Out for Summer

capitol_vd_bobashThe First Regular Session of the Seventy-first General Assembly is Out for Summer having adjourned May 10, 2017, so it seemed an appropriate time to recap Construction Defect Reform across the State.

This session again saw an ambitious batch of Construction Defect reform bills – six in in fact. Both the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate highlighted reform in their opening speeches.  The bills ranged from defining “construction defect” to early allocation of costs among defendant litigants.

However, the only bill to garner enough support to make it to the Governor’s desk was HB 17-1279.  The bill requires that, before the executive board of a unit owners’ association (HOA) in a common interest community brings suit against a developer or builder on behalf of unit owners, the board must: Notify all unit owners and the developer or builder against whom the lawsuit is being considered; Call a meeting at which the executive board and the developer or builder will have an opportunity to present relevant facts and arguments; and Obtain the approval of a majority of the unit owners after giving them detailed disclosures about the lawsuit and its potential costs and benefits.

The hope is that it will reduce the risk of construction defect litigation just enough for insurance companies to lower their rates, allowing builders to re-enter the owner-occupied multi-family housing market in Colorado.

It will likely take a few years for insurance carriers to respond to HB 17-1279 with rate reductions, and another few years for builders and developers to feel confident that HB 17-1279 offers any true protection from overzealous litigants, but apparently, hope springs eternal among the General Assembly.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Vallagio at Inverness Residential Condo Association vs. Metropolitan Homes Inc. will probably have more impact; reinforcing the power of a Declarant to bind future HOA members to arbitration of construction defect disputes.

In early June, the Court ruled that a homeowners association was wrong to sue a builder after disregarding bylaws that require binding arbitration to settle claims of construction defects.  The association’s key misstep, the court said in a 5-2 ruling, involved its bid to change the rules to allow litigation without getting the consent of the development’s builder.

“Because the unit owners did not obtain the Declarant’s written consent to remove the declaration’s arbitration provision, the attempted amendment was ineffective. Consequently, the Association remains bound by the arbitration agreement …”

Cities also continue to effectuate change on the local level.  Those that currently have Construction Defect ordinances include:

Arvada, Aurora, Castle Rock, Centennial, Colorado Springs, Commerce City, Denver, Durango, Fort Colins, Lakewood, Littleton, Lone Tree, Loveland, Parker, Westminster, and Wheat Ridge.

These ordinances include a combination of Notice-Repair language (pre-suit notice to construction professionals with a right to repair); Disclosure-Voting requirements (pre-suit disclosure to HOA members and lawsuit approval); Substantive Law changes (limitation of type or scope of a construction defect claim); or Plat Note language (allowing developers to record plat notes mandating arbitration).

As we enter the 2017 summer construction season, once again very little has changed from years past despite reform efforts at the General Assembly.  The General Assembly will convene once again in January 2018, and we will continue watching the circus for any true reform.

Special Thanks to @AxiomPolitics for working tirelessly and keeping the Colorado Defense Lawyer Association up to date on all legislative matters.

 

Filling the Gap

This week’s post is from our newest EP Blog contributor: Rachael Johnson. Rachel recently moved to Denver from Washington D.C. and brought with her an amazing program called the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP). 2016_ckldp_grad_slideshow

Filling the Gap by Rachael Johnson

As one of the few official “professions” – those jobs that require continuous improvement, evolution, innovation and training – lawyers and doctors have us architects beat when it comes to post-graduate school professional training and development. We emerge from a rigorous, often heavily theoretical education and begin our new professional lives as bathroom elevation trainees – interns. We learn and test our skills and knowledge until – BAM! – We’ve passed our tests and now have the credentials to do some real good (or damage – depending on how much we have actually learned and experienced). Aside from informal learning opportunities at an occasional lunch’n’learn with a vendor and those lucky chances to shadow a mentor, there is little regular and formal professional education built into an emerging professional’s early career.

Over the years, the professional architecture community here in Colorado has recognized this lack of guidance for interns and responded with various committees and programs including mentorship programs and testing support. There is still a gap, though. For freshly licensed folks who have collected mentors over the years and have exhausted many of the professional learning opportunities out there, there is still a gaping hole, an education void impeding the path to expertise, leadership and partnership. The knowledge needed to run a firm competently or reach a peak level in the profession is seemingly absorbed through osmosis (or perhaps through many iterations and subsequent failures and successes). I do not discount the hard work and raw talent that got our industry leaders where they are today, but I also recognize (and venture to guess that the architecture community at large agrees) that there is new talent out there that could not only enhance, but lead the next era of the practice of architecture. Let this serve as a call to action – We must empower and equip those eager to innovate and lead!

Enter stage right… the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program. This 9-month program serves as an opportunity for those bright, young professionals to think, dream and grow with like-minded young architects and leaders in the local community both within and outside the profession. Just by its inherent qualities and syllabus structure, the program has proven (over four years in Washington DC and now one in Denver) to be not only a plentiful environment for learning and exploring, but an incubator for daring, curious, diligent leaders. Each May, the local architecture and design community has the privilege of welcoming 16 empowered, fresh and enthusiastic candidates into the highly-qualified pool of leader candidates – the future of our profession.

Send us your best and brightest: scholars, speakers and collaborators!

*For more information – to sponsor, apply, contact – please visit: https://aiacolorado.org/ckldp

Automobile Speech (‘Car Talk’ is already a thing, I guess)

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of roles within an architecture office. Recently, I have been leading the CA effort on one project, while leading the design of another. Working on these two wildly different projects has opened my eyes to an idea that is never taught in architecture school, never comes up on the ARE, and has no hours to be logged via AXP: how do you work with and manage a wide variety of people throughout a project?

A few months ago I had a much more experienced architect in my office lament to me about not being able to motivate some of the younger staff (of which I am one, but that fact seems to have gone unnoticed). This got me thinking about ways that humans are motivated, both in a professional and personal manner. I realized (unfortunately after the conversation took place) that everyone is motivated through different stimuli and that the best way to motivate and work with people is to observe what works for those people and adjust your own style to work with them instead of hoping that they eventually come around to your way of thinking and working .

As people who know me will attest, I am a big fan of using unlike stories to illustrate a point. That being said, here it goes: working with and managing people is like moving a car without a key. Sometimes the car is broken down and needs a good push so that it can fall into gear. Once it’s in gear, it will run just fine like nothing ever happened to it. On the other hand, sometimes the car is already rolling downhill and your job is to absorb its momentum and navigate it in the correct direction. If you try to force your will upon the car that moving car, it will run you over and then end up in a ditch.

That seemingly obscure analogy lends itself to each project in the following ways: on one project, it took some real effort to motivate many team members, both internally and externally, to care about the project. Once people became invested in the project and felt ownership over it, though, everyone gained momentum and they no longer required as much pushing in order to move the project forward. On the other hand, the polar opposite was experienced on a different project. I came into the process about halfway through schematic design and the team was already wholly invested in the design and nuances of the project. At first, I came in with the same mentality that I had had to “push people in the direction that I wished them to go”. However, when the team already had momentum, it became twice as difficult to move things to where I thought they should be. Instead, I took a step back and used the momentum that was already in place and gently shifted decisions and ideas one way or another. While neither method is perfect and both require effort, I am sure that I avoided many headaches by tailoring my approach for each project.

Ultimately, what I have learned is that the best way to motivate and lead a project team is to adapt my approach to each team and even each team member to what they require. There can’t be a “one size fits all” approach because people are about as varied a species as there is. We can shift and customize our approaches within a spectrum, but it is important to recognize that people and situations will always vary and we need to be flexible enough to adjust accordingly. It’s just too bad I couldn’t think of all this when the question was originally posed months ago.

Forest City Revisted

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More than a year ago, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Rogers v. Forest City Stapleton, Inc. (2015COA167).  My post then noted the decision could significantly impact developers and construction professionals in Colorado.

The lawsuit involved a dispute between a homeowner in the Stapleton neighborhood and the master developer of the community (Forest City).  Before any new structures were built, Forest City subdivided the former Stapleton International Airport land into individual lots to create a new residential development.  Undeveloped lots were sold to a professional homebuilder (Infinity Home Collection at Stapleton, LLC).  Infinity improved and finished the lot, constructed a house on it, and sold the lot to Rogers.

Rogers claims that an undisclosed high water table beneath his house, coupled with calcite leaching from nearby roads, infiltrated his basement.  Rogers’ claim against Forest City included breach of implied warranty.  His theory was that by allowing Infinity to construct a home with a basement on the lot, Forest City had implied that the lot was suitable for that purpose.

Forest City argued that it did not have any role in the builder’s or homeowner’s decision to build a basement on the lot because it had provide the builder with all of the information available respecting the lot’s subsurface and groundwater condition.

Before the Court of Appeals decision, no Colorado appellate court had recognized an implied warranty running from a lot developer to a subsequent home buyer where the developer is not involved in construction of the house.

Although the opinion attempted to carve a narrow exception for implied warranty claims against a developer, developers, builders, contractors, and designers may now be exposed to more frequent and successful claims for breach of implied warranty.

The Colorado Supreme Court considered the case and has issued it’s ruling. The Supreme Court concluded that because breach of the implied warranty of suitability is a contract claim, privity of contract is required in such a case.

The home buyer was not in privity of contract with the developer and thus cannot pursue a claim against the developer for breach of the implied warranty of suitability.

Thankfully, the Colorado Supreme Court decision assuaged concerns raised a year ago by the court of appeals’ decision.

Denver Street Level… with a Stroller, A Guest Post from a new(ish) Mother

Nothing re-contextualizes a city’s public, street-level environment quite like having an infant in tow.  While life’s errands and events were once a seamless rhythm of transitions from home to mode of transport to destination, leaving the house as a new parent comes with an entirely new choreography.

Six months into parenthood, while I’ve eased up a bit since the early months, I still catch myself considering a list of logistics rivaling a CIA operative about to embark on a strategic mission each time I leave the house. 

What mode of transportation should I bring—a stroller or a baby carrier?   Are there sidewalks? And if so, what condition are they in? How long will I be out?  Can I run multiple errands while visiting one location?  Will this location have a changing station and/or nursing room?  Is the space I am visiting outdoors or indoors, and what additional blankets or shading do I need to temper my baby’s microclimate? 

Prior to parenthood, there were many specific ways in which I engaged with the city’s urban fabric.  As a practicing architect working near the heart of Downtown Denver, I have ridden on my fair share of entertaining mallrides, felt the warm glow of the cosmopolitan bustle at Union Station, and spent many dusky Friday evenings perusing Rino’s cultural and epicurean venues.  A fan of local businesses, seasonal markets, and public parks, I have walked and biked through many of Denver’s unique, rapidly-developing neighborhoods.

Fast-forward to early parenthood.  Suddenly my means of navigating the city has become less about novelty and more about predictability.  Prior to having an infant, I hadn’t considered IKEA’s sinuous walking paths, set amongst the backdrop of carefully-organized living environments, as an exercise and entertainment destination on a rainy day.  Nor did I appreciate the diversity of merchandise available under the roof of America’s beloved Super Target.  Despite my proximity to Cherry Creek North, I didn’t give much thought to what I now consider one of the more well-planned pedestrian environments in the City of Denver.

Borrowing Bob Dylan’s words, things have changed.

As a new mother that aspires to remain an active, urban-dweller throughout maternity leave and beyond, here are several planning features that might facilitate a positive parent outing/ experience.  While most of these planning principles cater to universal design strategies, these features have quickly become important enhancements to the quotidian routines of early parenthood.

  1. Wide, flat sidewalks with curb cuts and generous indoor circulation paths.

Many Colorado parents opt for all-terrain strollers that support the state’s “active lifestyle.”  These strollers tend to have a wide frame and impressively-large all-weather tires.  While navigating narrow, cracked sidewalks and jumping curbs might appeal to those that enjoy testing their strollers’ off-roading capabilities, a smooth and barrier free experience remains preferable while pushing perhaps such precious cargo.

While the Denver Post recently reported that the City of Denver’s 2017 operating budget has earmarked $2.5 million for new or fixed sidewalks on city-owned property.  Perhaps more challenging is how Denver might provide assistance in improving neighborhood sidewalks that fall within the responsibility of the homeowner.

This principle also applies to the idea that indoor spaces have wide circulation paths that might accommodate strollers in aisle-ways and areas surrounding displays in retail environments.

  1. Mixed-use retail environments that mimic the urban microcosm.

Three months into parenthood, I’ve appreciated mixed-use developments that necessitate only one trip via car or public transportation.  Upon arrival, being able to accomplish many activities and tasks on-foot without having to open and fold a heavy stroller or strap a sleeping baby in-and-out of a carrier numerous times creates a more enjoyable experience for all participants involved.

My new-found appreciation of Cherry Creek North stems from its rich diversity of programming and thoughtful attention to the pedestrian scale and public space(s).  In many ways creating a parallel to a small village, one might meet a friend for coffee or a meal, pick up groceries and other household items, fit in a workout, stop by the library, and/or engage in a round of retail therapy all in one trip.  These activities are enhanced by a pleasant pedestrian scale that boasts wide sidewalks and pedestrian-preferred crosswalks, ample landscaping and benches, continuous stretches of active, ground-level retail, and fairly inexpensive metered parking.

  1. Clean, sanitary restroom facilities that go beyond code. 

On a recent trip to Japan, I was struck by the universal design features in the majority of public spaces, transportation hubs, and cultural institutions.  Besides the elaborate electric toilets with multiple cleansing options, each accessible stall had an infant seat in which a child under six months could be placed while their mother used the facilities.  This small addition to public amenities would make a seemingly simple need safe and less awkward for parents out with their child.

Upon expecting, several new mothers I met told me of their appreciation for Nordstrom bathrooms, which boast comfortable couches and areas for privacy in nursing/resting while shopping with an infant.

A little extra care and investment in public restrooms for functions such as nursing and changing enable parents to feel more comfortable in leaving the house for extended stretches of time.

  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of public, urban parks.

During the first two months of life, a newborn is not vaccinated, and it is typically recommended by the Pediatrician that parents avoid confined areas.

So where to go to get out of the house?

Public parks and open spaces within walking-distance of neighborhoods are critical resources for exercise, fresh air, and an opportunity to “reconnect” with the outside world.

I can’t count how many times I walked around Washington Park during the first few weeks of my child’s life (sometimes twice in one day,) but I know that this beloved public park served as a savior of both my sanity and post-pregnancy recovery.

While babies grow quickly, the first several years of life provide parents with numerous considerations that seem counter to a spontaneous, out-the-door approach to small and large outings.  My hope is that as Denver continues to grow, design features that demonstrate empathy and sensitivity to parents with young children might be incorporated in new and existing public spaces, cultural institutions, and neighborhoods and mixed-use developments.