The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, claims that a three-year-old student recreation facility at its main campus fails to meet some seismic requirements under the 2002 Uniform Building Code. The structure remains open, but a warning notice is posted.

Investigator alleges differences between flexible and rigid components cause problems.
Photo: Luetta Callaway
Investigator alleges differences between flexible and rigid components cause problems.

Designed by the Phoenix office of DMJM Design, a unit of AECOM, with St. Louis-based Hastings+Chivetta Architects Inc., the building is likely to end up in court. Bennett & Jimenez Inc., Las Vegas, which has since shut down, was the structural engineer. Phoenix-based Kitchell Contractors was the construction manager at-risk under a $43.9-million guaranteed-maximum-price contract.

The 70-ft-tall, steel-moment framed structure has an aluminum-framed glass curtain wall, 10-ft roof cantilever overhangs, 100-ft clear spans and bow-tie roof trusses. It�s sheathed in a combination of block, glass, precast and metal panels.

Roof leaks and cracked and buckling floor tiles have also been a problem. The university has since solicited request-for-proposals for building design and repair costs, which will be included as part of the seismic repair�s scope of work.

On Feb. 8, Kitchell and UNLV signed a binding arbitration agreement over cost overruns related to re-manufacturing new structural steel, among other things. Kitchell had sought $9 million; it got $2.7 million.

In 2008, the university hired structural engineer Filip C. Filippou, and he produced a report. �Because of the choice of a flexible structural system for resisting lateral forces, the displacements are relatively large,� says Filippou. He blames the �incompatibility� between the flexible and rigid structural components for the problem.

�We feel�we were the victim of severe professional malpractice� by the design team, says Richard Linstrom, vice president and counsel for UNLV.

AECOM says it�s trying to solve the problem. �We have on multiple occasions offered our assistance to UNLV in resolving the issues they have faced on this project, and we remain willing to assist,� says AECOM�s spokesman in an e-mail statement. �However, we do not agree with all of UNLV�s assertions.�