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Historic New Orleans French Quarter Hotel Damaged by Hurricane Katrina

case_leg_historicfrenchquarterAn historic New Orleans French Quarter hotel suffered severe water damage from Hurricane Katrina.  For the upper floors of the hotel, there was considerable water damage despite a lack of obvious damage to the roof or exterior walls.  During restoration work, the owner encountered a number of situations where the facility had to be brought into compliance with current building codes.  A dispute regarding the extent of hurricane related repairs arose between the building owners and their insurance companies.  We were asked by the hotel owners to determine exactly how the hurricane had damaged the hotel interior, review building code requirements for restoration work, and analyze the construction schedule.

We began our investigation into the source of water intrusion on the upper floor by reviewing drawings, and then following water marking, and mapping of moisture damage to determine the route of water entry.  It turned out that hurricane winds had lifted the roof slightly allowing wind-driven rain to penetrate under the roof and into the top floor of the building.  From there, the water percolated down through the building, saturating finishes on all floors. Damages from this source were in addition to those resulting from more apparent hurricane damage to the building envelope.

To analyze the impact of building codes on construction we reviewed not only the codes in effect at the time of the restoration work, but also the enabling statutes by which the codes were adapted.  We also interviewed code officials to determine what allowances were made to permit repair of hurricane damaged buildings.  This analysis found that the hotel was required to make upgrades for accessibility and fire safety.

We audited actual construction costs, and compared these to a detailed cost estimate we developed by taking-off materials quantities from drawings and field measurements, and then applying unit costs for labor, materials, and equipment.  Unit costs were determined from a national database of construction costs, and our own experience with restoration work in the New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina.

To evaluate the time required to return the hotel to operation we prepared a detailed critical path method (CPM) schedule, using production rates from a national database and our experience with labor and material availability in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Our study found that the hotel owners, who were also general contractors, had outperformed expectations, getting the hotel restored and back into operation faster than a typical owner.  These findings were presented at a trial before a judge.  To explain the complex technical issues, we created a multimedia presentation incorporating video documentation of the hurricane, photographic site documentation showing the extent of damages to the buildings interior and exterior, and computer animations.  This resulted in a judgment paying the hotel owners for all water damages.