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Juan Rodriguez

Las Vegas Harmon Hotel- Implosion or Correction

By August 16, 2011

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Implosion of Harmon Hotel

Legal Battles: When Everybody Looses

Harmon Hotel Implosion

MGM Resorts International is trying to get approval from county to implode the Harmon Hotel Tower on las Vegas. The Hotel has been the center of a large and controversial dispute due to its structural defects that prevent it from being used. Forensic analysis from structural engineers determine that the building will not withstand a significant earthquake. The city county has some concerns about the public safety and it is asking the developer to submit a safety plan.

The information submitted to the city county scheduled a six month implosion process and four months of clean up tasks. MGM Resorts officials have argue that more than a year of engineering analysis and studies are required to complete the assessment to fix the tower and more than two years will be required to rebuild the hotel.

The Harmon Hotel is part of an $8.5 billion development, planned as a boutique hotel, that faced construction problems throughout its development and was topped off at half its design height. MGM and Tutor Perini Corp are in a legal dispute over the construction bills, more than $200 million in disputes. However, a city judge has order MGM to hold off plans for the building's if they want to implode the structure, designed by renowned architect Norman Foster.

The Harmon Hotel Legal Battle

Harmon Hotel Implosion

MGM Properties have argued that construction problems are due to unskilled workmanship and that the building was not constructed per design drawings. The MGM engineering forensic representative has informed that problems with reinforcement spacing could adversely affect the structural integrity of the Harmon Hotel. The MGM forensic report, prepared by Weidlinger Associates, states that 'In a code-level earthquake, using either the permitted or current code specified loads, it is likely that critical structural members in the tower will fail and become incapable of supporting gravity loads, leading to a partial or complete collapse of the tower.' This report was made by performing various destructive and non-destructive testing, plans, documents and reviewing the City's engineering assessment report.

Meanwhile, Perini officials have declared that the only problem the building has is the inability of MGM to sell or fill the hotel rooms, after the tourist crash in other Vegas Hotels following economic instability and finishing the hotel will leave MGM with an empty rooms hotel. The county has also reported that upon their engineering assessment, by Walter P Moore, the tower is structurally sound "as designed." The Walter P. Moore report was issued upon documents and evidence submitted and limited visual observations. Furthermore, Perini states that the Moore Report presents evidence that the problems are part of a defective design of the hotel tower. Perini's structural engineers are willing to design the repair and take over as the structural engineer of record so the Harmon can be completed.

Harmon Hotel: The Reports

Here we present the most significant findings of this three party problem, including MGM's, Clark County and Perini Corp assessment reports.

Walter P Moore- Clark County Representative

  • Install permanent podium dragline fix.

  • Major stability issues on podium design.

  • Level 4 diaphragm does not transfer actual loads properly.

  • Four link beams on level 15 are overstressed.

  • Column tie spacing inadequate.

  • Shear-wall reinforcement ratio deficiencies.

  • Repair elevator lobby beams

Weidlinger Associates Summary- MGM Consultant's

  • In a code-level earthquake critical structural members will fail.

  • Missing or misplaced reinforcement throughout the building's structure.

  • Inadequate or insufficient concrete cover on reinforcing steel.

John A Martin & Associates - Perini Consultant's

  • After ETABS and STAAD analysis, JAMA concludes that the building as it is now presents no threat to life or property damage.

  • The Building can be repaired to code-compliant.

  • John A Martin & Associates disagree that the building could collapse under a seismic movement.

  • The Harmon Hotel is not code compliant due to design defects.

  • JAMA offers to re-design the building bringing it to code-compliant level, and accept the responsibility as the Engineer of Record.

Evaluate for yourself and be the judge. And now the question is, based on this facts, who is liable? What kind of solutions do you recommend?

Photos by Dan 4th and Vrysxy


August 17, 2011 at 1:22 am
(1) hany ryad says:

as I can see it is shared liability between structural contractor and structural designer but the contractor carry the biggest part of it as he is responsible of review design drawings and submit inquiry for redesign in case he is not trusting the proposed design

August 17, 2011 at 9:22 am
(2) joe says:

When you have 3 structural engineers in a room, you’ll get 4 opinions.

Kudos to the structural engineer who, during a site visit for structural observation, uncovered the problems.

August 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm
(3) Nari P.Ramchandani says:

Bring avey one who design, contractors,suppliers, All inspector under one roof , give every one $ 10.00 chips, asked them resolved all issue and no one will leave till all problems are under control & accecpted to all parties

August 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm
(4) Brian Bott says:

Was any portion of the structural work design build or design assist, including structural steel fabrication engineering or post tensioning engineering ? Were there special inspectors, particularly for pre pour reinforcing inspections and concrete ? Did the contractor ( and subcontractors ) build it the way it was drawn, specified, submitted and approved ( or “reviewed” ) by the A.E. ? What do the records of the QC/QA show ? Did any of these after the fact S.E.s and other reviewers have the slabs and other elements x-rayed and tested by other non destructive means ? Juan, we need more information.

August 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm
(5) Tim says:

It doesn’t matter, really, whose fault it is, what the repair would cost, or who would take responsibility. You could have it survive a Richter scale magnitude 10 earthquake with epicenter directly under it, and it would always be known as “that hotel.” MGM has a valid concern about vacant rooms. No booking agent would put his worst competitor in there. The high rollers know which hotels to stay away from, and this “boutique” hotel is one that, under normal conditions, the high rollers would flock to. Not now, not ever. Time to start from scratch.

August 18, 2011 at 12:29 am
(6) Jim Waugh says:

First, why does MGM want to implode the hotel? I suspect they want restitution from the designers and contractor AND get rid of a liability in a unfinished hotel.

If MGM chooses to go ahead with the construction then I’d entertain the offer from JAMA to complete the design modifications and be the structural engineers of record. Their proposed solutions must address and resolve the concerns of the other reviewers of record.

Care must be taken to not allow this engineering process to hinder the litigation process MGM will inevitably be pursuing.

August 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm
(7) millrock says:

This seems to be a case of archetect error to drop it from 48 stories to 28 stories is a major change all engineering would have to be recalculated. If the foundation was built for a 48 story hotel then there shouldn’t be a problem holding up less than half the load. If the contractor continued building a structure that was not sound its going to be him takening the rapp for all the costs. If they plan on imploding the hotel the city should make them the contractors take it apart piece by piece and recycle it at thier costs . Its all brand new materials. It’s a waste of time to bicker the contractor knows you don’t keep building a structure that had a major modification ( droppin 20 stories ) without new approved structual calculations and a full building inspection of exsisting work to make sure it meets the new changes. But still its the archetects responsibility to supervise the project to completion. your looking at the archetect and the General Contractor to take the liability of the buildings costs not the investors. Next time you should call a responsible builder like me

September 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm
(8) Mark says:

Millrock, the only reason the upper floors were not completed is because they found major problems with what had been built. They were afraid that the additional load would cause a possible collapse of the entire building. If you read all the stories about this building it becomes very hysterical. From contractors saying that what was designed couldn’t have been built to inspectors who just signed off without inspecting, etc. the list just goes on and on! Certainly a perfect example of how not to build a major building.

March 9, 2012 at 8:17 am
(9) Rob says:

It is the General Contractors responsibility to build it EXACTLY as designed. If it is found that, in the field, during construction, that adherence to the contract documents is impossible construction MUST STOP and an RFI must be submitted to the designer. Once the engineer of record has designed the fix the change must be posted to the CD’s or the page replaced, leaving the original design in place X’ed out for reference. Alteration of Design Doc’s by a General Contractor, in the field, without an RFI, IS UNACCEPTABLE !!! It comes down to the boot’s on the ground making decisions on the fly due to an UNREALISTIC SCHEDULE coupled with the old Superintendent/Foreman “I’ve been doin this for 30 years” attitude. IT IS CLEARLY THE CONTRACTORS FAULT…PERIOD.

April 9, 2012 at 7:34 am
(10) Vegas resident says:

The suggestion that the Harmon Tower defects are the result of unskilled workmanship is completely absurd! The tradesmen that built the tower are masters of their crafts, and did so according to the specifications they were given. Many even lost their lives working around the clock to finish it in record time. The blame clearly belongs to the moron(s) that designed it, not the fine men and women that built it.

July 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm
(11) Kzinti says:

According to this industry article http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/091006faulty_foster_tower.asp there is plenty of blame to go around, including the noble workers themselves

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