Yakima School District sues over design issues, property damage with IKE’s blue wall

Yakima School District sues over design issues, property damage with IKE’s blue wall

The Yakima School District is suing the companies that built the new Dwight D. Eisenhower High School over allegations of improper design and “poor workmanship”.

Namely, the school district points to issues surrounding its infamous blue wall, the massive structure splits the school in half, touching both the school’s interior and exterior; it was designed to emulate the Yakima River.

In the lawsuit, the district says KDA Architecture’s initial design was flawed and that changes made to fix the flaws just contributed to the problem.

The district also alleges Graham Construction and Management failed to ensure the design was implemented and installed properly, including having incomplete elements and missing pieces.

KAPP-KVEW contacted district officials for the story, who said they were “transitioning leadership” and would not have a representative available to speak about court proceedings until the following week.

Attempts to contact KDA Architecture and Graham Construction were unsuccessful.

In 2009, Yakima voters passed a bond to replace the school. Shortly after, the school district signed a $4.8 million contract with KDA to design the new high school.

The design was completed in June of 2011. At that point, the district contracted with Graham Construction to bring the design to life for about $78.7 million.

The wall is made of blue stainless-steel metal shingles and blue porcelain tiles, with a water-resistant barrier underneath: a W.R. Grace Ice and Water Shield.

In April 2013, district officials noticed a problem with the wall: the water-resistant product was melting behind the porcelain tiles and leaking out through the metal shingles, the lawsuit said.

Upon investigation, KDA determined the dark color of the wall was raising the temperature in excess of the 180-degree limit specified for the product.

The manufacturer of the product gave two options: get the “ultra” version of the product that’s more heat resistant to replace the melted ones or create a ventilation space between the product and the tiles to keep the temperature down.

According to the lawsuit, KDA initially recommended the first option, but backtracked after realizing the melted product was fused to the wood and couldn’t be removed without causing damage.

Instead, the design firm’s approach was to put “ultra” product behind the melted parts, at areas near the windows and base of the wall, and to put a drainage mat on some of the melted product to help minimize heat transfer, the lawsuit said.

“Aside from the above design changes, KDA made other changes to the design of the project during construction, including and in particular to the blue wall system,” the lawsuit said.

School staff moved into the building in late August 2013. Within two months, staff allegedly noticed “severe flaws” in the school’s design and construction that had resulted in property damage.

At that time, it appeared the main problem was water leaking through the wall into the school’s interior, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, tests throughout the school showed several locations with documented microbial growth and the school installed scaffolding and tenting to keep the blue wall dry prior to repairs.

“It was determined that this water infiltration was occuring as a result of improper design/installation, poor workmanship and a lack of flashings,” the lawsuit said.

To examine the damage thouroughly, workers had to remove the shingles and tiles from the blue wall. Many were fused together and about a third of the metal shingles were damaged in removal, the lawsuit said.

Additionally, the lawsuit says the new “ultra” material had also melted and the drainage mats had been cracked and warped in the heat.

Repairs to the building were made by November of 2017.

The district is suing over breach of contrract and professional negligence, among other things.