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U. sues architecture firms for $10.7M over Andlinger Center construction

<p>The Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.</p>
<h6>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h6>

The Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

The University has filed a $10.7 million lawsuit against firms involved in the design and construction of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. 

The Trustees of Princeton University are suing Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA), a New York-based firm that provided architectural services related to the Andlinger Center project, as well as Texas-based sub-consultants Jacobs Architects/Engineers, Inc. and Jacobs Consultancy Inc — referred to collectively as “Jacobs Entities” in the suit. Tod Williams ’65 GS’67 received his Master of Fine Arts from the University. 

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The Trustees’s complaint alleges that members of the design team “failed to perform their professional design responsibilities in accordance with the prevailing standard of care, resulting in unnecessary and excessive additional costs and expensive project delays.” 

The University is suing TWBTA and Jacobs Entities for professional negligence, as well as breach of contract between the University and TWBTA. The suit also lists a claim of “indemnification,” stating that TWBTA is contractually required to compensate the University for all costs relating to the design team’s negligence.

The complaint was filed on Dec. 10, and a summons was issued to the defendants that same day. At the time of publication, TWBTA and Jacobs Entities had not responded to requests for comment.

In a statement to The Daily Princetonian, University Deputy Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss called the University’s decision to sue the firms “unusual but necessary.”

“The University seeks to recover addition[al] costs it incurred due to extensive changes and delays those companies caused in the construction of the Andlinger Center,” he wrote. “As detailed in the complaint, TWBTA and Jacobs failed to meet their obligations in the construction of the Center, and the University is asserting claims for breach of contract and negligence, among others.”

In 2008, Gerhard Andlinger ’52 donated $100 million to finance the construction of the eponymous Center, which opened to much fanfare in May 2016. 

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According to the complaint, the University contracted TWBTA to perform design services for the Andlinger Center project in February 2009. Construction began in 2012 and was “substantially completed” in January 2016. This completion came approximately 10 months behind schedule, and the complaint alleges that at least five months of that delay are attributable to the actions of TWBTA and Jacobs Entities.

According to the complaint, TWBTA and Jacobs Entities issued approximately 87 Architect’s Supplemental Instructions (ASI) between June 2012 and June 2017. An ASI constitutes “a formal notice issued from an architect to address and resolve minor, non-contractual, issues that might arise during the construction process.” 

In the Andlinger Center project, the ASIs led to the issuance of 462 design-related Change Order Requests (COR). The complaint states that 438 of the CORs related to the design team’s “errors and omissions,” 17 to 3D modeling software, known as Building Information Modeling (BIM), and seven to design-team-caused delays.

The University calculated damages of $3.4 million in “errors and omissions costs,” $1,363,951 in “additional BIM costs,” and at least $6 million from design-team-caused delays — amounting to over $10.7 million total in costs.

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The suit calls for the design team to compensate the University for these costs, in addition to “attorneys’ fees and costs, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest at the highest rate permitted by applicable New Jersey law, and such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.”

Judge Brian Martinotti and Magistrate Judge Lois Goodman will preside over the case at the New Jersey District Court in Trenton, N.J. Attorney Jeffrey Pollock has appeared in court on behalf of the University trustees, and Sarah Biser — a lawyer specializing in construction law — has been designated trial counsel for the University. 

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