Flawed Design Dooms Vegas Hotel Mid-Construction

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
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Construction on Las Vegas’ Harmon Tower stopped all the way back in 2008, but now it appears engineers have finally put an end to a $275 million dream.

The tower was to be the newest luxury hotel on the Las Vegas Strip until Clark County building inspectors found a critical error in the design of the structure’s rebar reinforcement.

Steel rebar is added to concrete to give it better tensile characteristics and add compressive ‘pre-stress,’ so that if the concrete should begin to fail, the steel holds it together long enough to avoid catastrophe.  It can also add compressive “pre-stress” to avoid ever entering the tensile regime.

In the Harmon Tower, however, the rebar was either misplaced or missing completely. Engineers warned the building was in danger of collapse during a seismic event or under other serious stress.

A lengthy court document submitted by lawyers on behalf of CityCenter Developments, on whose site the hotel sits, has predicted a 50 per cent chance of such a quake within 30 years.

A protracted blame game has since ensued. the contractor, Tutor Perini Building Corporation, claims that structural testing carried out by Weidlinger Associates, the engineering consultants appointed by CityCenter, had damaged the shell beyond repair and that the building could have been saved.

They contend that chipping away concrete behind reinforcing steel went well beyond what they had expected. In addition, the work damaged the steel itself while the vibration from heavy equipment caused further weakening.

The owners, of course, disagree. They blame shoddy workmanship and say the only remedy is to tear it down, which could put the contractor out of pocket by as much as $400 million.

After the developers completed a fourth round of testing on the building – in excess of 400 elements after previously testing 397 structural elements out of 1,469 – a judge has sided in favour of City Centre Developments, and given permission to demolish the flawed, half-built hotel tower.

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