A California inspection and testing firm has agreed to a six-month ban imposed by Clark County, Nev., from seeking new work in the southern part of the state for submitting false inspection reports on the Harmon Hotel & Spa, one of six large building projects in Las Vegas’ $8.5-billion CityCenter development. Converse Consultants’ failure to disclose defects has prompted the owner to shrink the planned building to 28 stories from the 49 originally planned.

Inspection firm is temporarily banned from state work for reports on tower (front, right).
Photo: MGM Mirage
Inspection firm is temporarily banned from state work for reports on tower (front, right).

Hired by owner MGM Mirage Inc. to inspect the 400-room hotel tower, Monrovia-based Converse issued 62 daily reports between March and July 2008 stating that reinforcing steel inside link beams between floors six through 20 was properly installed, when it was not, the county says. The discovery last year temporarily shut down work on the cast-in-place tower and prompted a redesign. It is designed by Foster + Partners, London.

MGM Mirage said in January it would cut 200 condominium units, of which only 44% had sold. Scaling back the tower will save about $600 million, say project officials. It will open in late 2010, one year later than the rest of CityCenter, deferring about $200 million of construction costs for the building’s interior fit-out.

Harmon’s design called for pouring top portions of the 8-ft-thick link beams with the floor slab, a tricky procedure given the tight and exact spacing of rebar, says the county. Stirrup hooks, in some instances, also were spaced incorrectly and extended past the floor slab, prompting workers to cut them off with torches so they would not show.

In July 2008, Halcrow Yolles Structural Engineers, a unit of Halcrow Group Ltd., New York City, discovered the construction mistakes by Pacific Coast Steel, a San Diego sub to contractor Perini Building Co., Framingham, Mass. County monitors who spot-check third-party inspectors also missed the problems.

“Perini stands by its opinion that design conflicts contributed to the Harmon Hotel structural issues and that portions of the structural drawings, as designed and permitted, contained elements of reinforcing steel that could not be installed as drawn,” says firm President Craig Shaw. Pacific Coast in April agreed to pay $14,105 in fines after the Nevada State Contractors Board issued it five violation notices over “workmanship.” Under the pact, the firm did not admit fault.

Converse can continue jobs under way, under increased county scrutiny, and two inspectors had their qualifications revoked or suspended. They and the firm also paid fines. “The Harmon Tower is not the first or only project in Clark County in which a special inspector failed to observe and report noncompliant construction,” says Converse in a statement. “The size, pace and complexity of the CityCenter project are factors that cannot be ignored. Converse was not the only party on the project during link-beam installation.”