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.”