This article focuses on the role of developers, designers, builders and others involved in the creation of communities and infrastructure that support human and environmental health, safety and welfare. We highlight some of the elements that are commonly encountered in the course of our forensic investigations with a focus on the problems and how professionals address them. At the end of the day, few things will have an effect as profound on people as the creation of the places where they live, work and play.
The transition from land in its existing state whether “green-field” raw land, redevelopment or reclaimed “brown-fields” to a planned community involves countless hours (and often years) of due diligence, planning, design and construction. The quality of planning and construction sets the stage for much of our casework.
Land development and redevelopment, when done properly and in accordance with regulations and established industry standards, creates safe, efficient, and environmentally sustainable communities. Irrespective of the intended uses (i.e. industrial, commercial, residential, recreational, etc.) there is a tremendous amount of planning involved in the creation of transportation, storm water management and utility infrastructure, balanced with concerns for crime prevention, aesthetic beauty, environmental sustainability and other quality of life concerns.
The roles and responsibilities of the developer, designers and constructors are instrumental to the success or failure of a community. If executed properly, a community, its residents and users have an opportunity to thrive for its expected life-cycle and beyond. If executed poorly, communities and individuals may function at some level, but are likely to suffer chronic problems and a greater prevalence of human injury and environmental health concerns.
Land Development & Injury Casework
Our experts are frequently retained in injury cases where the design and construction of communities, including transportation and utility infrastructure is called into question. Areas of investigation include:
- Premises Safety / Security
- Transportation Systems
- Electric Utilities
- Storm Water Management
- Public & Commercial Recreation
- Public Safety Around Construction Sites
Read on for more information on the key players in land development and some of the most common issues in our casework.
Example Community: Weston, FL
Land development expert, C. William Brewer, P.E., was the director of development/engineering from 1988 to 1997 on the project depicted below in Weston, FL. Bill’s expertise in land development projects is applied to relevant investigations as an expert at Robson Forensic.
Bird’s Eye View Aerial Photography of Weston, FL.
Land development projects can be organized in many different ways, but generally the owner/developer orchestrates the project. The owner/developer hires designers, as well as builders/constructors, who subsequently hire contractors, subcontractors, sub-subcontractors, and suppliers.
Robson Forensic is regularly retained on behalf of all of these parties in casework involving personal injury matters as well as construction claims.
Other Parties in Construction Projects
Other parties involved in construction projects typically operate parallel to the hierarchy described above. Our experts are often retained to review their actions within the scope of a specific project.
Development & Construction for Safety
We have discussed how the actions of developers, designers, and constructors influence the safety of finished projects. Below we have outlined some of the most common issues we find in completed projects.
Premises Safety and Security
- Adequate lighting (reference IES)
- Clear lines of sight
- Boundaries, buffer areas, and separation of incompatible uses
- Safe walkways with positive guidance
- Reduction of slip/trip/fall incidents
Storm Water Management
- Retention/detention pond safety
- Outfall structures
- Slope protection
- Safety slope
- Drainage system infrastructure
- Prevention of pipe failures, settlement, subsidence
- Protection of retaining walls, headwalls, and seawalls
- Control of standing water, roadway washouts & debris control
- Run-off water quality (toxicity)
- Water and sewer
- Contamination prevention
- Prevention of washouts and pipe failures
- Avoid hazards created by trench settlements, raised or settled manholes and valve boxes, inappropriate F/H location, etc.
- Gas, electric and communications
- Avoid guy wire conflicts
- Unobstructed lines of sight
- Guarding of utility trenches
- Proper trench backfill
- Guard energized equipment
- Safe placement of poles and structures
Recreation & Commercial Recreation
- Golf Courses
- Errant golf ball protection
- Golf cart paths, stairs, walkways
- Parks, playgrounds
- Proper surface materials & age appropriate equipment
- Athletic fields/facilities: fields, courts, rinks, tracks…
- Maintenance of surface & facilities
- Aquatic facilities
Construction Sites & Public Safety
- Protection of public from construction site hazards
- (Reference: International Building Code Chapter 33 & ANSI A10.34)
- Open excavations & trenches
- Earth stockpiles
- Construction materials
- Construction equipment
- Provisions to safely accommodate motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic
- Identification and mitigation of potential site hazards (e.g. sink holes, slides, contaminated soils and water, etc.)
- Proper roadway geometries
- Proper construction, inspection & maintenance
- MUTCD compliant traffic signals, signage & markings
- Inclusion of roadside recovery areas, clear zones, sight triangles, and vegetation management
- Bicycle & pedestrian safe facilities
- Adequate lighting (reference IES)
- Plant and tree selection
- Toxicity & species failure patterns
- Planting and bracing
- Placement - Allowance for ultimate growth
- Prevent upheaval of pavement and walking surfaces
- Lines-of-sight maintenance
- Roadway & utility clear zones
- Irrigation systems
- Prevent slippery conditions/ice on roads and walkways.
- Prevent tripping hazards from
- irrigation heads, washouts, etc.
- Conduct environmental due diligence
- Environmental questionnaires: Transaction screens, Internal environmental screens
- Environmental Site Assessments, Phase I ESAs, and Phase II ESAs
- Safety during construction
- OSHA 29 CFR 1926 - Construction Industry Regulations
- ANSI A10 series of construction safety standards
- Protecting the public during construction (see Construction Sites & Public Safety)
- Building Design & Construction
- ICC Family of Codes
- Life safety codes
- AIA contract documents
- Indoor air quality, water intrusion/mold
Bill has over 30 years experience in large-scale engineering, construction, and real estate development projects. He provides expert analysis in land acquisition, strategic planning, entitlements, design program management, and site development issues. He has specialized expertise in the construction of large-scale, master-planned communities and environmental issues including wetland mitigation, mass earthwork, blasting, and erosion control.