Another Faulty Tower – John Cleese, Where Are You ?

2009-10-07:   A Cautionary Tale for Clients/Client Organizations … from across the Pond … and a serious lack of Technical Control over the processes of Building Design and Construction …

Where there is no proper Technical Control … can there ever be an appropriate safety factor to incorporate into the design  ?

And before it’s too late … how is it possible to establish that there is no proper Technical Control ?

An artistic rendering of the oval-shaped Harmon Hotel & Spa, in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA), at its original designed height of 49 stories.
An artistic rendering of the oval-shaped Harmon Hotel & Spa, in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA), at its original designed height of 49 stories. Click to enlarge.


2009-10-26‘Who’s to Blame for Faulty Foster Tower ?’ … by Tony Illia, Architectural Record ( …

Despite the recession, CityCenter continues to rise on the Las Vegas Strip, with several buildings scheduled to open later this year.  One project that certainly has not turned out as planned is the 400-room Harmon Hotel Tower, designed by Foster & Partners, which will be nearly half its estimated height due to construction defects.  The problems have escalated into finger-pointing between project parties, resulting in legal actions and project reviews that are still under way.

The 28-story oval-shaped high-rise broke ground in July 2006.  Pacific Coast Steel, a San Diego-based subcontractor to Perini Building Co., improperly installed reinforcing steel inside link beams on 15 floors, a Clark County Building Department investigation revealed.

The problem should have been caught by inspectors, but a third-party California inspection firm, Converse Consultants, falsified 62 daily reports between March and July of 2008, stating that the steel was properly installed, according to county inspectors, who also missed the problems.

The defects were discovered in July 2008 by the project’s structural engineer, Halcrow Yolles Structural Engineer, temporarily halting construction and leading to the Harmon’s redesign.  Owner MGM Mirage declined to disclose the cost of the errors.

This April, Pacific Coast Steel paid $14,105 in fines after a Nevada State Contractors Board investigation discovered ‘workmanship’ issues.  As part of a settlement, the firm did not admit fault.  In August, Converse Consultants was suspended from seeking new work in Southern Nevada for six months, and its inspectors had their qualifications revoked or suspended.

The subcontractor says Foster & Partners is partly to blame.  “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,” said Perini President Craig Shaw in a statement.

The Harmon’s design called for pouring top portions of 2.4m thick link beams at the same time as the floor slab, which is a tricky procedure given the tight and exact spacing of reinforcing rebar.  However, the contractor made installation adjustments in field.  Stirrup hooks, in some cases, were spaced incorrectly and extended past the floor, prompting workers to cut them off so it wouldn’t show, the county inspectors say.

Corrective work and a structural building redesign are in progress.  The building will safely reach 28 stories; pricier work would be needed to meet the originally designed height of 49 stories, say project officials, who would not elaborate.  Foster & Partners declined to comment for this story.




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Human Rights Must Have ‘Real’ Meaning in a Civilized Society !

2009-10-07:  As previously discussed … but deserving much repetition … the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) became an International Legal Instrument, i.e. entered into force, on 3rd May 2008.

This UN Convention simply aims to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access human rights on the same basis as everyone else in society.  And rights are no more than an elaboration of the responsible basic needs of all human beings.

It is worth recalling that the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was directly born out of the large-scale death, human misery and environmental destruction of the Second World War in Europe, North Africa, the Middle-East … and throughout Asia and the Pacific.

Human Rights must have – do have – ‘real’ meaning in a civilized society !


Israel signed the UN Disability Rights Convention on 30th March 2007.  At the time of writing, it has not yet signed the Convention’s Optional Protocol.  Israel has definitely not ratified the Convention or the Optional Protocol.

[To be fair, Ireland is in exactly the same position as Israel.  Why am I not surprised ?!?]

With regard to Situations of Risk, e.g. a fire emergency in a building … or Humanitarian Emergencies, e.g. the Gaza Conflict from December 2008 to January 2009 … the language of Article 11 in the UN Convention is very clear and straightforward:

States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.”

On 3rd April 2009, the President of the UN Human Rights Council established the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict with the mandate “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

The President appointed Justice Richard Goldstone, former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to head the Mission.  The other three appointed members were:

  • Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, who was a member of the high-level fact finding mission to Beit Hanoun (2008) ;
  • Ms. Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, who was a member of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (2004) ;   and
  • Colonel Desmond Travers, a former Officer in Ireland’s Defence Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations.


The Report of the Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict was presented to the Human Rights Council, in Geneva (Switzerland), on 29th September 2009.

The following is a short extract from that Report

Section A – XVII  The Impact of the Blockade and of the Military Operations on the People of Gaza and their Human Rights

Persons with Disabilities (Paragraphs 1283-1291)

1283   Information provided to the Mission showed that many of those who were injured during the Israeli military operations sustained permanent disabilities owing to the severity of their injuries and/or the lack of adequate and timely medical attention and rehabilitation.  Gaza hospitals reportedly had to discharge patients too early so as to handle incoming emergencies.  Other cases resulted in amputations or disfigurement.  About 30 per cent of patients were expected to have long-term disabilities.

1284   WHO reported that by mid-April 2009 the number of people with different types of permanent disability (e.g. brain injuries, amputations, spinal injuries, hearing deficiencies, mental health problems) as a result of the military operations was not yet known.  It reported speculations that there might be some 1000 amputees; but information provided by the WHO office in Gaza and based on estimates by Handicap International indicated that around 200 persons underwent amputations.

1285   While the exact number of people who will suffer permanent disabilities is still unknown, the Mission understands that many persons who sustained traumatic injuries during the conflict still face the risk of permanent disability owing to complications and inadequate follow-up and physical rehabilitation.

1286   The Mission also heard moving accounts of families with disabled relatives whose disability had slowed their evacuation from a dangerous area or who lived with a constant fear that, in an emergency, their families would have to leave them behind because it would be too difficult to evacuate them.

1287   One testimony concerned a person whose electric wheelchair was lost after his house was targeted and destroyed.  Since the residents were given very short notice of the impending attack, the wheelchair could not be salvaged and the person had to be taken to safety on a plastic chair carried by four people.

1288   The Mission also heard a testimony concerning a pregnant woman who was instructed by an Israeli soldier to evacuate her home with her children, but to leave behind a mentally disabled child, which she refused to do.

1289   Even in the relative safety of shelters, people with disabilities continued to be exposed to additional hardship, as these shelters were not equipped for their special needs.  The Mission heard of the case of a person with a hearing disability who was sheltering in an UNRWA school, but was unable to communicate in sign language or understand what was happening and experienced sheer fear.

1290   Frequent disruptions in the power supply had a severe impact on the medical equipment needed by many people with disabilities.  People using wheelchairs had to face additional hurdles when streets started piling up with the rubble from destroyed buildings and infrastructure.

1291   In addition, programmes for people with disabilities had to be closed down during the military operations and rehabilitation services stopped (for instance, organizations providing assistance were unable to access stocks of wheelchairs and other aids).  Many social, educational, medical and psychological programmes have not yet fully resumed.




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