Retail Overbuild Distress


A jewelry store owner purchased an old, single story, commercial building hoping to convert it into a high-end jewelry store. He retained a designer to come up with a new plan, which included adding to new floor over the existing structure and adding a new façade to improve the buildings’ appearance. The designer prepared a design, which was implemented by a contractor. Due to numerous design and construction defects, the design did not perform well. Leaks were noted in many locations, and premature failure of building materials occurred.

The owner ultimately sued the original construction team and received a settlement. Although the owner retained an engineer during the original lawsuit to advise him on construction defects, the owner did not have the engineer perform a repair design. Instead, a contractor was selected to perform repairs without working from engineered drawings.

Although the work turned out much better than the first time, distress recurred. TSA was retained as an expert witness to determine the cause of the distress, and prepare a repair plan to be used for determining the cost of repairs. Soon after starting the investigation, we unearthed a major source of the problems. The original contractor of the building overbuild had procured the wrong steel joists for the project, and simply cut them to fit. In doing so, the contractor not only severed critical structural components, but inadvertently left other portions of the structure without adequate support. Upon finding the serious safety issues, TSA informed the owner of the life-safety issues even though they were not our client. It was determined that the original construction defect during the overbuild was the cause of the balcony distress; removal and replacement of most of the balcony structure was recommended because the structure had been compromised too much to be salvaged.