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    FAIRFIELD CONNECTICUT BUILDING CONSULTANT
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    Leveraging from more than 7,000 construction defect and claims related expert witness designations, the Fairfield, Connecticut Building Consultant Group provides a wide range of trial support and consulting services to Fairfield's most acknowledged construction practice groups, CGL carriers, builders, owners, and public agencies. Drawing from a diverse pool of construction and design professionals, BHA is able to simultaneously analyze complex claims from the perspective of design, engineering, cost, or standard of care.

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    BIOHM Seeks to Turn Plastic Waste into Insulation Material with Mushrooms

    July 27, 2020 —
    BIOHM is a research and development led UK start-up that aims to revolutionize the construction industry with its bio-based materials. Among their products are insulation panels made from mycelium, the root formations of fungi. Recently, the company discovered that certain fungal species can consume plastic as a food source. This invention could bring about new construction materials that originate from plastic waste. “Evolving from eating leaf matter and the odd bit of tree bark, to eating plastic might seem like a huge jump, but for certain fungi, it can actually happen very quickly. The inhabitants of the microbial world are far more genetically flexible than humans, able to evolve and adapt to their environment within a generation, constantly modifying and improving upon their genome to maximize their productivity,” says Samantha G.R. Jenkins, Lead Biotechnology Engineer. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Aarni Heiskanen, AEC Business
    Mr. Heiskanen may be contacted at aec-business@aepartners.fi

    Rebuilding the West: Construction Considerations After the Smoke Clears

    December 21, 2020 —
    Wildfires have always been a part of life in the western United States, but, in recent years, the frequency and size of wildfires have become staggering. Oregon, Washington, and—in particular—California face drier conditions, making wildfire season longer and more intense. In these states, among others, prescribed burns (designed to reduce wildfire ignition sources and spreading potential) have been limited or cancelled altogether as the air pollution emitted by these burns may worsen the impact of COVID-19, a respiratory illness in its essence, as noted recently by Science magazine. These circumstances, further compounded by the severe shortage of housing, have created a “perfect storm” in California, which has seen new and denser construction deeper within wildfire-prone areas, prompting a number of key legislative proposals that will impact the rebuilding process after the smoke clears. The infamous 2018 Camp Fire in northern California made international headlines for decimating the town of Paradise. While the cause of the Camp Fire was determined to be faulty electrical transmission equipment, unusually dry conditions allowed the fire to spread to just over 150,000 acres, and the fire took 17 days to contain. Then, five of the 20 largest wildfires in California history occurred during the 2020 wildfire season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The Camp Fire was eclipsed by the August 2020 Complex Fire, which is the largest wildfire ever recorded in the state, growing to just over one million acres in size until it was finally contained on Nov. 15. Legislative Response The Camp Fire and other 2018 wildfires displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes throughout California. The unprecedented scale of both the 2018 and the 2020 wildfire seasons in California has spurred legislators in Sacramento to draft a number of important bills that will undoubtedly impact rebuilding efforts. California AB 38 was prompted by the 2018 California wildfire season and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2019. It requires the state fire marshal, the Office of Emergency Services, and Cal Fire to work together to develop and administer a comprehensive wildfire mitigation program, including "cost-effective structure hardening and retrofitting to create fire-resistant homes, businesses, and public buildings." Unfortunately, the well-intentioned program has yet to be funded, and may be relying on federal hazard funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at a future date. In light of the crippling economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal funding is likely the only viable source for this important item of legislation. California SB 182 would enact new building regulations in high fire-risk areas (as determined by the state fire marshal), including new standards for fire-resistive construction, evacuation routes, defensible space, and available water and firefighting resources. It would also prohibit municipalities from approving new construction in high fire-risk areas unless wildfire reduction standards are satisfied. In effect, the bill would discourage new construction in high fire-risk areas. After passing through both legislative houses, Newsom vetoed the bill, citing its negative impact on the state's strained supply of affordable housing. However, the bill is likely to be revisited in the 2020-2021 legislative session. California AB 1516 is a comprehensive bill that would:
    • Create new defensible-space requirements for both new and existing construction in high fire-risk areas.
    • Create a grant-assistance program for fire-prevention education, inspections, and technical assistance.
    • Direct Cal Fire to develop vegetation management recommendations to minimize flammability.
    Additionally, the bill would allow insurers providing course of construction coverage for a project to request, from the owner, municipal certification that the structure to be built complies with existing and new building standards. Newsom vetoed this bill, cautioning that a "one size fits all" approach to wildfire management may not be appropriate, given that each individual community's needs differ. California AB 2380 focuses on the development of standards and regulations for a relatively new and growing phenomenon: the rising use of private firefighting personnel, particularly by wealthy homeowners. Several prominent and well-known carriers offer homeowners-insurance policies that provide for private firefighting personnel, as well as preventative services (wildfire hazard inspections and clearing defensible space), and expected post-incident services (clean up and removal of fire retardant and similar substances). AB 2380 was signed into law by Newsom at the tail end of the 2018 wildfire season, and it now requires Cal Fire, the governor's Office of Emergency Services, and the board of directors of the FIRESCOPE Program (designed to coordinate firefighting resources among different agencies) to develop standards and regulations for privately contracted fire fighters. Housing Shortage and New Construction These legislative efforts are underscored by the worsening housing crisis, which has both strained existing supply and increasingly pushed new construction into areas known as the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). WUI areas are designated as either "interface" or "intermix:” Interface WUI areas have little to no wildland vegetation, but are near large wildlands. By contrast, in intermix WUI areas, structures are mixed with wildland vegetation. A recent study by the U.S. Forest Service found that, as expected, WUI areas are the hardest hit by wildfires. However, the study also found that, contrary to popular belief, wildfires cause greater damage in interface WUI areas than intermix WUI areas- in other words, wildfire damage is greatest where there is little to no wildland vegetation. The study concludes that wildfires in WUI areas are fueled more by human-made fuels as opposed to natural vegetation. These human-made fuels include building materials and landscaping. It may not come as a surprise that a growing body of scientific literature has ascribed more severe and frequent wildfires to climate change. However, what may be less appreciated is the profound impact of building in the WUI. By 2050, an estimated one million new homes are projected to be built in California WUI areas. In light of this, as well as the recognition that wildfire risk is determined, in large part, by construction standards and the fire resistivity of materials as opposed to natural vegetation, California has developed a special building code for WUI areas: Chapter 7A of the California Building Code- Materials and Construction Methods for Exterior Wildfire Exposure. California is one of the few states to have a unique building code for WUI areas, and, in light of the recent wildfires, California officials are developing stricter WUI building standards. The constituents of State Sen. Bill Dodd in Napa County and surrounding areas have faced some of the state's most devastating wildfires. Dodd is at the forefront of significant fire-related legislation, and was responsible for the passage of the Insurance Adjuster Act of 2019, which sets regulations for insurance-claim adjusting in emergencies. Dodd also spearheaded the passage of SB 190, which was enacted in late 2019. The law requires, among other things, the state fire marshal to develop suitable materials and products for building in WUI areas with respect to exterior wall siding and sheathing, exterior windows, doors and skylights, vents, decking, treated lumber and ignition-resistant materials, and roofing materials. The state fire marshal's office found that roofing material is among the most important factors in a structure's fire resistivity, and slate, metal, and tile roofs have the highest fire resistance rating of "A:” As of July 1, 2021, wood-shake roofs will no longer be allowed by the California Fire Code. The state fire marshal also cites non-combustible siding as an important building element. Wildfire-Resistant Construction A recent study prepared by Headwaters Economics and commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service, WR Foundation, and Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety analyzed cost differentials between traditional construction and wildfire-resistive construction as they relate to the four most fire-critical assemblies of a structure: roofs, exterior walls (including windows and doors), decks, and landscaping. Wildfire-resistant roofing, vents, fascia, and gutters were estimated to cost about 27 percent more than traditional components. However, the wildfire-resistant roofing materials feature lower maintenance requirements and longer lifespans. Wildfire-resistant exterior walls were estimated to cost 25 percent less than traditional components, due in large part to the substitution of true wood siding with fiber cement siding. Wildfire-resistant decking involves the use of composite boards, foil-faced bitumen tape on support joists, and the creation of non-combustible space beneath decking. This type of construction was estimated to cost approximately 19 percent more than traditional decking construction. Wildfire-resistant landscaping has the most significant cost difference as compared to traditional landscaping construction, with the former costing about double the latter. Landscaping fabric can minimize the growth of weeds and thus reduce fire hazard, as does the use of rocks instead of mulch. While certain components of fire-resistant construction may have increased costs, the benefits far outweigh these increases: longer life cycles and less maintenance of the components, and, most importantly, greatly increased fire resistivity of the structure itself and thus its life cycle. As construction in WUI areas is expected to grow substantially in the coming years, so too are fire-resistive construction standards and material requirements. These standards and requirements are part and parcel of a more comprehensive and deliberate set of land use planning, vegetation management, and emergency-response regulations and policies that California will develop by necessity to meet the growing demand for housing in WUI areas, and also to rein in the staggering costs of wildfire suppression. Thus, construction in WUI areas, and, to a lesser degree, in non WUI areas, will be subject to more exacting standards in the years to come. As the science of wildfire prevention and suppression advances, so too will the technological innovations that will allow for safer, longer-lasting and ecologically sensitive construction. As in many other fields, California is expected to emerge as a leader in wildfire resistant building and material requirements, and will undoubtedly play a key role in shaping fire policy throughout the United States. Richard Glucksman is a partner, and Ravi Mehta is senior counsel, at Chapman Glucksman Dean & Roeb. rglucksman@cgdrlaw.com; rmehta@cgdrlaw.com Read the court decision
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    No Coverage for Collapse of Building

    January 04, 2021 —
    Damage to a building caused by the break of a water pipe was not a collapse under the policy. Naabani Twin Stars v. Travelers Cos., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 196443 (D. N. M. Oct. 22, 2020). An underground water line ruptured on plaintiffs property This caused a collapse under the adjacent parking lot, which in turn caused land beneath the building go change positions and damage the building. A geotechnical consultant concluded that a material change in the site conditions occurred as a direct result of the rupture of the water pipe in the parking lot, and that those changes directly affected the settlement of the building. Travelers denied coverage for the damage. Travelers concluded that the building settlement was the result of subsurface movement, which invoked the earth movement exclusion. Travelers inspection concluded that the building was not in a state of collapse. The policy defined collapse as "an abrupt falling down or caving in of a building or structure, or any part of a building or structure, with the result that the building, or part of the building, cannot be occupied for its intended purpose." Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Tred R. Eyerly, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert
    Mr. Eyerly may be contacted at te@hawaiilawyer.com

    Florida Adopts Less Stringent Summary Judgment Standard

    January 25, 2021 —
    On New Year’s Eve, Florida’s Supreme Court issued an amendment to essentially apply the federal summary judgment standard to cases in Florida state courts starting on May 1, 2021. See In Re: Amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510, No. SC20 1490 (Fla. Dec. 31, 2020) (per curiam). This change brings Florida in line with the majority of states (38). Summary judgment is easier to obtain under the federal standard. A moving party need only show that the opposing party lacks the evidence to support its case at trial. Under the soon-to-be obsolete Florida standard, however, moving parties had to entirely “disprove the nonmovant’s theory of the case in order to eliminate any issue of fact." See id. at 3. The nonmoving party could defeat a summary judgment motion by showing that there was a slight doubt on any material fact. See id. at 4-5. This change is good news for defendants and their insurers. With summary judgment easier to obtain, weak claims can be defended prior to trial. Claims may be resolved more quickly and economically. The threat of summary judgment also gives defendants powerful leverage in settlement discussions. The shift may also reduce the backlog of cases accumulated during the suspension of jury trials over the past summer. Reprinted courtesy of John A. Rine, Lewis Brisbois and Sarah Hock, Lewis Brisbois Mr. Rine may be contacted at John.Rine@lewisbrisbois.com Ms. Hock may be contacted at Sarah.Hock@lewisbrisbois.com Read the court decision
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    Subcontract Should Flow Down Delay Caused by Subcontractors

    December 21, 2020 —
    A general contractor’s subcontract with its subcontractor should include a provision that entitles it to flow down liquidated damages assessed by the owner stemming from delays caused by the subcontractor. Such a provision does not mean the general contractor does not have to prove delays caused by the subcontractor or can arbitrarily allocate the amount or days it claims the subcontractor is liable. The general contractor still will need to reasonably establish the delays the subcontractor caused the critical path of the schedule, i.e., delayed the job. In addition to the right to flow down liquidated damages, the subcontract should also entitle the general contractor to recover its actual extended general conditions caused by the subcontractor’s delays (regardless of whether the owner assesses liquidated damages). The objective is that if the subcontractor delays the job, the subcontractor is liable for liquidated damages the general contractor is liable to the owner for in addition to the general contractor’s own delay damages. This is an important subcontractual provision so that the risk of delay caused by subcontractors is clearly flowed down to them in the subcontract. In a 1987 case, Hall Construction Co., Inc. v. Beynon, 507 So.2d 1225 (Fla. 5th DCA 1987), the subcontract at-issue contained language that stated, “The parties hereto agree that a supplier who delays performance beyond the time agreed upon in this Purchase Order shall have caused [general contractor] liquidated damages in the amount required of [general contractor] by their contract per day for each day such delay continues which sum the supplier hereby agrees to pay.” Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of David Adelstein, Kirwin Norris, P.A.
    Mr. Adelstein may be contacted at dma@kirwinnorris.com

    The Power of Planning: Four Key Themes for Mitigating Risk in Construction

    November 09, 2020 —
    Construction is, and always has been, known as a relatively risky business. Whether it is dealing with factors that can be controlled or beyond control, proactively managing risk has proven to be of the most critical factors in delivering quality projects faster, more efficiently and with wider margins. Many people assume on-site activities introduce the greatest amount of uncertainty and potential risk. But many mistakes in construction originate in the planning phase – meaning preconstruction is ripe with opportunity to be the most effective place for mitigating risk, saving money and ultimately broadening margins. There are many ways to mitigate risk before projects even start, but four key themes emerge to be clear, repeatable opportunities for success. DIGITIZE THE PLANNING PHASE Preconstruction is where ideas are brought to life by translating architectural designs into a real, constructible plan. Decisions made at this stage can determine the project’s success and profitability – but it’s far from straightforward. Estimating, scheduling and planning are highly complex activities that depend on constantly changing details and are all areas where missed information or miscommunication can lead to costly rework down the line. Reprinted courtesy of Zac Hays, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved. Read the court decision
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    Georgia Update: Automatic Renewals in Consumer Service Contracts

    August 31, 2020 —
    Georgia HB 1039 amends O.C.G.A. § 13-12-3 to provide additional protections for consumers who enter into service contracts containing lengthy automatic renewal provisions. Pre-Existing Requirement: For service contracts with an initial term of twelve months or longer and an automatic renewal provision for more than one month, unless the consumer terminates the agreement, sellers must provide written or electronic notification of the automatic renewal provision to the consumer. The notification must be provided to the consumer between 30 and 60 days before the cancellation deadline under such renewal provision. The notice must also “clearly and conspicuously” disclose that unless the consumer cancels, the agreement will automatically renew and disclose how the consumer may obtain details about the automatic renewal provision and cancellation procedure. The process by which a consumer may obtain such information must include the seller’s contact information (e.g., specific phone number or address), reference to the contract, or any other method provided. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of David R. Cook, Autry, Hall & Cook, LLP
    Mr. Cook may be contacted at cook@ahclaw.com

    Hunton Insurance Partner Among Top 250 Women in Litigation

    October 05, 2020 —
    Benchmark Litigation recently identified the Top 250 Women in Litigation. The list is based on an extensive research process, feedback from clients, and one-on-one interviews. Benchmark has identified the litigators who have participated “in some of the most impactful litigation matters in recent history” and have earned “hard-won respect of their peers and clients.” Lorelie S. Masters was included in the list for the seventh time. Reprinted courtesy of Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP Read the full story... Read the court decision
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