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University of Iowa suing contractors over cracked windows in Children’s Hospital
‘The contractors have not accepted responsibility’
IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa is suing two contractors who installed 900-some windows in its 14-story Stead Family Children’s Hospital, many of which have proved defective, with delamination and cracks showing just five years after the hospital’s opening.
UI Health Care in April 2021 went to the Board of Regents asking to spend another $10 to $15 million to replace two floors of damaged windows — which they first discovered in July 2019, two years after the 2017 opening.
An extra $15 million pushed the total hospital cost — already ballooned from $270 million to $392.7 million — to $407.7 million. As part of the new expense, UI installed a protective film and clips to secure the windows and mitigate potential safety concerns.
The campus also closed the new Children’s Hospital playground out of an abundance of caution. Officials have stressed the defective windows don’t pose a threat to patients, employees, visitors or the public. No one has been harmed, although the windows need to be replaced and are being monitored.
In October, after first alerting regents of the problem, UIHC reported finding more flawed windows needing the temporary emergency safety film.
The university hasn’t yet started replacement work, although UIHC officials in 2020 initially hoped to install replacements in summer of 2021, according to documents obtained by The Gazette.
UIHC Interim Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Hunter said the lawsuit, filed in Johnson County District Court on Friday, comes after an “extensive good faith effort to resolve the issues with the responsible parties.”
“We're disappointed that we've had to get to the point of filing a lawsuit,” Hunter told reporters. “But we really need the contractors to address the issue. We contracted with companies to provide windows and install them with an expectation that they would work appropriately and not have defects. And that didn't happen.”
Contractors being sued include Iowa City-based Knutson Construction and Cupples Construction of Illinois. Hunter didn’t share specifics about how much the university is seeking in damages.
“The construction of the Children’s Hospital was an investment in Iowa and we relied on and paid contractors to deliver a high-quality product,” Hunter said. “Unfortunately, the contractors have not accepted responsibility for replacing the defective windows, so we are forced to file a lawsuit."
'Questions being addressed’
In addition to windows encasing the curved Children’s Hospital, UIHC must replace delaminated windows on a bridge connecting the new facility with UIHC’s Pappajohn Pavilion.
The university has put that bridge portion of the window replacement project out for bid at an estimated price of $2.4 million, with a return date set for June 14. Officials earlier this year said bridge work is expected to start in September and wrap in June 2023.
UIHC, dating back to June 2020, has contracted to pay Marv’s Glass of Iowa City more than $1.3 million to install the protective film on the damaged windows.
And it has increased the budget for a consultant hired to investigate the windows to nearly $1 million, all of which is encompassed under the $15 million total cost umbrella, officials have said.
When UI first hired Chicago-based Simpson Gumperz & Heger, or SGH, in 2019 to look into the problems, a UI attorney told SGH its consultation came “in anticipation of potential litigation in connection with the construction of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.”
UIHC officials have denied The Gazette’s requests for a “condition assessment report” that SGH produced due to potential litigation.
In April 2021, UI Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz told regents the campus — for now — would cover window costs with “building usage funds.”
“We are and will continue the effort to establish causes related to this, and intend to hold responsible the causing parties,” he said at the time. “There are both manufacturer and installation questions being addressed through study, and we will continue to garner more information on that as we continue this.”
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