Letters and Opinion

What happened to Di Rimini architect?

November 13, 2010

“The city needs to beef up its oversight of construction projects,” says the Nov. 8 editorial concerning the Di Rimini apartment project problems. But the city has only a small role in such oversight.

All commercial construction projects, such as the Di Rimini project, have many tiers of supervision, inspection, communication and oversight between the participants in such projects. One of these participants, not mentioned in the editorial, nor in earlier articles in IBJ describing the many code and safety violations, is the architect.

Where was the architect when the developer made those 35 departures from the approved plans? Where was the architect when the city cited the developer for multiple code violations? Where was the architect during construction that he or she did not observe these violations as they were being made? My guess is that the architect abdicated his or her role as observer and reporter of such violations, a duty under Indiana statute.

There is a reason why the state requires all architects to have a vast educational background in the art, science and technology of building design and construction, supplemented by years of supervised internship under the guidance of a qualified senior architect, and [to] pass rigorous multiple professional examinations before one can legally call themselves an architect.

The state recognizes and relies on the architect’s comprehensive role in all commercial construction by making the architect solely responsible for assuring that all building codes are followed, and that the building depicted on paper is the same building actually built. No other party to a construction project is charged with such responsibility, or has such an ominous duty to the people of Indiana. That duty is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public concerning all commercial buildings. Both the state and the city should be able to rely on the architect’s vigilance and professional objectivity to supplement their role, which is predominantly enforcement.

No builder or developer may build a commercial project in Indiana without first obtaining the services of a licensed architect or professional engineer. Nor can they make any changes to an architect’s design without first obtaining approval from that architect. Clearly there is a missing element in the Di Rimini apartments story, and one that does not imply that the city was deficient in any way in their role as code enforcer or construction overseer. A stop-work order by the city is a draconian measure, and seldom used.

Where was the architect and how does he think he is protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public?

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James Robert Stutzman
Architect

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