James J. Shields, P.E., Mechanical Engineer ::::
Case Synopsis – A housing development company began a large multi-dwelling housing construction project at a site in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The development company hired a General Contractor to design and construct the site along with the erection of hundreds of homes. The project was planned by the development company to require several years for completion. As a first step in the process, the General Contractor obtained a building permit and produced a set of overall design drawings for the entire site, along with a set of design details for home construction. As is commonly the case, the General Contractor was responsible for the hiring of all sub-contractors. In addition, before commencing the work, all sub-contractors were required to sign a construction agreement with the General Contractor.
Approximately one year after the housing project had begun and certain housing sections had been completed, the housing developer and a prospective homeowner entered into an Agreement of Sale. The homeowner moved into the home about six months after signing the Agreement and lived in the home uneventfully for close to nine years. However, at that time, a severe water leak emerged from behind the drywall in the second-floor master bedroom. The water deluge from the leak was so great that it flowed through the wall, flooding the second story floor and pouring down two floors to the basement before the source of the water leak could be located and isolated. A vertical section of drywall was removed to expose the source of the water, which appeared to be originating from the sprinkler piping, although the exact location of the leak was still unknown. When the sprinkler system valves were shuttered the leak stopped, although, by then the volume of water released had created significant damage. The water was being supplied from the Township Water System, and the shutoff valves were able to isolate the home sprinkler system from the water supply.