The architecture firm that designed the blue wall running through Eisenhower High School agreed to pay the Yakima School District $1.7 million for damage and repairs in a settlement agreement.
The agreement puts to rest part of a lawsuit filed by the district in June in Yakima County Superior Court alleging breach of contract leading to property damage and substantial repair costs. It is not an admission of liability or fault by either KDA Architecture or the Yakima School District, the settlement said.
The school board approved the settlement, which was signed Feb. 3 by Superintendent Trevor Greene and requires KDA Architecture to make the payment within 30 days of the settlement’s approval, according to public records.
But the legal issue is not over, as action against the contractor continues.
KDA agreed to provide 24 hours of cooperation by a representative in ongoing actions against the contractor, Graham Construction & Management, a Canadian firm with a Seattle office, in the settlement. Any cooperation beyond that would be paid for by the school district.
The blue wall and dispute
KDA, a Yakima firm, designed Eisenhower High School to replace a campus that dated back to 1957. The project was completed in 2013 and cost the district roughly $83 million.
A main feature of the design was a blue wall weaving through the center of the building, representing the Yakima River. It has both interior and exterior elements.
The lawsuit filed by the district alleged that once the project was finished, a water-resistant barrier began melting behind the blue stainless steel shingles that made up that wall because the protective product had surpassed a 180-degree heat limit.
The product’s maker recommended it be removed and replaced by a higher heat capacity alternative, which could handle 300 degrees, or that space be left between the protective product and seals.
Instead, by KDA’s recommendation, the higher quality product was “tucked” behind the melted product in areas and replaced at the base of the wall, according to the lawsuit. A new product was installed on top of the melting product to create ventilation, it said. This approach was recommended because the tiles and melted material had become inseparable.
Continued damage became apparent beginning in late 2016. Water entered parts of the wall, blistering paint. Black mold was discovered near 23 of 26 windows along the wall. Eventually, other damage to insulation, steel framing, wall covers, cement siding and 30 percent of the decorative blue tiles was found.
This resulted in at least half a million dollars in repairs by the district in 2017. The original tiles of the blue wall were removed during the repairs and replaced with new, matte blue tiles.
The lawsuit alleged that the damage was caused by design and construction “errors and omissions.” Damages were to be outlined in trial.
The February settlement brings the district closer to concluding the lawsuit, which has not been dismissed, according to the district’s chief legal counsel, Robert Noe.
“We are still working toward resolution with Graham Construction. We are hopeful to reach resolution in the near future,” Noe said Monday.