You Oughta Sue! Building Designs Gone Wrong

Talk about building designs gone wrong. These faux pas take the cake. 

It goes to show why your brand new custom home needs a warranty for major defects. 

Fortunately, it does. 

Quick Read

Over easy in Shanghai

Too hot for comfort

When cultures clash

The glass torpedo 

Stupefied ‘star-chitect’

Contractor options for building designs gone wrong

Who pays for design mistakes?

Who is ultimately responsible for design errors?

Drafting the new home build contract

Girl kissing a lemon hearing faux pas

It Tips, It Falls

We start our tale of design errors in construction in Shanghai, where (amazingly) a massive, 13-storey structure hit the ground completely intact. The Lotus Riverside complex toppled over on its side when excavated dirt piled on a riverbank displaced the foundation. 

60°C in the Shade

American architect Frank Gehry’s $274 million Disney Concert Hall turned out to be too hot to handle. Star struck by his metal-clad Guggenheim Bilbao Museum in Spain, the building’s funders insisted on a similar finish. The resulting sparkling stainless steel exteriors were blamed for heating up adjacent sidewalks to 60° C.    

Fixing Karma in a Skyscraper 

Feng Shui practitioners believe building design brings harmony and peace. So when the brand new Bank of China by architect I.M. Pei was criticized for its gratingly sharp edges, HSBC planted two cranes on its roof to defuse the bad energy. Compensating for negativity is nothing new in Chinese culture. Hong Kong architects carve “dragon gates” in skyscrapers to allow mythical dragons to take flight from their mountain lairs to the sea. Dragons symbolize abundance, strength, fertility, and prosperity in Chinese culture. 

Glass Torpedo Bombs in Boston

Bostonians were showered with glass when windows at the John Hancock Tower (Image by QK | Pixabay) popped their frames. High winds in January 1973, while the 60-storey skyscraper was being built, showered 60 windows weighing 227 kg each onto the street below. 

So what options does a contractor have if it is discovered there are errors in the plans and specifications? With over an acre of the skyscraper’s face covered with plywood where windows had been, a Swiss engineer was recruited to figure out what went wrong. 

With over an acre of the skyscraper’s face covered with plywood where windows had been (Harry Holbrook/Boston Globe), a Swiss engineer was recruited to figure out what went wrong. While checking out the failed bonding material that caused the glass to let loose, he discovered the whole building was about to tip sideways — and installed counterweights to hold it in place. Final bill for window repairs alone: $7 million.

Design Errors

The Bigger They Are…

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas or not. Harmon Hotel by renowned ‘star-chitect’ Norman Foster was half done in 2008 when inspectors halted its 49-storey construction due to faulty rebar. Three million legal exhibits later, the courts agreed the $275 million luxury hotel had to go. It was unceremoniously dismantled floor by floor for a whopping $173 million. 

Preventing New Build Disasters

Anyone, including owner-builders, may be liable for design mistakes, but licenced architects or professional engineers who oversee construction projects are responsible for catching the problem. They carry mandatory errors and omissions insurance. 

Who pays for changes depends on your new build home contract or, if you get to court, what a judge decides. ABCs of buying a brand new home from builders.  

Here’s what we can tell you about who is ultimately responsible for design errors on a construction project: 

  1. Architects and/or professional engineers who design a building, or part of it, must review all plans, sketches, drawings, graphic representations, specifications, and other documents used to obtain a section 8 permit under the Ontario Building Code Act.
  2. Either or both must sign and seal the documents.
  3. Any changes authorized by the chief building official on a construction project must also be reviewed, signed, and sealed by an architect, professional engineer, or both.

Architects can work on new build homes, but are mandatory for public use or large-scale buildings. Small building, small budget? Use a licenced technologist OAA instead.  Check section 11(2) of the Architect’s Act to see if your building project requires an architect

See who is responsible for design reviews by building type. 

Drafting New Home Build Contracts

Before you fall prey to building designs gone wrong, make sure your builder is licenced, insured, and registered to operate in Ontario. Verify your builder participates in the Ontario New Home Protection Warranty Program and get two or three references. Include the following in your draft contract and review it with a real estate lawyer before you sign: 

  1. Name and address of your builder (and your own).
  2. The lot description, model number of your home, and elevation showing where it sits on the lot. 
  3. Attachments and schedules like site plans, drawings, list of specifications such as granite countertops, and the design and construction approval process.
  4. What is or isn’t included in the base price.
  5. Extras and upgrades you want by model, brand name, size, colour, and price.
  6. Costs if you go over or under budget for items of your choice, such as kitchen cabinets.
  7. Payment method such as cash, mortgage, or conditional on financing.  What happens if you get turned down for a mortgage — is the contract null and void? Do you get a deposit back if the house sale falls through?  
  8. Whether the contract is conditional on the sale of an existing home or contract review by a lawyer. Buy and sell on the same day – timing real estate closings. 
  9. When you will pay the contractor. Include the initial deposit, construction advances such as when the home is 75% complete, and amount due when you take possession.
  10. A copy of the receipt for your deposit. Include the builder’s refund policy and third-party deposit warranty if the deal falls through.
  11. Total cost, including who pays the new housing tax rebate. Unless you consent to changes or a new price, Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act requires the final cost, including goods and services, to be within 10% of the estimate.
  12. Start and end dates and what happens if delays occur.
  13. Who cleans up the site after construction is done.
  14. How disputes will be resolved.

Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer

Axess Law reviews custom build contracts for errors to prevent you from losing money over building designs gone wrong. We explain terms and conditions you may have missed and add clauses that protect your interests. Draft an amendment to agreement of purchase and sale

Your Axess Law real estate lawyer can review the agreement of purchase and sale before you sign. If you neglected to have a lawyer review the contract first, call us anyway. Catching errors before they happen is well worth the small cost involved.

A builder who asks for large cash payments up front can be a red flag something’s wrong. A 10% or 15% initial deposit is enough to get construction going. Your Axess Law real estate lawyer drafts an amendment to the agreement of purchase and sale if the requested deposit is excessive.

 Your custom home comes with a one, two, and seven year warranty from Tarion for up to $300,000 of its value. Inferior work, misrepresentation, or fraud are causes for potential legal action. If you have concerns your home’s market value was reduced by a builder’s practices, ask Axess Law for a referral to a construction lawyer. 

Affordable Real Estate Lawyers, Anywhere You Are 

Access lawyers for less in the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, or by remote video conference. Our flat fee rates are affordable, and all inclusive (excluding taxes, disbursements, and third-party charges). Your final invoice includes no surprises, or hidden charges. Your itemized statement of adjustments is explained when we deliver it, and we answer any questions you have about it. You can get independent legal advice, or add a family member to a property for a modest title transfer lawyer fee. Axess Law offers you only the legal services you absolutely need. 

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Book Online or By Phone Now 

Axess Law makes video conference calls anywhere you are 7 days a week. Ask about day or evening appointments. We use secure, confidential software to discuss your contract details. Dial toll-free to 1-877-402-4207 or in Toronto, call our 647-479-0118 lawyer line to schedule times that work for  you. Or use our online booking form any time of the day or night to make an appointment. Our licensed real estate lawyers can meet with you at any of our Greater Toronto Area or Ottawa law offices

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