Piping Problem in New Schools; Delay Will Not Affect School Opening

By  | 

By Dave Freneaux

The specifications for the piping in the heating and air conditioning in Central's new schools call for pipe manufactured in the United States. Unfortunately, the pipe actually installed was imported from a number of foreign countries. While the pipe used does technically meet the testing standards, there is concern among some board members that imported pipe may not be of the same quality and consistency as that of domestic manufacture. The issue, regardless of how it is finally settled, should not cost the school system any additional money. Further, if the pipe needs to be replaced, the worst case scenario would cause an estimated two month delay in the completion of the schools, with completion around mid-May. The current plan has been to begin classes in August in the new facility, so this delay would have no impact on that plan.

At a called meeting of the Facilities and Equipment Committee of the School Board explanations were heard from the General Contractor as well as the subcontractor handling the installation of the pipe. Everyone is in agreement that the bid package and specifications called for domestic pipe. The pipe supplier agreed to supply domestic pipe, but shipped imported pipe to the jobsite. The supplier blames the error on an oversight in reading the specifications. By the time the issue was discovered and addressed, about 60% of the pipe had already been installed. Domestic pipe has now been ordered and will arrive in about two weeks. PBK Architects, representing the school system in this project, has at this point instructed the General Contractor to remove the imported pipe and replace it with domestic pipe.

The pipe supplier made an offer to issue a $150,000 credit and extend the warranty on the pipe by ten years if they were allowed to leave the imported pipe in place. They also pointed out that many large facilities, including the new Woman's Hospital being built in Baton Rouge, are using similar imported pipe. Informal estimates discussed at the meeting placed the cost of tearing out and reinstalling piping between $200,000 and $300,000, but there are many considerations, such as delays in other aspects of the construction, that would impact the actual cost. One additional consideration discussed was the possibility that the supplier could file a claim against the school system, asserting that they should have been allowed to leave the imported pipe in place. The School Board has referred that possibility to legal counsel for assessment. The committee took no action on the matter, instead requesting that all of the options and recommendations be presented to the full School Board at its next meeting on October 10th. That meeting will be held in the newly renovated theater at Central High School.


  1. Another Central resident

    October 7, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Who is inspecting this job? This should have been caught by the inspector well before 60% of the pipe was installed.

  2. Not too concerned citizen

    October 7, 2011 at 9:38 am

    An inspector would not find this type of error. He would only be looking at the construction of the pipe, whether or not it was installed correctly. Unfortunately there is no obvious difference between foreign and domestic pipe. they both are black, steel piping, meaning that if looked at side by side no one could tell the difference. I am more concerned with the fact that they turned down $150K and an extended warranty. The school system could always use the money and the extra warranty would protect the school system from additional costs if the pipe would be deffective.

    Just my two cents.

  3. Another Central resident

    October 7, 2011 at 10:09 am


    I have to disagree. Being involved in many construction projects (usually infrastructure vs. structures), it was always the inspector who discovered that the contractor was not using the correct material or supplies that did not meet specifications. That was part of their job. I have seen many times where the inspector refused the material to be installed because they did not meet specifications. That is why I asked the original question.

    I do agree that they should have accepted the $150K and extended warranty period as long as the pipe met all the specifications except for being domestic.

  4. another point of view

    October 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Here’s another point of view. The specification book for the job specifies domestic pipe. The subcontractor submitted domestic pipe for approval. They then shipped imported pipe, which is substantially cheaper. The contract specifies that anything used on the job other than what is specified and submitted must be removed and replaced by the contractor. The situation was discovered in May, and the contractor was made aware of the situation at that time. They continued to install imported pipe. Did they think we would just say “OK, that’s fine, use the cheaper pipe”? The architect must have a reason for insisting on domestic pipe. The spec book is very clear on substitutions. If it was an honest mistake, why wasn’t it corrected in May?

  5. Not too concerned citizen

    October 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Another Central Resident

    you are probably right concerning infrastructure work, but have you had residential/commercial work inspected by local building inspectors? Not too thorough if you know what I mean.

    Another oint of View

    From what the article says the contractor and supplier conceeded that the pipe was not domestic. The pipe met all other specifications, that is probably why they continued. Also if there are worries about the pipe quality, why not test the foreign pipe along with domestic pipe and see if they are apples to apples. If it is the same then the project finishes on time, the school board gets $150K and an extended warranty. So the school board would win twice.

  6. another point of view

    October 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    One of the issues is that the architect on the project is adamant that the pipe be replaced. What liability to you take on if you go against yoru professional counsel? The foreign pipe is from a variety of manufacturers in Tiawan. How much of that pipe are you going to pull out and test? If the architect would soften their position, the school board would likely go along. With the architect very adamant, how do you go against the professionals who are supposed to be looking out for the school system?

  7. Ray Ashford

    October 8, 2011 at 9:18 am

    The difference in price between domestic and imported is substantial. Much like name brand and generic drugs. If the intent of the contractor was to use imported pipe than it should have been submitted to the architect for approval. Architects give an example of what’s desired and will usually give you the option of submitting something that is its equivalent. If the pipe was delivered in error, but found in May to not meet specs, as APV stated above, why did’t work cease. Did the sub take it upon himself to continue? Did the contractor direct the sub to proceed? Did PBK ask for a temporary stoppage until the issue was addressed? If 60% of the piping is installed to date, how much was installed at the time of detection? Was a line drawn in the sand, and did someone cross that line? Arrogance?

  8. Not too concerned citizen

    October 8, 2011 at 10:43 am


    Very good points, but we may never know for sure. There are always good ole boy agreements and what not that we the public never get to see.

    Bottom line is the CONTRACTOR IS WRONG for installing the wrong pipe, I just feel that moving forward the the money and extra warranty make up for the incorrect pipe. Who knows, domestic pipe is not perfect, the pipe could have been installed per spec and could fail. Then the school board would not have the extra warranty and the money to protect them.

    Like the article says, they are using the pipe on other projects in the area such as the new Women’s Hospital. If it is good enough for a hospital why not here?

  9. Ray Ashford

    October 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    If I’m not mistaken the state law requires this type system to be guaranteed for 7 years. You would then add the 10 years for the piping, but I don’t know if that would include the other components that complete the system. On the surface it sounds as the offer lends good protection to the schools. I sense the architect is P.O.’d about the choice to move on without his confirmation.

  10. Soon to be Central resident

    October 9, 2011 at 4:32 am

    If the architect specified domestic pipes, he most likely has a very good reason…what if he feels that the manufacturing process here ensures a safer product, it could have to do with our children’s health and safety? Even if domestic materials are more expensive, it still could be worth the money…afterall, our children count on us as parental to watch out for them, not just our checkbooks.

  11. Maria L

    October 9, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Remember all the fuss about Chinese dry-wall being installed in homes and the damage that it caused to homes after a few years? Hope this piping doesn’t do the same. Buy domestic and support American jobs!

  12. Central Resident

    October 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Bingo, Maria! In my business dealings a LOT of ‘extended warranties’ are not worth the paper it’s written on. And I am talking about domestic products, not foreign. What about the labor costs, if it became necessary to remove and reinstall in the future?

  13. Another Central resident

    October 10, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Who is the contractor installing the pipe? You think he might of seen this as a way to possibly get paid twice? Just a question.

  14. Ray Ashford

    October 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    AIRTROL, I think. Very reputable company. I would go as far to say if the men in the field noticed any problems with the piping they would not have installed it, because it would have caused them a problem during testing. They probably would not have none it was supposed to be domestic piping, just a particular type. Material is usually sent out to jobs from the takeoff assembled in the office.
    The only thing that would make you consider this type of scenario is that after the school board signed the contract with Arkel/Anderson, the project was put up for complete bid on the Dodge reports on at least two different occasions.Maybe they were bidding out what they allowed for without requesting prices. Maybe they were shopping the prices of the sub-contractors that were the low bidders. Maybe they asked low bid subs were they could cut. This project received a lot of interest and was very competitively bid. This is all speculation, just scenarios. Unfortunately the school board has to consider intent also. I don’t envy them on this one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *