Vegas City Center’s Harmon Tower: Headed for Repair or Demolition?

Harmon Tower Hotel at City Center: Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Cygnusloop99

Las Vegas City Center developers have until August 15 to supplement information provided to Clark County’s Building Division on a recently released engineering report indicating that Harmon Towers is not safe and could fail during a strong earthquake; described as a “Code Level Earthquake” in various news reports.    Clark County is also requiring the developers to provide them with a plan for repair or demolition as appropriate.  Harmon’s problems have been known for a period of time but it was the recently submitted report prepared by Weidlinger Associates that set off the current controversy.

Designed by well known British architect Norman Foster, Harmon’s construction issues have been on-going for years.  Structural defects discovered in 2008 contributed to a previous decision by the developers to cut back the 47-story hotel and condo project to 27-stories. 

Clark County Building Official Ron Lynn  is involved in resolving the code compliance issues and any future permits (for construction or demolition as the case may be).  Lynn has considerable experience dealing with problem buildings and failures on the Vegas strip.  His participation in a recent panel discussion on Vegas failures was one of the most highly attended  and well received at the recent 2011 ASCE Structures Congress, which by coincidence was held just outside of Las Vegas.

Engineering Studies Released

Claims, counterclaims and engineering reports abound when it comes to the Harmon.  In addition to the most recent Weidlinger assessment prepared on behalf of City Center owners MGM Resorts International and Dubai World, at least two other engineering assessments and reports have been issued on various aspects of the building.   Clark County engaged Walter P. Moore to perform a peer review assessment.  Moore’s report focused primarily on the “as designed” structure.  Perini Building Company, the currently permitted contractor,  hired the structural firm of John A. Martin & Associates to evaluate the design and construction of the facility and prepare recommendations for completion.

City Center Construction Problems

In addition to the Harmon Tower problems discussed above, there have been a number of construction issues related to the overall City Center development, including a narrowly averted bankruptcy in 2009.  In 2007 and 2008, six construction workers on the project lost their lives in various accidents mirroring a trend of construction accidents and fatalities at Vegas construction sites.  Finally, reported as “deadly” but simply a strange building performance issue, the Vdara’s pool at City Center was associated with highly concentrated sun rays reflecting from the glass facade that were reported to have scorched pool users and  even melted plastic.  The phenominon and was soon dubbed the “Vdara death ray”, a news item previously posted on Building Failures Forum on the “Weird Failures” page.

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