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Architect to Pay $1.9M in Airport Case

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

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A Chicago architect and design firm will share in a $21 million tab being shouldered by seven contractors to settle years of litigation over a terminal project at O'Hare International Airport.

Jahn, formerly known as Murphy/Jahn, which designed the troubled terminal facade project, will pay $1.9 million to help repay the City of Chicago in the case.

Chicago-based Walsh Construction will pay $10 million of the settlement. The project's general contractor, Walsh has already made $26 million in repairs to defective steel and welds.

The project, known as the O'Hare Facade and Circulation Enhancement Project (FACE), was supposed to provide more interior space and shield arriving passengers from the Windy City's harsh weather.

Seven contractors will pay a total of $21 million to the City of Chicago after cracks were found in structural steel and welds at an O'Hare construction project.

Requests for comment Monday (March 11) from Jahn and Walsh Construction were not immediately returned.

Other Settlements

The rest of the settlement money will come from five other unidentified firms in amounts ranging from $780,000 to $4.5 million, the City's Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton told the Chicago Sun Times.

The city also agreed on a settlement with one another company, but the company and dollar amount were not disclosed.

"These settlements, which are in addition to the cost to correct the problems, make the city whole for the out-of-pocket expenses it incurred in the past," Patton said.

Walsh "stepped up at its own expense and spent what they told us was $26 million to correct the problems," Patton told the Chicago Tribune.

Pending Claims

The city's claims against the companies had been pending since 2007 and were based on defects with structural steel and cracks in welding work performed on O'Hare's Terminals 2 and 3 and canopies extending over the roadway.

Patton said the settlement reflected a priority of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration, which is to administer and enforce city contracts to make sure the city gets what it is paying for.

Terminal 2 - O'Hare
City of Chicago

The claims included construction at O'Hare's Terminal 2.

"The problems were discovered in sufficient time that protective steps were taken to shore up the structure while the problems were fixed," Patton told reporters. He said travelers were never in danger and giant support columns had been put in place until last year.

"I don't know that there were visible cracks. But, the fact that structures were being supported by these big, ugly supports was very visible" to air travelers.

$300 Million Project

In 2001, plans were announced for a $300 million facade project that would enlarge Terminals 2 and 3 and shield passengers being dropped off during harsh weather. The project started in 2003.

The project, which was patterned after a German design by Jahn, called for replacing a concrete canopy over the sidewalk at the departures roadway with a translucent canopy made of steel skin and glass skylights.

The new canopy extended out 42 feet, covering both the sidewalk and two and a half lanes of traffic.

Walsh Construction

A new supplemental air traffic control tower at O'Hare was completed in 2008.

The project was funded through airline passenger ticket taxes and airport bonds, officials said.

Thousands of welds on the canopies had to be redone and defective material replaced, in repairs that took several years and were completed about a year ago, said Patton.

Calls to the mayor's office and Patton's office for more information were not immediately returned.


Tagged categories: Airports; Commercial Construction; Concrete defects; Contractors; Cracking; Designers; Laws and litigation; Maintenance + Renovation; Steel; Welding

Comment from steve Nadler, (3/12/2013, 12:36 PM)

I noticed the work stoppage on trips to O'Hare in the middle of this project. The cantilevered canopy is always a challenging detail with many known failures. So, it is unfortunate that either the design and/or construction had inadequate quality assurance and/or quality control to prevent such problems. The bigger question is what are the lessons learned? My guess is that the problems and the solutions will be buried with the settlement in lieu of being shared with the AEC industry so we can all be better designers and builders. I would promote that someone share the experience and lessons learned in a presentation through an industry organization such as AGC, AIA, or AISC for everyone to learn from.

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