In the article "Smart Concrete; Building Brains into Concrete can Save Money and Time," Samir Shoukry states that sensor and instrumentation technology must be very carefully used. Equally important is carefully planning how the collected data will be interpreted, distributed and used. When everything goes as expected, sensor technology is a useful tool that benefits everyone involved, but how does it affect issues of warranty and liability? Unless all interested parties agree, it is almost impossible to implement this technology.

Uni-Systems designed, manufactured and installed the mechanization for the retractable roof at Minute Maid Park in Houston. In addition to the 9,000-ton drive system, we also implemented a dynamic hinge with a hydraulic dampener, which relieves any lateral stress on the roof structure. Considering the potential forces on the enormous steel structure, we developed a sensory system that would monitor the roof structure and its mechanical systems. Unfortunately, legal representatives for team members were uneasy about how data might be interpreted and used in case of a warranty issue. I was ordered to remove the system.

Sensory information and data collection is an invaluable tool in construction. However it is almost impossible for individual firms to manage the legal issues. It must be decided who will receive and interpret the data collected, and how that interpretation will affect liability and warranty issues. Determining the reliability of collected data, identifying anomalies and determining whether or not they constitute actual structural problems may be a subjective process. This is an excellent opportunity for trade associations and engineering societies to develop rules to facilitate development of this technology into a viable, widely accepted construction and building management tool.