What are today’s trends in professional liability claims against architects, engineers and other design firms? There are a variety of claims that can occur and design professionals need to watch out for. One of them is HVAC claims.
Here's what you need to watch out for and understand how to protect yourself from these claims:
An increase in HVAC claims is primarily related to issues regarding excessive moisture, thermal comfort and humidity control. In hot, muggy areas, claims arise when buildings are not sufficiently cooled, and/or are not adequately addressing humidity. In cold northern areas, HVAC claims often allege damages from frozen and burst pipes because insufficient heating units had been installed in the buildings.
HVAC Claims Causes:
The specification of undersized equipment is a major cause of HVAC claims. But claims are also being brought because properly sized systems/units have been improperly maintained. The key to defense here is to document the owner’s responsibility to maintain their units. Also, building commissioning should address HVAC issues. Systems should be fully tested before owners and tenants occupy the building.
How to Mitigate HVAC Claims:
Mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers often report that they are not getting an adequate work scope and appropriate support from the prime designer to provide adequate HVAC systems.
Again, communication is the key to avoiding claims related to these issues. The design team needs to ensure there is a meeting of the minds as to how much heating, cooling and humidity control is expected, exactly how big of an area needs to be heated or cooled, and how much capacity a specific HVAC unit has. The design team also needs to be aligned with the needs/expectations of the user/stakeholder/owner.
Energy models are only useful if they accurately represent how the HVAC system and space will be used. Clear and comprehensive documentation is the key to defend HVAC claims. Unfortunately, these issues are not always well documented and designers find a betterment or other defensive argument more difficult to pursue.
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Download our free guidebook “Watch for These Seven Claim Trends” to learn more about how you can protect your business from claims and losses: