5 More Case Histories Refreshed

GBA Publications Committee

Learn from others. Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past! GBA Case Histories are being
used by our members for loss prevention discussions in support of professional
development and mentoring. That is why GBA case histories are so valuable, and why GBA is updating them all, while adding new ones, too. Five more Case Histories have been re-issued.

GBA CASE HISTORY 86 (download):
A “dream home” built on expansive soil and nonexpansive sandstone began to move about eight months after construction. The original geotechnical-engineering report warned of that risk, noted that a slope-stability analysis had intentionally been excluded from the scope of service, and advised that a slope-stability analysis was needed. During construction, the builder releveled the excavation by as much as 18 inches, without any geotechnical-engineering observations or tests, and this was the likely cause of the problems. But the builder was bankrupt and the other parties, except for the geotechnical engineer, were insufficiently insured. To get into the geotechnical engineer’s deep pockets, the homeowner’s attorney brought in a “hired gun” expert who knew just what to say.

GBA CASE HISTORY 87 (download):
A long-term, significant client – a regional grocery store chain – was replacing an existing outlet in a somewhat remote area. The store was one of the client’s less profitable, so the owner’s representative encouraged all involved with design and construction to keep costs low. Unfortunately, the general contractor seemed somewhat distracted, as did the architect. As a consequence, the Member Firm – engaged to provide geotechnical engineering and construction materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services – had to deal with an inadequate submittal-review process and poor scheduling. The member decided to not make waves about the situation, and that was a mistake: The new pavement system failed before construction was complete. Ultimately, the Member Firm got aggressively involved in problem remediation, and that prevented a bad situation from becoming worse. Still, the Member Firm had to contribute about $70,000 to recognize its own performance shortcomings, but – by using meditation – it salvaged its relationship with the client.

GBA CASE HISTORY 88 (download):
A GBA-Member Firm performed a geotechnical-engineering study for a 35-lot subdivision. The developer – a long-time client of the Member Firm – sold the land and development plans to a colleague. The colleague developer then sold one of the lots to a homebuilder. As it so happens, the homebuilder’s lot was located on an ancient landslide. Local authorities were concerned by the situation and told the homebuilder to contact the Member Firm, under the mistaken belief that the Member Firm still was the geotechnical engineer of record. The Member Firm responded promptly, sending a field representative to the site to perform a few basic services. Member Firm personnel assumed that the lot was being developed more or less as they had originally called for, and that was a bad mistake. It cost the Member Firm $95,000 to extricate itself from a situation it should not have gotten involved in to begin with.

GBA CASE HISTORY 89 (download):
A major health-maintenance organization (HMO) engaged the GBA-Member Firm to conduct a geotechnical-engineering study for a new office building to be constructed on a site underlain by old fill and expansive soil. The client clearly was concerned by the subsurface conditions, and that caused the Member Firm – also engaged to provide construction materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services – to work directly with the contractor when its geotechnical recommendations were overridden by the architect and the owner’s staff engineer. The Member Firm’s failure to take a more diplomatic approach caused reactions that forced it to “go along to get along.” It continued to serve, buy only to evaluate construction for compliance with the specifications as written. Because those specifications were inadequate, serious pavement distress occurred, followed by a dispute. When mediation failed to resolve the dispute, the Member Firm figured it could be in for a protracted problem, despite having a limitation of liability provision in its agreement with the HMO. Fortunately, the Member Firm’s worst fears were not realized, but that was a stroke of luck.

GBA CASE HISTORY 90 (download):
The Member Firm’s project manager studied a problem site that the owner purchased at a discount and developed an economic means of making the land usable for a new factory. The owner declined the Member Firm’s field services, however, and instead vested that responsibility in the earthwork contractor. Later, the contractor and the owner’s representative called the project manager, asking him to significantly reduce cut-and-fill requirements because the contractor’s representative said he was encountering “pretty good material.” Not fond of the owner’s representative at this point, the project manager said, “Go ahead,” without even bothering to visit the site. Soon after construction, the new plant’s floor slab began to crack and move, and the project manager knew why. The bad news: It cost the Member Firm $275,000 to correct the problem. The good news: Were it not for the firm’s fast, aggressive response, the loss could have been far, far worse.

GBA Case Histories are FREE to all Members.

Access GBA’s Entire Library of Case Histories: HERE