The developer of a New Jersey condominium development and its architecture firm face a $10 million construction defect verdict in a case involving non-compliance with fire codes.
The Grandview I building on the Hudson River, developed by Hovnanian Enterprises’ subsidiary, K. Hovnanian and designed by RTKL New Jersey Architects, was alleged to have been built in a condition that was not compliant with fire codes. The plaintiff—the condominium association--alleges that the developer knew about the non-compliance and failed to disclose this fact with buyers.
According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, the architect designed the building with plywood subflooring and later warned the developer that to comply with code the structure would have to be reclassified from Type 2 to Type 3. The reclassification would have allowed plywood if the building’s exterior steel-with-brick-veneer walls were rebuilt with code-required masonry walls.
The building codes provide for five types of buildings, ranging from the most fire-resistant Type 1 — often a skyscraper — to Type 5, typically a wood-framed house. Defense attorneys argued that the plywood flooring was not a life-safety issue, since fire alarms and exits would allow all residents to safely vacate the building. The condo association's attorneys agreed that there was no threat to residents' lives, but that property could suffer more damage as a result of the code violation.