I am writing on behalf of Skanska USA Building Inc. to express our disappointment in your recent article "Modular Hospital 'Triumph' Generates Potentially Costly Trouble" (ENR.com 3/5), which we believe is misleading in its presentation of recent developments in a lawsuit concerning NBBJ and a prior (now dismissed) lawsuit involving owner Premier Health Partner, NBBJ, Skanska Shook and other parties involved in the Miami Valley Hospital project in 2011.
First, it is important to note that there is no lawsuit pending against Skanska Shook or any of its subcontractors related to the project or to the hospital patients who were allegedly exposed to legionella after the completion of the project. The lawsuit that prompted the ENR article is solely a dispute between the owner and NBBJ, the project's architect of record. In that lawsuit, the court decided that NBBJ had failed to fulfill its contractual obligation to obtain insurance that would have protected the owner against legionella-related claims arising from NBBJ's work on the project.
Second, with respect to the previous case in which Skanska Shook was a defendant, it is important to note that there was never any finding that prefabrication or modular construction played any role in the alleged legionella exposures. While allegations were made that certain field installation methods used by TP Mechanical might have contributed in some way to the alleged incidents, those allegations were never proven. Moreover, allegations directed at the prefabrication process are verifiably false. For example, it was alleged that water was allowed to stand in the piping of the prefabricated units after they were water-tested and that this allowed legionella to grow. This charge was absolutely false, as air, not water, was used to test the pipes. This is a prime example of the types of false rumors and innuendo that lead some people to unfairly portray prefabrication in a negative light.
Finally, it is important to note that previous allegations concerning the alleged legionella exposures at Miami Valley Hospital were not just directed at the construction team. As your article noted in passing, there were allegations that the owner's maintenance practices either caused or contributed to the alleged incidents. It was also alleged that aspects of the design generated by NBBJ or its mechanical engineer created conditions conducive to legionella growth. These allegations, if proven, would establish causes completely independent of prefabrication.
Our industry has seen more change in the past 10 years than it has in the past 50, and that is very exciting. We will continue to push forward and overcome challenges by developing new and innovative ways of working smarter. As ENR itself recognized in its "Racking Up Big Points for Prefab" cover story (ENR.com 9/8/10)and later in its Top 25 Newsmakers of 2010 feature on the project's executive, prefabrication is and will continue to be an important part of this evolution.
Co-Chief Operating Officer Skanska USA Building Inc.