you need to fully understand what they say. Manufacturers are careful to only warrant what they directly control. Also, the scope of one manufacturer’s warranty may differ significantly from that of another manufacturer even though their products or systems may otherwise be similar and meet the project’s specified requirements; accordingly, it is incumbent on the design professional to clearly (and realistically) define warranty requirements and subsequently review submitted them with care to ensure the warranty provisions fully comply with them. 

What about “guarantees?” How is a guarantee different from a warranty? A guarantee is generally synonymous with a warranty; the difference is a guarantee is more akin to a surety bond, wherein someone makes a promise to be responsible for another’s debts or obligations. 

Class Limitations Periods in Oregon
Doug touched upon time limits on claims, which are important to be aware of under different circumstances. 

A statute of repose is intended to bar actions after a specified period has run from completion of a project. In Oregon, this period runs for 10 years for public projects, and 6 years for commercial projects. 

A statute of limitations differs from a statute of repose by being triggered by an “injury” or claim for damages. The time limits vary depending upon the nature of the claim. They are 6 years for breach of contract, 4 years for product liability, 2 years for upon disclosure of negligence, and 2 years from the date of discovery for design defects. 

If I understand correctly, this means a plaintiff can file a claim for, say, faulty construction within four years of identifying the problem if the statute of repose has not already been exceeded. 

*    *    *    *    *    *

As I suggested earlier, I find construction insurance, surety bonds, and warranties to be complex, nuanced, and confusing subjects. I hope I have conveyed the gist of the presentation by Doug and Rob with as much fidelity and with as few inaccuracies as possible. Big thanks to the both experts for taking on a considerable challenge with good humor, grace, and effectiveness. 

Big thanks too to Jeremy Moritz of the Eugene Builders Exchange for making the EBE available as our venue for the evening. Jeremy sees great things in the future for the Builders Exchange, even as the nature of construction information management is in great flux. I agree, and hope to see the relationship between EBE and CSI Willamette Valley Chapter flourish in the future.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Educational Seminar: Fall Protection for New and Existing Buildings

Construction worker on the Empire State Building, during a time when there was less emphasis upon fall safety.
Join the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute on Thursday, March 30, 2017 for what promises to be an essential educational seminar on fall protection for new and existing buildings. 

Attend the seminar and you will learn:
  • About fall protection regulations for construction and general industry
  • About temporary and permanently installed devices available for fall protection and fall restraint
  • About procedures for designing fall protection systems
  • How to design skylights and retrofit existing skylights for fall protection
  • To recognize potential difficulties with retrofitting existing buildings with fall protection systems 
The knowledgeable group of speakers will include:
  • Larry Fipps - Senior Safety Consultant, Oregon OSHA
  • Charlie Garcia - Engineered Solution Specialist, Guardian Fall Protection
  • Jody Moore - DeaMor Associates
  • Tom Jordan - Senior Project Manager, Ausland Group
  • Mack Landreth - Owner, Smith Sheet Metal
3 AIA/CES HSW Learning Units will be available by request to those who attend.

A thorough understanding of fall protection (elimination, prevention, or arrest) is invaluable for everyone involved with the design, construction, or maintenance of buildings where there may be a risk associated with working at height. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, falls account for 8% of all work-related trauma injuries leading to death. Undoubtedly, the number of workers whose lives are temporarily or permanently impacted by fall-related injuries are even more significant.

This is your chance to learn about fall protection regulations for new and exiting buildings, for construction and maintenance, from a panel of industry experts! Your clients look to you for solid advice; equip yourself with the facts. Don't miss this seminar. Here are the details: 

What: Fall Protection for New and Existing Buildings educational seminar 
When: Thursday, March 30, 2017   8:15 to 12:00 pm   Please arrive 10 mins early!
Where: Baker Downtown Center, 975 High Street, Eugene. Telecast Location: Bend Center, 80 NE Bend River Mall Drive, Bend.  
Credits:  3 AIA (CES HSW Learning Units) 
RSVP: Register no later than noon, Monday March 27 to Steve Gunn, CSI/CDT or (541) 686-2031. Remote attendees must RSVP with Steve! 
Registration: or pay at the door (check or cash fine, no cards accepted) 
Cost: $75.00  Cost includes continental breakfast, coffee, and snacks