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From Hyatt to Rubble - Part V

Updated on October 3, 2017
DanDnAZ profile image

Registered Architect, 40 years experience, investigative forensic specialist, engineering trained, college teacher, NCARB mentor, MBA.

Conclusion (Cont.)

Throughout my apprenticeship and practice, I have frequently had conversations with colleagues that went something like this, “I cannot force the contractor to do anything.” According to the administrative ruling in this case, the Architect / Engineer exert a great deal of control in assuring the project is built according to the plans and specifications. If shop drawings are not acceptable, they have to be changed to be made acceptable. That is a lot of control. This also brings light to the fallacy that shop drawings are “reviewed” because “approved” is a higher standard. This case is clear, whether stamped “approved” or “reviewed”, it still equates to the same standard. It is time that our professional liability carriers get real and honest with this issue as well.

The fast track delivery coupled with reduced fees should prove as an example the problems caused by underfunding the appropriate service level. Ultimately the Architect paid more than the costs of the add resources because of the prime contract position. One or two more persons might have helped in the shop drawing review phase. The Architect still paid for that by having to defend themselves from the engineering debacle (Cassias, 2012). What if the Architectural fee was closer to the expected level of 5% or 6%, would that have changed anything? No one will ever know.

Sometimes it is not the most experience or the highest paid staff members that prove to be the most valuable, it is always the one that does their job the right way. In all this, Ed Jantosik stands out as the brightest light. He was the only one that questioned Duncan, to no avail. When one on staff brings a question, it is best for the supervisor to heed those questions before flippantly providing an answer. Why did Duncan blow off his subordinate when it seems that he was the only one raising the correct questions? This should be a lesson to all professionals, not just Architects. Listen to your people.

The Architect must always be on the lookout for a consultant’s attitude “I am right always”, which leads to a position of arrogance. After all the litigation, and after having his registration revoked, Gillum still holds that G.C.E. did not handle the Hyatt project inappropriately. If litigation was still pending, that might be a plausible position to take, but after all the verdicts were in, Gillum and Duncan were found guilty of gross negligence, misconduct, and unprofessional misconduct (Administration Hearing, p. 442). Holding this position shows almost an arrogance that seem hard to have been hidden in their previous dealings with the Architect.

It becomes hard to understand how the box beam design was actually concluded, when having the channels back to back would have been structurally stronger, and by placing blocking in the open channels would have provided a better fastening detail for the gypsum board, had fastening the gypsum board wrap been a real concern, which is a suspected claim at all (NBS, Figure 3.14, p. 30). It is unclear how this claim was made, since the back of the channel offers no real fastening device because a screw cannot be placed through the back of the channel to fasten the gypsum board. This entire scenario sounds strange and unbelievable as a claim.

Concluding this report, final thoughts come to mind that needs to be said. The Architect is the only profession that is required by law, in most jurisdictions. When you get sick, the law does not require you to go to a doctor, the law only requires that the person you see IS a licensed medical practitioner. When you have your taxes done, the law does NOT require you to go to a CPA. To file a suit, the law does NOT require the use of a lawyer, i.e. small claims actually forbid the use of lawyers in most jurisdictions. However, at least in Arizona, many, many jurisdiction requires the seal of a Registrant to submit plans for a building permit, with little or no exception. This is a trend that has been growing rapidly over the last few years, and may even be an indirect result of that tragic summer night in Kansas City in 1981. With these facts so apparent, why is it that the Architect is so quick to cut their fees to get a project, while many Engineering firms do not make the same magnitude of reductions in fees. The Hyatt project is a textbook example of that, and it was the Structural Engineer that completely compromised the project (Administration Hearing, p. 7, #11). Client’s need to be better educated on the role of the Architect. The Architect has a higher overhead than most Engineering forms, but that is because the Architect has the project much longer (Stitt, 1986, p. 99).

It has been told to me by many colleagues that the “City will check it, so I do not have too.” That too is a myth. First many plan reviewers and inspectors have marginal experience with design. Often, like many Architects, there is an understanding what the words of the code are, but little or no understanding as why those words exist. One cannot fully apply the code, with a lack of understanding of why a regulation exists. Also, the jurisdiction carries no liability. Was the City of Kansas City found guilty of not performing their code review properly? I found no evidence that the City was held accountable for anything. That is very clear. Almost every State has a statute that places full responsibility on the Registrant. Missouri had it (Administration Hearing, p. 28, #43), and Arizona has it in A.R.S. §32-125. Since the jurisdiction would have no standing by such statues, it is left up to the Architect to take the responsibility for the project. The Architect has to almost prove a construction defect, just to have a chance to escape any liability for a design defect. For firms that do these large projects that should mean a staff made up of designers, technical designers, specification specialist, code specialist, construction specialist, and maybe even engineering technicians to verify the consultants work as accurate and safe. How does a firm provide these services appropriately when the Architectural fees are one half of the expected percentages as in the case of the Hyatt?

Paul Munger, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, helped investigate the Hyatt collapse and reflected on how training of Engineers has changed. He reflected that when he was in school most of his professors had at least five years of engineering experience and very few PH.D.’s, today most University staffs have Ph.D.’s and very few have five years of experience (ASCE, 2012, Pod cast, time mark14:00). Maybe the focus for University Professors should be based on experience and not just education. An apprenticeship should become more of an educational tool for these young Registrants, than classroom or studio learning.

Finally in closing, the Architect needs to stop being the insecure artist, and start realizing and executing the public trust role that is bestowed upon them by statute. In the June 1984 Editorial for Architectural Record magazine, futurist/forecaster Marvin Cetron was quoted as saying in the future, “The jobs that will be the highest-paying jobs in the world will be the writer, the sculptor, the painter, the professional athlete, and the architect – the people who do something unique and creative that cannot be computerized or robotized..” Mr. Cetron was reflecting on the importance of the creative thinker in the future, the architect is one of those few he focused on. Also noted in that same editorial was a speech by Herman Chanen, president and CEO of Chanen Construction Company, Phoenix, Arizona, in which he was quoted as stating, “Far too often, you, the architect, against your better judgment, go along with your clients… permit yourselves to be intimidated by developers, builders, and owners who want to make quick profits at the expense of our entire society.” Once again, Mr. Chanen could have been alluding to the practice of Architects cutting their fees and services to get the project. The Architect needs to become more assertive, being the only crossed trained professional on the design / construction teams. Let this become the learning issue that it was always meant to be. The Architect needs to become that true project leader.


Texas A & M, The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse, NSF Grant, Website accessed: Accessed on January 16, 2012.

NBS Building Science Series 143, Investigation of the Kansa City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse, National Bureau of Standards Report, May 1982

Administrative Ruling, Missouri Board for Architects, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyor v. Daniel Duncan, Jack Gillum, and G.C.E. International, November 15, 1985

Pat Guthrie. The Architects Portable Handbook (Second Edition). 1998. McGraw-Hill, Inc.

National Geographic, Seconds from Disaster: Skywalk Collapse. As found on website: Accessed on February 2, 2012.

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 30 Years Later – The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Skywalk Collapse, accessed at: Accessed on February 4, 2012.

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) §32-101(A)

Jacques P. Thiroux & Keith W. Krasemann. Ethics Theory and Practice. (2009). Custom Edition for Kaplan

ABC News 20/20, Moment of Crisis, Tom Gerald, July 23, 1981

Casey Cassias, R.A. Personal Email to Daniel Demland. Dated February 16, 2012, 9:07 AM.

University of Alabama – Birmingham (UAB) Research for Undergraduates (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation report, Rachael Martin Case Study, 1999, accessed at: Accessed on January 16, 2012. (link no longer available) Quoting: Kaminetzky, Dov, Design and Construction Failures: Lessons from Forensic Investigations (1991). McGraw-Hill, New York, N.Y.

KSHB Action News. Christa Dubill. Broadcast July 13, 2011.

Fred Stitt, editor. The Design Office Management Handbook. (1986). Arts and Architecture Press, Santa Monica, California.

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) §32-125

American Institute of Architects, Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect, B141 – 1997 Part I

© 2012 Dan Demland


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