Author Archives: CS Editor

Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Architects

wernerSG LAW
Werner Sabo, FAIA, CSI, and Shawn Goodman

In effect for more than 15 years, Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been rarely invoked by architects. However, the handful of cases discussing the act suggests architects could, in certain circumstances, apply it in conjunction with a copyright claim. Architects should also be aware of the elements of this cause of action to avoid being on the receiving end of such a lawsuit.

DMCA contains prohibitions against:

  • circumvention of technological measures used by copyright owners to protect their works; and
  • tampering with copyright management information.

The act’s purpose is to provide greater protection for the intellectual property rights of record companies and others so CDs, DVDs, and similar works are more difficult to pirate, or at least to discourage such conduct. For parties involved in construction, the second prohibition—found at 17 U.S.C. §1202(b)(1)—is important:

No person shall, without the authority of the copyright owner or the law—
(1) Intentionally remove or alter any copyright management information… knowing, or, with respect to civil remedies under section 1203, having reasonable grounds to know, that it will induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal an infringement of any right under this title.

What is “copyright management information?” DMCA lists eight categories of information, including:

  • title and other information identifying the work, including the information set forth on a notice of copyright;
  • name of, and other identifying information about, the author of a work; and
  • terms and conditions for use of the work.

Examples of DMCA violations would include:

  • removing an architect’s copyright notice from the drawings or specifications;
  • removing the architect’s name and other identifying information; and
  • removing other “terms and conditions for use of the work;” or possibly including notations on drawings that state “not for construction.”

In each case, the person who removes this information would also need to know, or have reasonable grounds to believe, the removal will induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal an infringement of the federal copyright laws.

How does this work in practice? A client comes into an architect’s office and asks the architect to take over a project. The client has the CAD files from the original designer. If the second architect takes those CAD files and removes things such as the prior architect’s copyright notice or name, or changes the title of the work, then there is the potential for a DMCA violation. Before doing any of this, the second architect must ascertain whether the prior architect has either transferred his or her copyright to the client or otherwise agreed to allow the client to do this, usually by means of a license.

Interestingly, courts have held mere copying of an architect’s drawing and omitting references to the initial architect is not the same as “removing” copyright management information. In other words, if one takes a CAD or physical drawing and removes a copyright notice, then DMCA has been violated. However, if one were to base a new drawing on the existing work and omit the same information, then that person is safe. This is not to suggest the Copyright Act has not been violated, only that there has been no transgression against DMCA. One must actually remove or alter the copyright management information from a plaintiff’s product or original work to run afoul of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

A builder could violate this law by removing the title block from a set of plans and submitting them to a building department for permits for a site other than the original. An owner could violate this law by obtaining a brochure from a builder, removing the identifying information, and giving the plan and elevation to a different builder or architect for purposes of designing a new home or building.

Architects need to be extremely cautious when a client brings in drawings created by someone else, even when there is nothing indicating the identity of this other author. Merely changing the title of the project could constitute a violation.

The best defense is to always create original work. The next best is to obtain permission from the author to use and modify his or her work. The least desirable alternative (though it is still better than nothing) is to obtain an indemnification agreement from the client. However, this last option does not prevent one from having to defend a lawsuit, and it might be difficult to obtain payment for this cost from a client who is insolvent.

Werner Sabo, FAIA, FALA, is an architect, attorney, and partner at the Chicago law firm, Sabo & Zahn. He is the author of Legal Guide to AIA Documents, now in its fifth edition, published by Wolters Kluwer. Sabo can be reached at wsabo@sabozahn.com.

Shawn Goodman is an attorney at Sabo & Zahn. He can be reached at sgoodman@sabozahn.com.

ASBA announces top-ranked sports facilities

At the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) awards, “Outdoor Track Facility of the Year” went to Robert Cohen Co. (Albuquerque, New Mexico) for upgrading the Hornet Stadium Track at Sacramento State University in California. Photos courtesy American Sports Builders Association

At the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) awards, “Outdoor Track Facility of the Year” went to Robert Cohen Co. (Albuquerque, New Mexico) for upgrading the Hornet Stadium Track at Sacramento State University in California. Photos courtesy American Sports Builders Association

The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) has announced the winners of its annual awards program. In various categories, the group named facilities built by its membership that “best exemplify construction excellence.” Of those, a handful received “Project of the Year” status.

Projects were scored individually based on considerations such as layout and design, site work, drainage, base construction, surface, amenities, innovation, and overall impression. Presentation of all the award plaques happened at the group’s recent technical meeting in Ponte Vedra, Florida.

In terms of tennis-related projects, “Indoor Facility of the Year” went to Bishop’s Tennis Inc. (Sterling, Virginia) for its work on the new Montgomery TennisPlex (Boyds, Maryland) while “Residential Facility of the Year” was bestowed on Boston Tennis Court Construction (Hanover, Massachusetts) for a new court in nearby Newton. The “Outdoor Facility of the Year” was claimed by Cape & Island Tennis & Track (Pocassett, Massachusetts) for its upgrading work on Springfield College’s Appleton Tennis Courts.

“Indoor Facility of the Year” went to Bishop’s Tennis Inc. (Sterling, Virginia) for its work on the new Montgomery TennisPlex (Boyds, Maryland).

“Indoor Facility of the Year” went to Bishop’s Tennis Inc. (Sterling, Virginia) for its work on the new Montgomery TennisPlex (Boyds, Maryland).

The “Multiple-field Facility of the Year” honors went to Huntress Associates (Andover, Massachusetts) for a new project at Thomas College (Waterville, Maine). “Single Field Facility of the Year” went to Rettler Corp. (Steven Point, Wisconsin) for its upgrading of Goelz Field (Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin).

“Outdoor Track Facility of the Year” was won by Robert Cohen Co. (Albuquerque, New Mexico) for upgrading the Hornet Stadium Track at Sacramento State University in California. Finally, Ray Treacy Track at Providence College’s Hendricken Field (Rhode Island) was named “Track & Field Facility of the Year”—the new construction project was by R.A.D Sports (Rockland, Massachusetts).

For a complete list of winners, visit www.sportsbuilders.org/press/pr_120914.pdf.

Addressing Skilled Labor Shortages with SIPs

Specification approaches for structural systems
by Joe Pasma, PE

The project team for the Jacob E. Manch Elementary School used structural insulated panels (SIPs) to reduce the project’s framing time from 17 to seven weeks. Images courtesy Premier SIPs

The project team for the Jacob E. Manch Elementary School used structural insulated panels (SIPs) to reduce the project’s framing time from 17 to seven weeks. Images courtesy Premier SIPs

The good news is commercial construction is picking up after several dismal years, with construction spending projected to be 5.5 percent higher in 2014 than 2013. The bad news is the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has pointed out “a skilled labor shortage in the country may threaten projected growth and the ongoing recovery.”

In an AGC/SmartBrief survey of building industry professionals, 63 percent of respondents said their company has experienced a labor shortage during the past year, and 30 percent reported turning down work because of a shortage of skilled labor. The study found labor shortages are not limited to specific construction sectors, but are a broad problem.

Since so many skilled laborers have left the work force, some construction industry observers are calling for increased training and apprenticeship programs. Rebuilding the construction labor force is a multi-year process, though, so it is important for building industry professionals to explore alternative approaches to shortages of skilled workers.

Although specifiers typically are not responsible for addressing labor issues, they can help solve the problem through selection of simpler-to-install, yet effective building systems. For example, to overcome the challenge of too few skilled framers, more building professionals are using alternative structural systems, such as structural insulated panels (SIPs).

Manufacturers produce SIPs by laminating structural wood sheathing (typically oriented strandboard [OSB]) to a rigid foam insulation core (often expanded polystyrene [EPS]). These wall and roof components take the place of the wood or steel framing, concrete tilt-up walls, and concrete masonry units (CMU) blocks typically used in commercial and institutional buildings. The panels are precision-engineered, built in a controlled setting, and delivered to the jobsite ready-to-install in pieces up to 2.4 m x 7.3 m (8 ft by 24 ft).

SIPs are pre-cut and labeled for fast installation on the jobsite.

SIPs are pre-cut and labeled for fast installation on the jobsite.

Streamlining construction with SIPs
SIPs are perhaps the most advanced framing method for both commercial and residential construction, yet do not require special training for framing installation. An experienced foreman and several less-experienced labors are all that are needed to slide the lightweight panels together according to a numbered installation guide specific to each project. The result is rapid framing installation and cost-effective labor production rates.

“With the pre-built panels, you just have to piece the building together like a puzzle,” said contractor Glen Kamerman, partner with Kamerman Construction.

“Compared to stick framing, SIP walls go up much faster since they can be installed in large sections and eliminate the need for separate on-site framing and insulation work,” said Sharon Bullock, project manager for Community Development Programs Center of Nevada (CDPCN). “The finished walls are also beautifully straight, which saves time on drywall installation, painting, and other finishing work.”

As an example of the potential time savings, the building team for the 900-student Jacob E. Manch Elementary School in Las Vegas completed the building’s framing in only seven weeks using SIPs. The school district had originally allotted 17 weeks for the structural work using concrete masonry units (CMUs), so the SIPs resulted in a 60 percent time savings. This efficiency comes not only from quicker structural installation, but also because of reduced labor time for the electrical work—the panels had electrical chases built inside them so electricians did not have to drill or modify faming. (Wires were simply pulled through the chases.) The speed of construction also means fewer framing hours on the jobsite and reduced interest on construction loans.

Energy-efficient construction
While building faster and cost effectively is important, at the same time, building owners demand quality construction with lower long-term operating costs. Here, too, structural insulated panels outperform many other framing methods.

SIPs have continuous, high-thermal insulation across their height, width, and depth. Since they do not have studs that break up the insulation, they reduce thermal bridging. Additionally, since they come in large sections, there are fewer gaps to seal—this helps create a tighter building envelope.

The net-zero ready Portland Community College Newberg Center used SIPs for an energy-efficient, airtight building envelop. Photo © Stephen Miller Photography

The net-zero-ready Portland Community College Newberg Center used SIPs for an energy-efficient, airtight building envelope. Photo © Stephen Miller Photography

The panels are often a key component in net-zero energy buildings, helping reduce energy consumption for building heating and cooling by up to 60 percent. For example, Doug Reimer, senior project architect with Hennebery Eddy Architects, describes the role of SIPs in the Portland Community College Newberg Center—a project recognized as a “Top Ten Green Project of 2012” by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

“The first and maybe most critical step in getting a building to net-zero energy use is to reduce its energy consumption,” he said. “The SIPs are intended to super-insulate and reduce air leaks to stabilize the interior environment. Then, fewer photovoltaic (PV) panels are required to generate energy to achieve net-zero.”

Conclusion
The construction industry shed 2.3 million jobs during the Great Recession, and many of the skilled laborers that lost their jobs have moved to other industries. Shortages are likely to remain a problem as skilled Baby Boomers in the industry retire in the coming years. Attracting new people to construction will be crucial, while implementing more efficient building practices such as SIPs will provide both short- and long-term benefits.

Joe Pasma - Premier SIPSJoe Pasma, PE, is the technical manager for Premier SIPs, a division of Carlisle Construction Materials. He has more than 35 years of experience in the building industry, including structural engineering, product development, and application of building science principals. He can be reached at joe.pasma@premiersips.com.

ASTM increasing consistency for fibre-reinforced concrete testing

A new ASTM standard seeks to set the foundation for more accurately comparable fiber-reinforced concrete tests. Photo © BigStockPhoto/Wasja

A new ASTM standard seeks to set the foundation for more accurately comparable fiber-reinforced concrete tests. Photo © BigStockPhoto/Wasja

Laboratories conducting beam tests on fiber-reinforced concrete are encouraged to join in the development of a new ASTM International standard—ASTM WK42757, Practice for Design of Supporting Rollers to Be Used in Fiber-reinforced Concrete Beam Tests.

According to ASTM member Stefan Bernard, the new standard is being developed in response to concerns over possible distortions in the magnitude of performance data obtained in beam tests on fiber-reinforced concrete and increases in variability between labs. The new standard works to ensure testing labs use a consistent design of supporting rollers; this should hopefully reduce variations between labs.

“The principle application for the proposed standard will be testing of fiber-reinforced concrete and, in particular, assessment of post-cracking flexural strength,” says Bernard. “Fiber-reinforced concrete is used in floors, pavements, shotcrete, and tunnel structures.” Bernard notes contractors and infrastructure owners will be the main customers for test data generated by the standard. Design professionals will be the indirect beneficiaries.

ASTM WK42757 is being developed by Subcommittee C09.42 on Fiber-reinforced Concrete, part of ASTM Committee C09 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates. All interested parties—particularly labs that can participate in round-robin testing to assess variability—are invited to participate in the ongoing development of the new standard.

Holcim names its global finalists and jury

Winners for this year’s North American regional Holcim Awards—including the designers of mould-based bricks, large-scale permeable concrete skins for Vegas, and flood barriers for Lower Manhattan—now move on to the global competition. Photo courtesy Holcim

Winners for this year’s North American regional Holcim Awards—including the designers of mould-based bricks, large-scale permeable concrete skins for Vegas, and flood barriers for Lower Manhattan—now move on to the global competition. Photo courtesy Holcim

Held every three years, the International Holcim Awards competition has now finalized both its shortlist and its jury.

Spearheaded by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, the program celebratres “innovative, future-oriented, and tangible construction projects” that have not yet been built, using criteria referred to as the five Ps: progress, people, planet, prosperity, and place. The 15 finalist projects are the Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners from each of the five regions: Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa Middle East, and Asia Pacific. The winners representing North American projects were:

  • Amy Mielke and Caitlin Taylor (Water Pore Partnership) for a water-absorptive ‘urban skin’ surface and subterranean basin that would capture Las Vegas’ rain runoff, and add more than 75,000 ML (20 billion gal) to the city’s water supply capacity;
  • Danish firm, BIG, for its urban flood-protection concept for Lower Manhattan—a 13-km (8-mi) infrastructural barrier includes various raised berms and other public-space infrastructure to mitigate damage caused by hurricanes; and
  • David Benjamin (the Living architecture lab) for a zero-carbon compostable structure, recently on display at MoMA New York, that uses advances in biotechnology, computation, and engineering to create a new building material almost fully organically grown and compostable.

To see the list of the other global finalists—which includes projects as diverse as low-cost modular homes in Ethiopia to a Turkish “eco-techno park”—visit www.holcimawards.org/globalfinalists.

The Holcim Foundation has also announced its jury for the top prizes. It will be headed by Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and includes thought leaders, architects, and academics from around the world.