Weekly Feature

2017-08-10 / Front Page

Town alleges defective design

Notice of claim served to design professionals, architect in Burchfield building issue
by JENNIFER WATERS
Editor


The Burchfield Nature and Art Center building houses a gallery that once displayed member and community fine art exhibits, but it was also home to many classes, artisan clubs and town offices. The building was closed Jan. 5 when structural concerns were discovered. 
Photo by Chuck SkipperPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The Burchfield Nature and Art Center building houses a gallery that once displayed member and community fine art exhibits, but it was also home to many classes, artisan clubs and town offices. The building was closed Jan. 5 when structural concerns were discovered. Photo by Chuck SkipperPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Seven months after structural damage was first observed at the Burchfield Nature and Art Center building, a notice of claim has been served to the design professionals, the architect and the civil engineer responsible for the building.

Those attending Monday night’s West Seneca Town Board meeting were informed of the notice following a presentation by Kenneth Pearl, of Building Science Services LLC, the forensic architecture firm hired to evaluate the building.

Pearl said the priority problem is the rotting wood stud walls.

“It’s causing the building walls to deteriorate at the bottom and collapse in slow motion,” he said in the findings.

All repair work referenced in Pearl’s report, including accessory costs associated with professional fees and other expenses, totals no more than an estimated $993,000.

The forensic architect added that comprehensive planning, research and engineering work may result in solutions not yet studied or considered, and would not result in solutions more expensive than the study estimates.

Replacement of the building, as opposed to repair, is estimated by Pearl to be $1.77 million.

Secondary observations made by Pearl include poor performing insulation, which is affecting the roof; fire code, ventilation and vapor barrier control problems with the same roof; ice buildup issues at the roof and gutter areas, causing the need for excessive maintenance and improvement work; fire code compliance issues in respect to ice buildup at exterior exit doors; and accessibility of attic space HVAC units.

“The architect was Louis Design Group and the engineers were Nussbaumer & Clarke, and we are alleging that the design was defective, causing significant structural damage to the building and property,” Fenz said.

The Burchfield building was built in 2001. This past winter, tenants of the gallery and town offices reported noticing structural issues in the building, located at 2001 Union Road.

Due to the statute of limitations on negligence and contract claims, being three and six years respectively, the time for the town to have brought a claim has expired, the attorney explained.

“With the exception of deficiencies in the design,” he added.

Fenz said that, under civil law, a notice must be served upon the design professionals, providing them a 90-day window before the town can formally file its action.

“Civil litigation is not a means of instant gratification,” Fenz said. “It will take awhile, but we will keep the public as informed as we can.”

In the meantime, all of the offices and activities that were housed in the Burchfield Nature and Art Center building have been relocated within the town. The Burchfield Nature Park is still open.

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