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Joan Whitely

Harmon inspectors get violation notice

19 September 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Clark County building division has sent a violation notice to the third-party inspection firm that failed to spot nonconforming structural work at the Harmon Hotel. Correcting the work on an estimated 15 of 22 existing stories has caused a snag in construction at CityCenter.

The violation notice, dated Aug. 5, went to Converse Consultants.

The error was caught by personnel of Halcrow Yolles, the structural engineer of record for the $9.2 billion CityCenter mixed-use development.

Don Christiansen, a spokesman for Converse, declined to detail the company's work on the project, citing a confidentiality clause in its contract. Converse is on the list of third-party special inspection services approved by Clark County Development Services.

The oversight for which Converse received the violation was for failing to report that reinforcing bar -- commonly called rebar -- was not placed as specified in the original approved plans.

The problematic rebar lies within horizontal beams, called "link beams," which reinforce the structural concrete above doors or other wall openings of the Harmon's hotel floors, which begin on floor six.

Some of the rebar was placed differently, sometimes by several inches, from plans, in order to avoid hitting vertical steel. Design conflicts are common in a large project, but normal practice is to get approval to modify plans before making any changes. On Aug. 1, the county approved CityCenter's plan to remedy the nonconforming link beams.

The Converse violation is "under review" by county building officials, said county spokeswoman Stacey Welling. "This was missed. But the county feels the special inspector should have caught it." Penalties can range from levying a fine against Converse to removing it from the county's approved list of third-party inspectors.

The violation notice reads, in part, "It has been found, in the field, that the link beams reinforcing has severely deficient items" such as "misaligned and missing cap ties." The notice described the inspections as "negligent."

Engineers have determined to the county's satisfaction that the Harmon tower is safe for workers to do the corrective work. Craig Shaw, chief executive officer of Perini Building Co. -- the general contractor at CityCenter -- said this week that the problem has delayed the project's construction schedule by about two weeks. But he believes Perini will be able to make up the time and complete the project on time.

Dubai World, the investment arm of the Persian Gulf state, is MGM Mirage's 50-50 joint-venture partner in the CityCenter project.

The project includes high-rise hotels, condominiums, a casino and retail space. The Harmon Hotel, Spa & Residences occupies a prominent spot within CityCenter: the southwest corner of Harmon Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South. Eventually it will have 47 stories.

Third-party special inspections by credentialed parties are widely accepted by building departments in the Western United States, according to Ronald Hamburger, a San Francisco engineer who is in leadership at the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations. Special inspections are required to review highly technical types of construction.