Proponents of two historic code changes—one to allow taller mass-timber buildings and the other to allow use of higher-strength reinforcing steel—are optimistic after recent ballots at two different meetings moved the proposals closer to acceptance by code officials and standards developers.

The American Concrete Institute committee that oversees ACI 318, Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete and Commentary, on Oct. 17 in Las Vegas, gave preliminary approval for the use of high-strength rebar in several types of building construction.

“For now, the hardest part of the journey has been cleared,” says Andres LePage, a professor and director of laboratories in the department of civil, environmental and architectural engineering at the University of Kansas.

Structural engineers who support the changes are particularly interested in the proposed increase in allowable steel yield stress for seismic design of shear-wall and moment-frame seismic-force-resisting systems. The changes would be a game changer for seismic design and reinforcement detailing of structural concrete buildings, they say.

Reduced Rebar Congestion

The approval of high-strength steel for seismic zones would reduce rebar congestion and could permit the construction of stronger walls, beams and columns without increasing their size.

Under the proposal, the maximum value of yield stress permitted for use in design of flexural and shear reinforcement for moment frames would be increased to 80 ksi. The maximum value of yield stress permitted for use in design of flexural and shear reinforcement for structural walls would be 100 ksi.

For seismic applications, the code currently allows 60 ksi rebar. It only allows 80 ksi for nonseismic applications.

LePage was the co-lead investigator of tests on high-strength rebar, conducted at the university. ACI is using the data from the research to support the increase in the allowable limit on rebar grade in seismic zones.

Still ahead is a review by ACI’s technical advisory committee, followed by a public discussion period.

“Time is of the essence,” says LePage. “These activities need to occur within a very tight schedule” for the proposals to be included in the 2019 version of ACI 318, which will be adopted by reference into the 2021 International Building Code (IBC), published by the International Code Council (ICC).

Mass Timber

The other historic change would be the adoption of provisions, also in the 2021 IBC, to allow mass-timber framing in residential and office buildings as tall as 270 ft. On Oct. 24, at the ICC’s final action hearings in Richmond, code officials voted 220 to 103 to increase the height limits for mass timber buildings, according to Mike Pfeiffer, ICC’s senior vice president of technical services.

The ICC’s online voting, which runs for two weeks beginning mid-November, will determine whether the primary proposal, called G108–along with the other 13 related proposals on mass timber also approved on Oct. 24–will actually be included in the 2021 IBC. Preliminary results of the online tally will likely be announced in mid-December.

Official results will not be announced until early to mid-January, after the ICC’s validation committee, called the technical activities committee, reviews both the proposals and an outside audit of the online voting, and reports to the ICC standards board. The board has the final say.

ICC’s ad hoc committee on tall wood buildings (TWB) “studied mass timber construction for two years prior to introducing these code change proposals, including conducting numerous fire performance tests,” said the American Wood Council (AWC), in a statement released after the Oct. 24 vote. “The result of that rigorous process is that each of the new proposed construction types has had its fire and life safety performance confirmed, resulting in a robust building performance.”

TWB is introducing three new types of construction for the Type IV classification of buildings, each with different height possibilities based on occupancy classification and the design of the mass-timber system.

Structural elements of Type IV construction are primarily composed of solid, built-up, panelized or engineered wood products, such as cross-laminated timber, that meet minimum cross-section dimensions. None of the new types of construction proposed permit use of light-frame construction.

18 Stories

For top-of-the-line IV A residential and office-building construction–which would have a three-hour fire rating and the timber totally encapsulated in gypsum board rather than exposed–the code would allow a height up to 18 stories, which is equivalent to 270 ft, according to Stephen DiGiovanni, TWB’s committee chairman and the fire protection engineer for the Clark County, Nev., Dept. of Building and Fire Protection.

For IV B residential and office construction, which would have a two-hour fire rating and the timber mostly but not completely encapsulated, the limit would be 12 stories or 180 ft.

For IV C construction, which would have a two-hour fire rating and totally exposed mass timber, the limit would be 85 ft or nine stories.

The current allowance for heavy timber buildings is 85 ft. That translates to five stories for residential occupancies and eight for office. For IV C, TWB is not proposing an increase in height but is proposing an increase in the number of stories allowed–to nine for both occupancies.

For IV C, “we were very conservative,” says DiGiovanni.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has joined We Are Still In, a national coalition of 3,500 states, cities, companies, and organizations that remain committed to achieving US greenhouse gas emission reduction targets outlined by the Obama administration as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Nancy C. Somerville, Hon. ASLA, SITES AP, ASLA’s executive vice president and CEO, will attend the We Are Still In Forum in San Francisco on September 12, as part of the Global Climate Action Summit, the first-ever climate summit designed exclusively for leaders from the private sector and local government to highlight meaningful solutions to climate change and raise the bar for action.

ASLA leadership has identified climate change as a strategic focus in recognition of the threat it poses to people and the planet. Landscape architects play a major role in addressing climate and resilience issues, both through their work and through national and local advocacy. They plan and design “smart growth” communities; create low-carbon, safe, and active transportation systems; use green infrastructure to improve water quality and reduce flooding; and increase community health and resilience by designing and planning sites, communities, and regional strategies in concert with natural systems.

“By joining together, we strengthen our ability to take action,” says Somerville. “ASLA’s participation in We Are Still In enables us to reinforce the urgent need to build healthy, thriving communities through evidence-based design and planning and to help protect them from the impacts of climate change.”

ASLA is one of 34 signatories in We Are Still In’s cultural organization category. Others in this category include the American Public Gardens Association; California Academy of Sciences, host of the event; The Field Museum in Chicago; and the Phipps Conservatory, which has the first pilot project to have received the maximum four stars from Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES®) for its Center for Sustainable Landscapes.

ASLA’s Climate Change Resources

The Smart Policies for a Changing Climate guide. The recommendations of the ASLA Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience, which convened September 21-22, 2017.

The Resilient Design Guide. explains how communities can better protect themselves from natural disasters through resilient landscape planning and design.

Landscape Architecture and Climate Mitigation guide

Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes – presents case studies and animations.

SITES® – describes the latest information about SITES®, a set of comprehensive, voluntary guidelines together with a rating system that assesses the sustainable design, construction, and maintenance of landscapes.

About the American Society of Landscape Architects

Founded in 1899, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the professional association for landscape architects in the United States, representing more than 15,000 members. The Society’s mission is to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education and fellowship. Sustainability has been part of ASLA’s mission since its founding and is an overarching value that informs all of the Society’s programs and operations. ASLA has been a leader in demonstrating the benefits of green infrastructure and resilient development practices through the creation of its own green roof, co-development of the SITES® Rating System, and the creation of publicly accessible sustainable design resources.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is releasing 13 new and updated contract documents today that will assist architects and contractors with protecting their projects and businesses.

“The AIA Documents Committee routinely reviews its legal agreements to ensure they reflect the latest trends and nuances we’re seeing in the industry,” said AIA Contract Documents & Risk Management Managing Director Kenneth Cobleigh, Esq. “By doing so, we ensure the design and construction industries are working under the best agreements possible for their businesses.”

AIA Contract Documents regularly works with architects, contractors, subcontractors and owners to ensure AIA contracts and forms meet industry needs. One of the most notable changes among this set of updated contracts, includes the new Contractor-Subcontractor Master Agreement and its accompanying work order. The new agreement allows a contractor and subcontractor to agree to a predefined set of terms and conditions that will apply to multiple scopes of work. Another significant update is the Joint Venture Agreement for Professional Services, which was revamped to address the significant legal implications associated with joint venture business relationships. Other notable changes include the:

·         Master Agreements, which now align with the 2017 core AIA document updates.

·         Instructions to Bidders, which now includes designation of Bidding Documents in electronic form or paper copy.

·         Architect-Consultant Agreement for Special Services now includes the copyrights, licenses and payment provisions of the prime agreement. Mediation was added as a condition precedent to binding dispute resolution.

The following is a complete list of new and updated forms and agreements being released:

·         A121TM–2018, Standard Form of Master Agreement Between Owner and Contractor where Work is Provided Under Multiple Work Orders

·         A221TM–2018, Work Order for Use with Master Agreement Between Owner and Contractor

·         A421TM–2018, Standard Form of Master Agreement Between Contractor and Subcontractor Where Work is Provided Under Multiple Work Orders

·         A422TM–2018, Work Order for Use with Master Agreement Between Contractor and Subcontractor

·         A701TM–2018, Instructions to Bidders

·         B121TM–2018, Standard Form of Master Agreement Between Owner and Architect for Services Provided Under Multiple Service Orders

·         B221TM–2018, Service Order for Use with Master Agreement Between Owner and Architect

·         C101TM–2018, Joint Venture Agreement for Professional Services

·         C402TM–2018, Standard Form of Agreement Between Architect and Consultant for Special Services

·         C421TM–2018, Standard Form of Master Agreement Between Architect and Consultant for Services Provided Under Multiple Service Orders

·         C422TM–2018, Service Order for Use with Master Agreement Between Architect and Consultant

·         G709TM–2018, Proposal Request

·         G711TM–2018, Architect’s Field Report

The new and revised 2018 documents are currently available online with an unlimited access license or as a single, customizable document. AIA contract documents are also available as single, non-editable documents and as paper versions through some AIA Chapters. Visit AIA Contract Documents’ website for more information.

About AIA Contract Documents

AIA Contract Documents are the nearly 200 forms and contracts that define the relationships and terms involved in design and construction projects. Prepared by the AIA with the consensus of owners, contractors, attorneys, architects, engineers, and others, the documents have been finely tuned during their 120-year history. As a result, these comprehensive contracts and forms are now widely recognized as the industry standard. Used by all industry professionals, including architects, contractors, owners, consultants, and attorneys, AIA Contract Documents are organized into two categories: by families, based on types of projects or particular project delivery methods, and by series, based on the parties to the agreement or the use of the form. Visit

About AIA Documents Committee

Since its inception in 1887, the AIA Documents Committee has been an AIA committee dedicated to creating and revising AIA Contract Documents. Qualified applicants for the AIA Documents Committee are licensed architects and members of the AIA actively engaged in the design and construction industry through employment in architectural firms or construction companies, or for building owners or developers. New members are appointed to maintain a balance of viewpoints based on diversity, including geography, firm size, practice type, and area of expertise.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is recognizing two exceptional design projects with its 2018 Innovation Awards. Complete details for each awarded project are available on AIA’s website.

The Innovation Awards recognize the exemplary use and implementation of innovative technologies and progressive practices among architects, designers, collaborators and clients. Awarded projects must support the design, delivery and operation of buildings or research in practice and academia. This year’s recipients for the 2018 Innovation Awards—which were selected by AIA’s Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community—are as follows:

Category B: Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence

Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab, Allston, Massachusetts | Shepley Bulfinch

Category D: Practice-based or Academic Research, Curriculum or Applied Technology Development

Stalled! | Joel Sanders

Visit AIA’s website for more information on the Innovation Awards.

About AIA

Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing.

AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation, and world. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards.

Architects, planners and historic preservationists called for change in the design profession at the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s symposium.

The event, “Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now,” on September 28, examined equity and diversity issues in the architecture profession following civil rights leader Whitney M. Young Jr.’s keynote speech 50 years ago.

“Today, achieving diversity in the profession of architecture to mirror the broader society we serve is still a work in progress,” said 2019 AIA President Bill Bates, FAIA. “Ultimately, it is up to every architect to act on Whitney Young’s call to action … and we should remember that Mr. Young’s message, half a century ago—and throughout his life – was one of hope and the unshakable belief that one voice can be a catalyst for positive change.”

Young, who was the esteemed executive director of the National Urban League, delivered a keynote speech to the AIA National Convention in 1968 where he challenged architects to do more to address civil and social issues.

“At the end of the day, this issue reflects on our profession, making it our responsibility to lead the change we seek,” said Bates. “It is up to our generation to lay the foundation for positive change for those who will follow. It is clear to me that diversity will be an important part of our nation and the profession of architecture’s long-term success.”

Following Young’s speech, the AIA created the Diversity Advancement Scholarship, which provides financial support for underrepresented minority students studying architecture. Since that time, the AIA and the Architects Foundation have expanded the program to include as many as 20 recipients. Complete details of the scholarship are available online.

About AIA

Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing.

AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation, and world. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards.

The Architects Foundation has selected ten recipients of the 2018 Jason Pettigrew Memorial ARE Scholarship.

The Jason Pettigrew Memorial ARE Scholarship recognizes the significant contributions of emerging professionals at early stages in their careers and helps defray the costs associated with the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). The scholarship recipients will receive funds to cover all sections of the Architectural Registration Examination, as well as study materials from Brightwood College.

“The Jason Pettigrew Memorial ARE Scholarship recognizes the exceptional efforts of individuals in the community who are also seeking architectural licensure” said Pettigrew Scholarship Jury Chair William Roschen, FAIA. “We are excited to be able to support these emerging professionals in recognition of their accomplishments.”

Each year, the jury selects up to ten recipients for the award. This year’s scholars are:

Jose Barajas, Assoc. AIA (Spokane, WA)

Geraldene Blackgoat, Assoc. AIA (Albuquerque, NM)

Maya Bird-Murphy, Assoc. AIA (Chicago, IL)

Tiffany Brown, Assoc. AIA (Detroit, MI)

Denise Everson, Assoc. AIA (Washington, DC)

Sergio Legon-Talamoni, Assoc. AIA (Seattle, WA)

Isela Martinez, Assoc. AIA (Hampstead, NC)

Deborah Perez, Assoc. AIA (Bajadero, PR)

Robyn Savacool, Assoc. AIA (Hamilton, NJ)

Sarah Young, Assoc. AIA (Lafayette, LA)

The Jason Pettigrew Memorial ARE Scholarship was established in 2004 by the AIA National Associates Committee, to honor the memory of their late friend and colleague, Jason Pettigrew, Associate AIA. The scholarship has been with the Architects Foundation since 2015.

Complete details on the Jason Pettigrew scholarship program are available on the Architects Foundation website.

About The Architects Foundation

The Architects Foundation was created to celebrate architecture’s value by advancing tomorrow’s design leaders and preserving architectural treasures of the past. Through its scholarship programs, the Foundation aims to attract and cultivate a diverse next generation of architects, and provide new opportunities to support the evolution of the profession. The Architects Foundation also preserves the historic Octagon building in the nation’s capital, seeking ways to best express the values of historic preservation work and keep the Octagon’s legacy alive with exhibits, educational programs and partnerships. For more information, visit the Architects Foundation website.

My association with IFLA started back in 1998 when I finished my term as AILA national president. The first meeting I attended had me hooked – it was a meeting of association delegates attending the World Council held in Costa Rica. Here were a group of dedicated professional landscape architects wanting to make the world a better place. The meeting was held in Central America to advance the profession in that region. What better introduction to future involvement. To me it demonstrated a real desire to professionally help others by sharing their wisdom for the future advancement of the profession of landscape architecture worldwide.

One month into the new executive we have behind us a successful world council meeting and congress, and an agenda that will see a more focused and well managed organization. I know we can move forward with confidence and focus on being an effective organization that works to complement the work that our member associations, universities, other global professional bodies, practitioners and thinkers are currently engaged with.

Landscape architecture delivers powerful statements relating to society and environment. We see genuine projects that celebrate humanity and a deep respect for nature. Landscape architects are principled and believe in the value that good design can bring to improving the health of our cities. I would love to see the landscape architectural profession share their way of thinking more. In this, I think IFLA can help.

A sampling of projects from firms that made our Top 100 Giants ranking in 2018.

Submit your best products and projects to the 2018 Best of Year awards today!

The final significant legal chapter played out this month in the decade-long aftermath of a terrible gas explosion that killed four people and injured more than 60 others at a factory in Garner, N.C.

Judges in a courtroom 1,271 miles away in Lincoln, Neb. ruled that ConAgra, the owner of the plant where Slim Jims were made, owed Jacobs, the engineering powerhouse, more than $100 million that Jacobs and its insurers had paid to settle lawsuits from the explosion. The appeals court decisions upheld a jury verdict reached in March, 2016, following a long trial. The jury assigned all the blame to ConAgra and another contractor.

What is unusual is that Jacobs and its insurers made the payouts in lawsuit settlements despite Jacobs having little if anything to do with the disaster.

Jacobs was one of the defendants in the numerous lawsuits over the accident. But the case is unusual in that Jacobs and, presumably, its insurers made the payouts despite Jacobs having little if anything to do with the disaster.

ConAgra was updating the plant’s water heating system. After rejecting Jacobs proposal for the project as too costly, it hired the engineer to play a limited support role on the work. In the work agreement, ConAgra and Jacobs indemnified each other for damages caused by each parties’ own negligence.

ConAgra hired Energy Systems Analysts (ESA), a high-efficiency water heater contractor, to design and install a 5-million btu gas-fired water heater. And Jacobs designated an employee, Donald Pottner, as onsite project manager for its work. But two ConAgra employees—engineering manager Timothy Yost, and John Puff, the plant’s utilities manager—were supervising the work.

When the time came to commission the new water heating system, Pottner was ill and could not be present so ConAgra agreed to supervise that part of the work itself.

What happened next is a textbook example of why not to purge gas lines into the interior of a building, according to a report by the federal Chemical Safety Board.

Puff was responsible for determining the procedure to connect the new equipment to the plant’s gas supply, according to the account by the appeals court judges. On June 4, 2009, Puff instructed the crew to purge the line to the boiler with a hose leading outside, but he failed to provide the instruction to purge the line to the hot water tank. Puff stated that “[w]e just didn’t get to it.” Yost admitted the line to the hot water tank should have been purged before startup to prevent an explosive mixture.

At Yost’s direction on the next day, a ConAgra senior safety specialist inspected the pump room where the new water heater was located and reported “[e]xposed wires” as possible ignition source hazards. On June 9 an ESA employee, Curt Poppe, came to the plant to commission the water heater, but Puff did not provide the connection procedure to Poppe, the judges wrote, and no safety plan was created.

A ConAgra employee worked with him and unrated temporary lighting was brought into the room. Poppe had difficulty lighting the water heater, making 32 failed attempts. Over the next 3.5 hours he repeatedly cracked the valve on the pilot line and placed a gas meter in front as he released small streams of gas into the pump room to “bleed” the pipe.

Gas Odors Triggered Worry

Danger signs triggered mental alarms but not enough action. Employees smelled gas and worried whether the gas meter Poppe was using was functioning properly. Puff admitted he did not tell Poppe that the line had not been purged, even after Puff realized Poppe was struggling to light the heater.

The fateful moment approached.

According to the appeals judges, Puff interrupted the commission process so that he and Poppe could walk outside to allow Poppe to calibrate the gas meter in fresh air. Puff then left the plant to pick up supplies for another project. Puff left Poppe with another ConAgra employee even though Puff testified that he did not believe that person was qualified to supervise clearing air from a gas line. The employee thought something was wrong and went to the roof to try to locate an alternate purge point. Poppe returned to the pump room and released gas by opening the cap on the 2-in. gas pipe.

The room flooded with gas in less than 60 seconds. Puff admitted he “should have stayed around a lot longer” and had given the contractor “more credit’” than he should have. When asked about Poppe’s opening the cap on the gas pipe, Puff testified that if he had stayed, he “wouldn’t have allowed that.”

With the explosion, walls collapsed and the roof section fell. Altogether, four people died and 67 were injured.

Payouts Made in Lawsuits

Facing numerous lawsuits, Jacobs agreed at Conagra’s request to pay out settlements expecting to be reimbursed. But Conagra then said the indemnification didn’t apply, triggering Jacobs lawsuit against ConAgra in state court in 2014. Following a weeks-long trial in March 2016 with hundreds of exhibits and depositions, a jury awarded the contractor $108.9 million, the full amount of the settlements.

ConAgra continued to resist paying. Attorneys for each side recently faced off in Lincoln, Neb. in front the appeals court judges.

ConAgra’s attorney, Christopher Landau, argued that the district court erred because ConAgra’s liability should be limited to what it would owe under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. “It’s an end-run around the workers compensation system,” he said.

Jacobs failed to prove that its losses resulted from ConAgra’s negligence, he said, or others “under its control.”

Finally, Jacobs didn’t qualify as a real party in interest with standing to seek indemnification by documenting exactly what it paid in settlements or insurance payout. “I can’t see how you can affirm without knowing that they paid a penny,” Landau claimed.

Attorney Stephen B. Kinnaird, representing Jacobs, noted that the contract between the two companies plainly stated that ConAgra had a duty to indemnify for all claims caused by ConAgra’s negligence and by those under its control and that “Jacobs was only liable to extent of their negligence.”

Prior rulings in the various lawsuits over the explosion had shown that, while the insurance settlements had been redacted from the public record, the insurance policies in the record required Jacobs had a 10% copay or deductible of $35 million. In addition, Jacobs had an insurance tower—additional coverage that kicked in when lower levels were exhausted.

“The trial court found that more probably than not Jacobs paid part of the $108 million,” Kinnaird argued.

The North Carolina Dept. of Labor also found no negligence by Jacobs.

In its investigation of the disaster, the state wrote that Jacobs performed no work that could have contributed to the accident, had no knowledge of the hazardous condition and that its work scope deprived it of knowledge of the hazardous condition. The appeals court judges noted that ConAgra “accepted what the authorities determined” and did not conduct a separate investigation.

Two years after the explosion, ConAgra shut the plant and moved its operations to Ohio.

As investigations continue into the cause of last month’s Polcevera viaduct collapse, with consequences of possible criminal liability, the Italian government has taken steps to replace the structure in Genoa and safeguard infrastructure around the country.

The viaduct, also known as the Morandi bridge, collapsed on August 14, causing 43 deaths. Failure of one of the large concrete-covered stay cables on the multi-span crossing is widely believed to have triggered collapse of two spans of the 51-year-old structure. Operator Autostrade per l’Italia S.p.A., had ordered major reinforcement work on the collapsed section.

On Sept. 18, high-level officials at a meeting in Genoa chaired by Italy’s Prime Minster Giuseppe Conte discussed details of the viaduct’s reconstruction plans and other matters covered by an emergency decree. A key goal is to build “the most beautiful and safest bridge ever and return it to Genoa,” according to Conte.

Architect Renzo Piano (left) reviews proposed design for new span in Genoa. Photo: Shunji Ishida

An offer by Genoa-born architect Renzo Piano to design a new bridge has been supported by Giovanni Toti, President of the surrounding Liguria region. Calling the proposed bridge “safe and easy to maintain,” Piano said it will have 22 spans of 50 m, and 43 lanterns to commemorate those killed in the collapse.

Toti has called on Autostrade to provide the site and pay for the construction to be led by state-controlled ship builder Fincantieri, supported by companies with relevant experience.

Danilo Toninelli, minister of infrastructure and transportation, has blamed the privately-owned Autostrade for the collapse and threatened it with huge fines and termination of its operating contract.

Autostrade claims to have spent nearly 1,000 days working on the bridge in 2015-2018, and says it invested in maintenance between 2000 and 2017 on its overall network $230 million more than contractually required. The Genoa public prosecutor started investigating several Autostrade officials, among others, earlier this month.

The emergency decree, adopted on Sept. 13 by the Council of Ministers, includes the creation of an Extraordinary Commissioner to oversee the viaduct’s reconstruction. It also provides for the establishment of national a surveillance agency, responsible for safety of highways. And it allows for extra resources for the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport to monitor infrastructure safety.