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Vol. 45 No. 24

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FROM THE BENCH: Contracts, Specs, and Shop-Drawing-Review Stamps Matter
The case of Otis Elevator Company v. WG Yates & Sons Construction Company teaches some important lessons about: the need for subcontractors (that could be you!) to read contracts incorporated by reference and negotiate changes to objectionable terms; the finality of decisions made by a contractually appointed arbiter (in this case, the architect); the need to clarify obvious specification ambiguities before submitting a bid; and the value of using effective wording on shop-drawing-review stamps. In this case, Otis Elevator was a subcontractor for an airport-expansion project. It recognized an ambiguity in the specifications before bidding: Should the specified width of an escalator be based on the width of the stair or the distance between the railings? Otis failed to obtain clarification and installed four escalators that were too narrow. The contract called for the architect to make a binding decision in the matter, and that's just what the architect did, ruling against Otis. Otis alleged that, the contract notwithstanding, the architect had no authority to rule. It also disputed the architect's point of view, claiming the constructor-in-charge was responsible for the damages. A trial court vindicated Otis' position, ruling that the constructor-in-charge had breached its contract. We imagine the thrill of victory was short-lived: The trial court's decision was reversed on appeal. (Some of your constructor friends may find this decision eye-opening, too.)
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Send Us Names of Safety and Other Key Contacts for Your Firm
GBA's Safety Committee wants to know who the top safety person is at your firm so the Committee can reach out about important safety issues. And while we're at it, we'd also love to update our records about the rest of your firm's key contacts. Please send an e-mail to with the names and e-mail addresses of the following people for your firm: Safety Point of Contact, CEO, CFO, CIO, HR Director, and In-House Counsel. If there is more than one person in a role, that's okay. Thank you for helping us reach the right people to bring more value to your firm’s membership in GBA!
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Goodbye RFPs and RFQs. Hello Hackathons and RFCs
Building Design & Construction
Writing in Skanska's "Constructive Thinking Blog," company Executive Vice President Lisa Picard explains how the company chose the architect for its 2&U tower project in Seattle, WA. It ditched the RFP/RFQ process, because — as Picard explains — "RFQs and RFPs highlight the effectiveness of a firm's ability to work in isolation without its client. For 2&U, we needed an architect skilled at design and highly adept at handling input from the client and marketplace, to be done while addressing the constant changes inherent to urban development." To make the selection, Picard decided to use a hackathon, commonly used by Seattle-area techies to "hack" a piece of code or software to make it better. "I wanted to harness the same level of energy and creativity to develop a new path of collaboration for creating buildings that shape our city. Our entire team embraced this idea and extended it further." She started by issuing an RFC — a request for conversation — inviting nine design firms for one-hour conversations. "We…just wanted to get a feel if the firms were interested in our project, had passion for the work, and if we would enjoy working together with them. After those conversations, it was very clear what two firms we would engage in the design hackathon itself." Change is coming. Will you be there to greet it or be looking on from a distance?
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  A2LA: Your partner in accreditation

Accreditation available for all testing, calibration, proficiency testing, reference materials production, inspection and product certification. A2LA also offers training to help prepare for accreditation.

See How Your Firm's Finances Compare to Other Member Firms'
Each year, the Business Practices Committee conducts its Financial Performance Survey and issues a report that conveys results (click here for last year's). The new survey is ready for your firm's participation! Send the name of your top finance person to Membership Manager Suzy Ford at, or ask the person to go directly to the survey at We even have a free, members-only webinar if you want to learn how to calculate the numbers involved!
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Park It: Is Your Firm Ready for the Next Big Thing?
Building Design + Construction
San Francisco's new Transbay Transit Center is scheduled to open in 2017. It will feature a 5.4-acre rooftop park with an amphitheater, water features, restaurant, and gardens, all easily accessible from the street. In Washington, DC, city leaders are planning to convert an end-of-life freeway bridge into a lush public park, with plazas, lawns, and urban-farming plots, with space for a café and performance venue. What's going on? It's called place making, in this case inspired by the success of the High Line, a new public park in Manhattan's Chelsea district, created from an elevated section of New York Central Railroad’s West Side Line. Almost overnight, the park has become one of the city's most popular attractions; five million visitors in 2014 alone. While the $273 million price tag may seem high, it's but a pittance compared to the higher land values and development the park is inspiring. No wonder cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Seoul, Sydney, and Toronto, among others, are considering similar developments. Could geoprofessionals help? Heck: They could lead!
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Missed an issue of GBA NewsLog? Click here to visit the NewsLog archive page.

Have You Completed an Award-Winning Project?
Brownfield Renewal
Completing an award-winning project always is a feather in a firm's cap, especially in the local marketplace. How do you know that your project is award-worthy? By entering it in a competition. If yours is an environmental firm, consider the 2015 Renewal & Redevelopment Awards competition. There's no fee to submit and you can enter each project in multiple categories. The project itself must be complete before the date of your entry: The entry deadline is midnight (CDT), Friday, May 29, 2015. A panel of judges with business, academic, and public-sector backgrounds will select winners. Successful applications should demonstrate measurable results or impacts such as jobs created and/or retained, increased local-tax revenues, lower crime rates, or improved human health and safety.
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Japan Plans Giant Sea Wall
The Associated Press
As protection from future tsunamis, Japan has decided to gird itself with a 250-mile, $6.8 billion chain of concrete sea walls, in some areas as much as five stories high. Plan opponents say the huge barriers will endanger marine ecology, harm the scenery, hinder fisheries, and do little to protect residents who need to relocate to higher ground. Worse, some experts say a sea wall can nurture complacency: Many of the 18,500 people who died in the 2011 disasters ignored evacuation orders. Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa is backing an alternative plan that calls for locating tall mounds of soil or rubble along the coasts and planting forests on top of them, to create a living "green wall" that would last long after the man-made structures crumble. Sounds like a job for SUPERGEOPROFESSIONAL!
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New Limitation-of-Liability Case Index
GBA has published a new edition of Limitation-of-Liability Case Index, an important legal reference conveying in lay terms the results of 75 cases where the legality of limitation-of-liability provisions has been challenged in the courts, usually without success. The Index was prepared for GBA's Legal Affairs Committee by Committee Vice Chair Terence J. "Terry" Scanlan, Esq., a principal of the Seattle (WA) law firm Skellenger Bender, P.S. Although the limitation-of-liability (LOL) concept is 400-years old, it was GBA that championed its application to the design, environmental, and CoMET professions in 1969. By applying the concept, now upheld in most states, a client agrees to limit a design professional's liability to a given amount, most commonly $50,000 or the fee, whichever is higher. Without using "legalese," the Index describes each of the 75 listed cases in terms of its background and the points or holdings involved, and — to support additional research — identifies the case by name, jurisdiction, and citation. The cases span the period 1956 to 2014.
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CoMETs in the Sky
Virginia Tech
Flying into a new era, the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech has used a fixed-wing, unmanned aircraft to inspect an energy pipeline route. The goal is to make aerial inspections of energy pipelines safer and more economical. The flight lasted 90 minutes and covered 11 miles of a Colonial Pipeline Company right of way. The test aircraft, which can be equipped with a sensor package to identify pipeline-integrity threats, is manufactured by American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. According to the company's CEO, David Yoel, "Aerial inspection of energy pipelines is federally required and typically performed using manned aircraft flying at low altitudes. If we validate unmanned-aircraft technologies, we can reduce risks to pilots and the public, and more efficiently protect the country's critical infrastructure."
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  Past Conferences on Demand

Bring home the best of GBA conferences with content on demand — online and on DVD.

DR. ENGLISH: Coffee, Tea, or UAV?
Dr. English is fed up with the growing corruption of English, especially since techies seem to have taken control of it. The problem for geoprofessionals is that, in general parlance, "You know what I mean" applies. In professional practice, however, it does not. Using the "You know what I mean" word, phrase, or expression creates ambiguity and ambiguity leads to problems; e.g., the $1.5-million in damages that had to be paid because of "I observed the excavation." Consciously striving to be unambiguously precise reminds one of the need to be just that, especially because the best evidence is what's in writing, and lawyers inspect what's in writing to identify not those in the wrong, but, instead, those who are vulnerable. The latest tech expression to stir my pot of bile: UAV, the acronym for "unmanned aerial vehicle." First, it should not be "unmanned," given that females are pilots, too. Thus, to easily avoid offending people, the term should be "unpiloted aerial vehicle." Second, the aerial vehicles involved are neither unmanned nor unpiloted: They are piloted remotely. The correct, unambiguous, accurate descriptor? Remotely piloted aerial vehicles or RPAVs. And you've guessed it: That's not going to happen. (This message was sent unsuccessfully.)
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Call for Abstracts: Fall Conference in Southern California
Have a creative idea for a presentation at the GBA Fall Conference in Dana Point, CA, October 8-10, 2015? Here's your chance to share it with us: Just download the submission form, complete it, and send it in. The GBA Conference Committee will review all submissions. The theme of the conference is "Confronting Risk for Our Firms and Our Clients: The ROI of Engagement."
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Date Event Location
April 16-18, 2015 GBA Spring (Annual) Conference J. W. Marriott Marquis
Miami, Florida
Oct. 8-10, 2015 GBA Fall Conference St. Regis Monarch Beach
Dana Point, California

  For a complete list of upcoming events, click here.

Download Spring Conference Presentations
Presentations for the April 16-18, 2015 GBA Spring Conference in Miami are now available online for download as PDF files. Get all the GBA 2015 Spring Conference presentations now!
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Ride-Sharing for the 2015 Spring Conference in Miami
Want to share a ride to this event? Sign up on the ride board.
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Download the GBA App for Full Conference Details
Download the GBA app now, for your iPhone or Android smartphone or tablet, especially if you'll be attending the upcoming April 16-18 Spring Conference in Miami. The app gives you access to all the hand-outs, speaker bios, and all else conferencewise, updated to the last possible moment. And there's so much more to find via the GBA app, including the latest NewsLog and access to all our publications. Put GBA in the palm of your hand.
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BUSINESS 101: Managing Better with Business-Intelligence Tools
Small Business TRENDS
Because modern businesses are bursting with data, business-intelligence tools — intelligence-reporting apps and dashboards — have become essential to small-business management. By implementing a business-intelligence tool, you could align the company, in the sense that you'd be able to analyze data about your project pipeline, your revenue, and your margins in the same way across all departments, so everyone can focus on the firm's main business objectives. Business-intelligence tools also permit you to connect all your data. As the article's author, Christophe Primault, points out, "Whether it's website data from Google Analytics, sales data from Salesforce, Facebook activity stats, or customer data stored in SQL databases, everything can be pulled together to help you get a meaningful picture of how your business performs." And those are just a few benefits. The article describes more as well as the top-ten apps and dashboards you should consider.
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HR DEPT.: 50 Professional-Development Tools for Free
A 2013 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey of 4,000 members found that 88% of respondents' organizations offer professional-development opportunities as an employee benefit. How effective is that benefit? A 2014 TINYpulse Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture survey of 200,000+ employees found that two of every three respondents believe their current employer doesn’t provide enough professional-development. Looking for ways to expand your opportunities without breaking the bank? The article identifies 50 career-development, communications-skills-development, technology-skills-development, leadership-development, and analytical-skills-development opportunities you can offer your employees…and they're all free! And don't forget the hundreds of GBA professional-development tools offered free to members!
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Steven D. Thorne, P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE
(Terracon / Somerset, NJ)

Gordon M. Matheson, Ph.D., P.E., P.G.
(Schnabel Engineering, Inc. / Glen Allen, VA)

Joel G. Carson
(Kleinfelder / Omaha, NE)

Charles L. Head, P.E., P.G.
(Sanborn, Head & Associates, Inc. / Concord, NH)

Kimberly F. Morrison, P.E., R.G.
(Morrison Geotechnical Solutions, Inc. / Denver, CO)

Laura R. Reinbold, P.E.
(Terracon / Nashville, TN)

Alex Sy, Ph.D., P. Eng.
(Klohn Crippen Berger Ltd. / Vancouver, BC)

Woodward L. Vogt, P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE, F.ACI, F.ASTM
(Paradigm Consultants, Inc. / Houston, TX)


Phone: 301/565-2733

Executive Vice President
John P. Bachner
Ext. 223 /

Operations Director
Sarah P. Lanning, PMP
Ext. 231 /

Program Director
Barbara A. Nappy
Ext. 222 /

Program Manager
Sara Menase
Ext. 232 /

Associate Program Manager
Melody A. Patrick
Ext. 225 /

Membership Manager
Susan A. Ford
Ext. 227 /

Phillip D. Pettway
Ext. 233 /


John P. Bachner, NewsLog Editor-in-Chief, 301.565.2733 ext. 223   
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Cait Harrison, Content Editor, 469.420.2657   
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