Washington students shine at CM competition

March 4th, 2015 by Ben

This UW team won first place in the Mixed Use category.


The University of Washington won three awards and Washington State University won one at the recently held regional Associated Schools of Construction student competition in Nevada.

The event is the largest construction management competition in the country, with more than 1,300 students from 44 universities and 17 states participating, according to a WSU news release.

Both schools competed in Region 7, which includes schools from Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii.

UW won first place in the Region 7 Mixed Use category, and WSU was third in the Commercial category. UW also won two third place awards in the Open competition, in the Integrated Project and Sustainable Building/LEED categories.

Way to go kids!


WSU’s winning team in the Commercial category.





See what’s trendy at the Seattle Home Show

February 10th, 2015 by Ben


Axiom Design Build, one of the exhibitors at the home show, raised this Queen Anne house onto a new foundation and added to the back.


The Seattle Home Show opens Saturday at CenturyLink Field Event Center.

Promoters of the 71st annual event put a list together of what is trending for the show. Here’s what they found:

  • More sophisticated laundry rooms, with formal space such as countertops to fold clothes.
  • Home styles moving in two directions: warm and rustic; sleek and modern.
  • White ceilings and muted walls.
  • Finishing extra space, such as over a garage or in a basement, for extended family or to rent out.
  • More homebuyers from foreign countries with extended families are creating more demand for bigger homes with multiple bathrooms.
  • Large walk-in showers are replacing bathtubs.
  • Older people are selling their homes to Gen Xers.
  • Baby boomers are downsizing from houses to condos, and are using equity to fix up their new digs.
  • Millennials are starting to enter the market and are looking for earth-friendly, smaller homes with more amenities.
  • Heated and covered outdoor living areas.
  • Outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and other luxury items.

Not trendy? The home show is holding an ugly couch contest, where the winner will get a $2,500 gift card from My Home Furniture & Decor.

The show runs until Feb. 22. Adults are $12, seniors $8 and juniors $3. Check it out at www.SeattleHomeShow.com.

Huge apartment fire blamed on maintenance and light-weight wood

January 23rd, 2015 by Tonia



(This is the second fire at this complex since 2000 – while the project was under construction.)

EDGEWATER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Maintenance workers fixing a leak and using a torch is what started the massive fire at an Edgewater, N.J., apartment complex fire, officials said Thursday night.

As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, Edgewater police Chief William Skidmore said at a news conference the workers were using a blow-torch to make repairs to a leak at the Avalon at Edgewater complex, when a plumber accidentally ignited the fire in a wall.

Skidmore said the workers tried to put it out themselves and delayed calling for help for about 15 minutes. It is unclear how many workers were involved or where exactly the work was being done.

“They tried to suppress it themselves, and then they called their supervisor, which gave the fire a head start,” Skidmore said.

Fire Chief Thomas Jacobson said the delay in calling 911 put his crews at a disadvantage, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

“It takes four minutes for a room to be fully engulfed and flash over so 15 minutes can make a big difference,” Jacobson said.

Officials also said Thursday a lightweight wood construction contributed to the fire, leaving hundreds of residents permanently displaced.

Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland said a local state of emergency remains in effect due to the fire at The Avalon at Edgewater, which broke out around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and raged for hours.

“It was a long and challenging night and I think every one of our first responders really stepped up to the challenge,” McPartland said.

McPartland said it was because of the good work of all the first responders that no lives were lost.

“I mean, I saw four brave men go into that fire and pull a woman out while the façade was coming down virtually on top of them,” he said.

The fire was brought under control by Thursday morning, but crews were still putting out hot spots and heavy smoke could be seen billowing from the structure even in the evening.

Jacobson said the fire appears to have started on the first floor and quickly spread through the floors and walls because of the building’s lightweight wood construction.

“If it was made out of concrete and cinder block, we wouldn’t have this problem,” he said, adding the building complied with construction codes.

Jacobson said the sprinklers were working and went off, but they were no match for these flames.

“It doesn’t get every area,” he said. “It gets the common areas where you can egress and get out. It gets your apartment. All the little voids inside every nook and cranny in the walls? No.”

Jacobson said crews simultaneously battled the fire while doing door-to-door searches and pulling people from the balconies.

“We had a crew trapped on the balcony with a victim; we had to rescue them with ground ladders from the back of the building. That was my concern first, not the building,” he said.

Firefighters from across New Jersey and from the FDNY helped battle the blaze. It was raised to more than five alarms Wednesday night and grew so large that the flames were visible from Midtown Manhattan.

As CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported, the Bergen County Arson Squad investigated where and how the fire started, even though it later turned out to be accidental.

“A fire of this magnitude is an automatic response for the arson squad,” Skidmore said.

Schools were closed Thursday and will remain closed Friday. McPartland said access to some roads around the building would be restricted.

In all, 240 units were destroyed, permanently displacing about 500 residents, McPartland said. An additional 520 residents from other Avalon buildings have also been displaced, McPartland said.

“Don’t know where to even start,” resident Seoung Ju Won told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.

“It was like a volcano eruption, really,” said resident Angela Nyagu. “That’s what I watched on TV before, how volcanoes erupt. Now I witnessed that myself.”

Among the residents of the complex was Yankees announcer John Sterling, who talked to CBS2 about his experience.

“I walked to the building and smelled smoke, and I went out to my floor where my apartment is, and the smoke was so bad I couldn’t see, and I thought, ‘Hey, we’d better get out of here,’” Sterling said.

And many residents, including Limor Yoskowitz-Frinomas, were still waiting to hear whether their homes were destroyed.

“We’re hoping for the best,” she said. “My kids are OK, so I’m OK, and we’ll take it from there.”

There were no reports of any missing persons, but McPartland said two civilians and two firefighters suffered minor injuries. He said some pets were rescued from the blaze, but some did die in the fire.

One woman told CBS2’s Meg Baker that her dogs were both killed.

“I saw gulfing flames coming out of the building, and unfortunately, I have two dogs that perished in the fire – Hailey and Griffin,” the woman said.

This isn’t the first time the very same apartment complex has been engulfed in flames.

In August of 2000, the complex was under construction when a fast-moving fire tore through it. The flames also destroyed a dozen surrounding homes, displacing up to 70 people.

The 2000 fire was ruled accidental by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. No deaths or serious injuries were reported.

Video shows near miss at pontoon construction site

December 24th, 2014 by Ben

This week, the state Department of Labor & Industries cited Kiewit General Joint Venture for safety violations related to crane operations at the SR 520 bridge pontoon construction site in Aberdeen.

L&I says it started an inspection in June after a 13,000-pound concrete counterweight fell as it was being lowered from a Potain crane. The video below shows the incident where the falling concrete block just misses two workers as its cable snaps.

L&I is fining Kiewit General $170,500 for one serious and three willful violations. The charges include failure to follow several manufacturer’s recommended changes after being notified of problems with flawed or defective lifting lugs on the counterweights.

L&I also says Kiewit General did not follow the manufacturer’s recommendation to use alternative safety rigging on the counterweight.

News reports say Kiewit disagrees with the violations being called “willful” and may file an appeal.

Kiewit General in the spring expects to finish the last three of the bridge’s 21 longitudinal pontoons at the Aberdeen site.

The last of the smaller stability pontoons floated out of a Tacoma casting basin earlier this month. They were built by a joint venture of Kiewit, General and Manson.

CMU Firewall Saves Multi-Family Structure from Disaster

December 15th, 2014 by Tonia

photo 3A 50+ year old wood frame apartment complex in Airway Heights caught fire recently.

The structure is a dry wood frame, with a  CMU fire wall separating the building wings.  This building’s CMU fire wall prevented the adjoining wing from catching fire.  The front side of this structure received more damaged than the back which is shown in the photos.

This demonstrates the effectiveness of the CMU firewall component in multi-family and commercial structures.   The masonry industry works hard to continually reaffirm the use of CMU firewalls in buildings in condensed, urban areas to protect the community from major catastrophic fires as well as other energy, lifecycle and environmental factors.

The Masonry Institute of Washington is available to provide additional information on all masonry systems for both constructability and aesthetics.

In time for Thanksgiving, PCL donates $10K to local food banks

November 26th, 2014 by Ben


PCL’s Seattle buildings and civil groups donated $5,000 to Northwest Harvest Food Bank and another $5,000 to Food Lifeline to support those in need. This is the sixth consecutive year the Seattle office has donated to the two food banks for a total of $60,000.

“Thanks to PCL for joining us in the fight against hunger,” said Linda Nageotte, president and CEO of Food Lifeline, in a release. “We see the need for food continue to increase especially among children and seniors, our most vulnerable populations.”

According to Food Lifeline, one in six Washington households struggled with food insecurity at some point during the year, meaning food was uncertain or unable to meet the daily needs of household members.

The checks were presented to the food banks on Nov. 20.

In addition to the Seattle office, 13 other PCL offices across the nation are donating $130,000 to local food banks.

Over the last six years, the company has donated $868,000 nationally. That’s about 7.8 million meals.

Way to go PCL!

FHWA makes video on Skagit bridge repair

November 4th, 2014 by Ben

The Federal Highway Administration has produced a nine-minute video detailing how the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River was repaired so quickly. The project, both temporary and permanent bridges, has won several awards since its completion. Check out the video below, it’s worth another look.

Amazon builds film sets around DJC Building

October 9th, 2014 by Ben



Crews from Amazon.com descended on the Journal Building this week to film an episode of the new TV series “The Man in the High Castle.”

Before the film crews set up, construction workers were busy transforming the streets around the building and the Journal’s press bay to resemble an early 1960s New York scene — with a twist.

That twist? Germany, Japan and Italy won World War II, with the East Coast under Nazi control and the West Coast occupied by the Japanese. That’s in following with Philip K. Dick’s novel, which the series is based on.

Some of the props made by the workers include a mock subway staircase, street signs bearing the swastika and a sign for Lariat Shipping & Moving in Post Alley. The DJC even printed up some faux newspapers, including the “Reich Chronicle.”

For the subway stairs, workers aged the wood with a special coating and made the plexi-glass canopy look old by scuffing the surface and placing some debris that looked like dried vegetation on the edges.

Word has it that Amazon’s crews have also been filming in Georgetown, Capitol Hill and the International District.

Check out these photos from the DJC’s own Jeff Miller.




Has the “Services Addendum” Contract Model Run Course?

September 23rd, 2014 by Todd

The “services addendum model” of contracting seemed to be all the rage for a while.   In a talk I gave a while back entitled “21st Century Subcontracting,” it warranted—wait for it–two very informative PowerPoint slides.  But after Division II of the Washington Court of Appeals issued its published decision in Bravern Residential II, LLC v. Dep’t of Revenue on September 23, it looks like it might be the end for that contracting model.

Some really smart lawyer or accountant must have come up with the model.  It was a device used by developers to lessen the tax burden associated with hiring a general contractor to build a speculative building.  Generally, a general contractor’s services (including particularly, the labor it provides to a project) are subject to both retail sales (WSST) and Washington Business and Occupation (B&O) taxes.  In today’s world with municipalities’ WSST rates up to nearly ten percent (both Seattle and Bellevue are at 9.5%), taxes on a general contractor’s work adds up quickly on a large project.

As with most big projects today, developers create a single-purpose entity (generally, a limited liability company) that is the “developer” and “owner” of the project.  The members of that LLC are generally the project’s investors, including often a traditional real estate development firm.  The extra entity layer further insulates project investors from potential liability.  In the service addendum model, the developing LLC makes the erstwhile general contractor a one-percent member, with the investor-members contributing land and capital, and the general contractor contributing “services” to the LLC.   By asserting that the LLC is actually the “speculative builder” of the project (by virtue of the “services” being provided to it by the contractor-member), the LLC could take advantage of two provisions in the Washington Administrative Code, one which exempts “speculative builders” from both WSST and B&O on the builder’s direct labor, and one which provides tax exemptions for the transfer of “capital assets,” i.e., that there was no “sale” of the services.  No sale = no sales tax.

In Bravern, the Court of Appeals upheld the 2008 decision of the Department of Revenue, which said neither exemption applied.  The Bravern LLC, having lost its appeal at the agency level, paid more than $107,000 in disputed taxes, and then sued the Department to get those taxes back.   In dueling motions for summary judgment, the trial court sided with the Department, and Bravern appealed.    The Court of Appeals agreed that because PCL—not Bravern—was required to perform the construction work, it was not a “speculative builder” under the WAC definition.

Further, the court ruled that the transfer of credits to PCL’s “capital account” was the kind of transfer of “capital asset” that allows tax to be avoided.  Rather, the Court, citing a 42 year-old case, said that “capital assets” are “a device or article kept, maintained, employed and utilized in the conduct and operation of the business,” in other words, something tangible.   “Services,” the court said, do not fall under that definition, and therefore tax on such services cannot be avoided by transferring their value between the members of an entity.

The “services addendum” model was always a conundrum to construction lawyers.  And, many of us thought that a decision like this was just a matter of time, if for no other reason than the state would want developers to start paying these taxes.  In one instance, I represented a subcontractor trying to negotiate a contract with the contractor-one percent-member of a developing LLC.   Though the subcontract purported to incorporate the “Main Contract” by reference, I was repeatedly denied access to that contract.  When finally granted a chance to review it, I was told I could see it only at the contractor’s office, and was initially denied a copy of it.   It turned out to be a heavily marked-up AIA A 111/A201 Guaranteed Maximum Contract, retitled “Services Addendum” in which the duties of the contractor to the Owner had been altered to be its “contributions” to the developing LLC.

There were a number of things about that agreement that made subcontracting a little tricky.  The standard form subcontract that the general was proposing didn’t really fit too well given that the general was, in essence, the project’s owner.   First, all the pass-through provisions that purported to make the sub’s duties to the general mirror those of the general to the owner were hard to understand.  “But, aren’t you the owner?,” I would ask, a bewildered look on my face.

And, curiously, the general insisted that my client, whose subcontract amount was to be substantial, agree to a “pay if paid” provision.  This really stumped me.  If the general contractor was the project owner, what possible meaning or effect could the risk shifting provisions of a “pay if paid” clause even have?   As I understood it, the reason for “pay if paid” was to put a subcontractor in the same position as a general in regard to the risk of the owner’s non-payment.   But, if the general was the owner, did that risk even exist?  As you might guess, it was all a little confusing.

But at least for now (I guess a petition for review by the Washington State Supreme Court is still possible), it seems that the Court of Appeals has closed the “services addendum” loophole (if it ever existed).   And so, perhaps we’re back to the straight-over-tackle owner-general-sub flow down contracting that old guys like me grew up with and are so used to.  At least until some really smart person comes along with another bright idea.

Bid now on pink pallet jack

September 10th, 2014 by Ben

Pink Pallet

UPDATE: Pallet jack sold for $4,150 and there were 11 bidders. The high bidder was John Souza, a principal at J&K Trucking in Pleasanton, Calif. Way to go John!

Raymond Handling Concepts has started the bidding for a pink walkie pallet jack on ebay that will benefit breast cancer charities on the West and East coasts.
Raymond provides material handling equipment on both coasts and has a Seattle-area branch in Auburn. Proceeds from the auction will go to HERS Breast Cancer Foundation of Fremont, California, and The Community Foundation for South Central New York, a partner of the Tina Turner Memorial Golf Classic in Greene, N.Y.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is October.
The auction for the model 102XM machine started on early Wednesday at $350. As of Wednesday evening, eight bidders had submitted 22 bids to drive the price to $2,000. The auction will close at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 16.
Here’s a link to the listing: http://tinyurl.com/PinkPallet
Happy bidding!