Zaha Hadid debacle over labor deaths in Qatar & the World Cup

Earlier this  year Zaha Hadid made headlines with her indifferent comments about the deaths of hundreds of Southeast Asian migrant workers in Qatar, following a construction boom around the 2022 World Cup. Hadid has designed one of the five stadia that will house 40,000 seats. Her exact words during an interview to the Guardian, when asked about the deaths were “I have nothing to do with workers . . . .” The interviewer asked if she was concerned to which Hadid replied “Yes, but I’m more concerned about the deaths in Iraq as well, so what do I do about that? . . . . . I think that’s an issue the government – if there’s a problem – should pick up. I cannot do anything about it because I have no power to do anything about it”. [1]

Architects all over the world specifically in the US went on a hateful frenzy criticizing Hadid, the United Arab Emirates and expressed major confusion about an Architect’s responsibility during construction. There were also very crass remarks and articles about her being the “only” female starchitect, who unlike her male counterparts was constantly producing work that looks like female genitalia (I suppose in the organic evolution of accepting female Architects, we have managed to somehow stay in the supra primate stage).

Hadid was indeed terribly insensitive and thoughtless in her comments, but solely targeting her with the responsibility of the deaths related to the entire World Cup infrastructure and using her as the punching bag for everything wrong with the construction industry along with all the gender and culture related attacks is wrong and completely divorced from the issue on hand. The broader issue is a lack of regulations from FIFA for World Cup host countries along with non-existent employment laws, OSHA like standards and unions.

The World Cup Village 2022 in Qatar will be a product of almost $200 billion, with another $4 billion reserved for just refurbishment of existing stadia. A new 200,000 population city called Lusail is scheduled to be built over the next ten years. Initially five stadia were planned and per a report released by Bloomberg News in April, plans to build four of those have been canceled. [2] Al Wakrah, which is credited to Hadid is on schedule.

Like any well off country, the region attracts hundreds of thousands of desperate workers from poor neighboring countries, in most cases they lack the required skills and end up working in deadly conditions, (the highs in that region can go up to 126 degrees with 80-90% humidity levels). The workers from neighboring Southeast Asian countries are employed under the region’s kafala system which opens abuse of migrant workers, who also owe debt to agents in their own countries. UAE has always been the place where the worst of Western and local greed coupled with a general lack of regulations, enforceable employment laws and unions has set a tragic plight for these unfortunate workers.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation has predicted that more than 4,000 migrant workers will die in Qatar before the World Cup there begins. [3] Nasser Al Khater, who is the media and marketing director for World Cup 2022, however said earlier in May that “No construction workers have been killed working on a 2022 World Cup project site, contrary to what the international media says there has not been a single injury or death on the World Cup projects,” he said. ”It’s not possible to have 400 deaths when you are still digging a hole in the ground so I would like to make sure this matter is put to rest.” [4] (Not sure where that leaves most of these confusing reports).

The world cup governing body, FIFA has been quick to take responsibility over the welfare of these migrant workers, but this isn’t the first time as there were several deaths associated with the World Cup 2014 in Brazil and in South Africa before that; however numbers reported were not remotely as high as reports from Qatar. FIFA’s primary purpose is to watch over and help set the rules of the game of soccer. As the organizing Committee for the World Cup, FIFA works hard to negotiate a complete tax exemption from host countries and with projected revenues as high as 4 Billion dollars, steers clear of the long and short term social impact of such events. The sequential long term planning of such events warrants the need for improved infrastructure, therefore regulations governing construction, employment, conservation and management of resources, adherence to OSHA/EU-OSHA or similar standards should be part of FIFA’s responsibilities.

Outside of such mega events, the very nature of the construction industry is prone to accidents. During the construction of Burj Al Khalifa in neighboring Dubai,  one report suggested that in late 2007 there were  3-4 deaths per weeks, only 1 was reported by the developer, others caused by heat exhaustion and suicide were ignored. Records kept by the Indian mission showed nearly 1,000 deaths, more than 60 in accidents on the site. [5] Adrian Smith the project Architect, unlike Hadid somehow managed to escape the criticism.

Even in San Francisco with, Cal/OSHA (Division of Occupational Safety and Health working to protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job), strict employment laws and the requirement to hire only skilled, union workers in the financial district, accidents do happen. Recent cases involved 2 workers who fell off scaffolding, while installing it on 350 Mission. [6] The second incident happened in April in Hunters Point Neighborhood near Innes and Donhue Street, where a wall fell down on a worker and another was accidentally struck by a front end loader. [7] The farther you get away from the Financial District or in some parts of the suburbs you start seeing  non-union, unskilled labor and a greater frequency of accidents as a result of that.

Lastly, the issue of an architect’s responsibility during construction; architects when/if hired for construction administration only ‘observe’ not inspect construction and that too, strictly to check for conformity to construction drawings and specifications. Architect’s duty during construction is to visit the site when appropriate to become “familiar” with the progress and quality of work. An example of gross negligence during Construction Administration includes not reviewing shop drawings carefully, that could possibly result in work that isn’t in accordance with contract documents and potentially causes an injury.[8] 

Many projects involve having the architect only produce the Contract Documents and not be involved at all during construction. The Architect isn’t responsible for “the means and methods of construction and for safety precautions”. It is the General Contractor’s responsibility to “supervise” construction. If the architect is suicidal and includes “supervision” on a construction project in his contract, the contractor will have to rely on that and the Architect becomes liable.

If an Architect is providing voluntary “inspection” services in a post disaster situation, he/she isn’t held liable for negligence for any injury or property damage with limited immunity, however, even in such a case there in no immunity for gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Furthermore, some architectural contracts provide that the architect serve as the Construction Manager outside of their “Basic Services”. As a Construction Manager the Architect gives advice on time, cost, coordinates contract negotiations and construction activities. The scope and role of the architect during construction really depends on the terms negotiated in the contract.


[1] Hadid, Zaha. Interview by James Riach. “Zaha Hadid defends Qatar World Cup role following migrant worker deaths.” The Guardian. The Guardian, February 2014. Web. 25 February 2014.

[2] Fattah, Zainab and Tuttle, Robert. “Qatar Cuts Number of World Cup Soccer Stadiums as Costs Rise” Bloomberg News. Bloomberg News, 21 April 2014. Web. 21 April 2014.

[3] Rawling, Sarah. “Qatar’s 2022 World Cup could Cost 4000 Lives”, 10 April 2014. Web. 10 April 2014.

[4] Collett, Mike. “Soccer – No Workers have died on World Cup Projects, says Qatar “, 13 May 2014. Web. 13 May 2014.

[5] Zakaria, Rafia. “The Burj Khalifa: Behind the Glitz “, 15 January 2010. Web. 15 January 2010.

[6] Morris, Scott. “Two Construction Workers Injured in Separate Accidents at SF Housing Development Site” Bay City News. Bay City News, 28 May 2014. Web. 28 May 2014.

[7]“Construction Site Reopens after Scaffolding Accident” Bay City News. Bay City News, 25 February 2014. Web. 21 June 2014.

[8] Kelleher, T. and walters, O., eds., (2009). Smith, Currie & Hancock’s Common Sense Construction Law: A Preactical Guide for the Construction Professional”. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

San Francisco Architect’s Visual Diary – Oregon

San Francisco Architects' Visual Diary - Oregon

San Francisco Architect's Visual Diary - Oregon

Preservation of Landscape is an ideal that any conscientious design or planning professional pursues. We all appreciate the virtues of being surrounded

San Francisco Architects’ creative use of Salvaged Materials


San Francisco Architects' creative use of Salvaged Materials

hb+a Architects had the pleasure of working with a small retail business looking to open up a shop in the east bay. They had  a really tight

Sick Building syndrome concerns for Bay Area Architects

Sick Building syndrome concerns for Bay Area Architects

The Co-op incident in North Bronx that headlined the news this past week has sparked an interest in Legionnaire’s disease. In this particular case, there were two incidents of the disease in the 15,000 unit complex in 2012, that were withheld by the management. There was speculation among the residents that the disease may have transmitted through contaminated shower heads. The residents expressed strong feelings that the incidents should have been disclosed to them even if the health department found no flaw in the building. This isn’t an isolated incident, as more and more people become aware about the relationship between their health and their immediate environment, specifically the buildings where they work and live, we will see health related issues triggering lawsuits. Residents and Building occupants will demand health related disclosures and workers’ compensation claims will address sick building syndrome.

The other day in Los Angeles we were talking to the partners at Environetics, during a peer advocacy discussion about Indoor Air Quality, sick building Syndrome and healthy buildings. Richard, one of the original partners, who has been with the firm since 1946 brought up Legionnaire’s disease. Richard’s comment triggered this blog about an often misunderstood and sometimes fatal type of Pneumonia

The disease got its name after numerous attendees at a convention of the  American Legion at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, suffered from an outbreak of pneumonia in 1976. 221 cases of the disease were reported that led to 34 deaths, most all complained of the same symptoms that included chest congestion and fever. Investigations led to a definitive connection between the building and the disease, in this case the bacteria was breeding in the cooling tower.

The bacteria that cause Legionnaire’s disease have been found in the warm, moist, air conditioning systems of large buildings, including hospitals. Water from cooling towers and even droplets of water from building plumbing fixtures,  humidifiers or nebulizers may in turn spread Legionella bacteria to humans.

Infection may take the form of pneumonia, or Legionellosis, which produces flu-like symptoms. Legionnaires’ disease can be potentially fatal. Symptoms are typical of pneumonia in general and include high fever, dry cough, chills, loss of appetite, headache, disorientation, and perhaps diarrhea or vomiting. More advanced stages of Legionnaires’ disease can cause difficulty in breathing and chest pains.  It can be very serious and can cause death in up to 5% to 30% of cases. Most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics and healthy people whose immune systems aren’t compromised can usually recover from the infection.

Risk factors that compromise the immune system can  include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diseases such as kidney failure or diabetes
  • Diseases that weaken the immune system such as cancer
  • Long-term lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Long-term use of a breathing machine/ventilator
  • Chemotherapy and steroid medications
  • Old age

If bacteria are discovered in a building, treating water delivery systems is the best precaution; Legionella bacteria can be removed from water supply by heating methods that include steam, ionization/ozone treatment, UV light sterilization, use of strong disinfectant methods with chlorine, or copper-silver ionization treatment. Buildings specifically, with older plumbing and mechanical systems should go through routine checks to make sure that conditions are sanitary in the water supply systems and use the above mentioned methods to rectify problems.



A San Francisco Architect’s Baja Adventure

A San Francisco Architect's Baja Adventure

A San Francisco Architect's Baja Adventure

We are a big fan of vernacular architecture and a huge proponent of preserving natural landscape. Below is the first take on our exciting road trip from San

ADA upgrades to Existing Buildings in San Francisco

ADA Consulting

CASp and ADA Consulting for Building and Business Owners

ADA upgrades to Existing Buildings in San Francisco

We’re all too familiar with drive-by lawsuits targeting small, minority owned businesses in the bay area for non-compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Experienced and knowledgeable San Francisco bay area Architects guide their clients through the process and have a (CASp) Certified Accessibility Specialist review the drawings, inspect the site and advise accordingly. Recently, one of our restaurant clients was sued for non-compliance. On his first visit he showed us plans that had been done 3 years ago by an engineering professional in an attempt to renovate the building for a new tenant. The set had been copied line by a line from an older Architectural permit set done in the 70s (when the building was first constructed). It wasn’t complying with relevant building codes and regulations. The quality of the drawings was quite bad and shockingly had been approved by the local governing authority. There were clear errors with accessible parking, path of travel and entrance that had not been addressed. A 30+ industry veteran still needs to keep up with the current, relevant codes, something that most people overlook when selecting their architects or engineering professionals. When doing a tenant improvement or a renovation/remodel to a place of business most people watch their pockets instead of working with experienced and knowledgeable architects in the bay area that demonstrate technique, knowledge and experience. ‘Experience’ needs to be relevant, codes and regulations change all the time, along with implementation of new ordinances. Your selected professional needs to know what’s happening today not 15 years ago. Also, if/when an existing business establishment does get such a notice from claimants or attorneys, knowledge of Senate Bill 1186 signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September of 2012 may be helpful. The law has prohibited ‘demand for money’ letters, and requires that such letters be sent at least 30 days prior to filing a lawsuit and must include specific problems with accessibility. These letters can only state that the business owner, Landlord or Tenant ‘may be civilly liable’ and cannot include any demands for money. Attorneys sending such letters are required to send a copy of the letter to the California State Bar, so that the letter can be examined to make sure it meets the law. The law helps landlords, business owners to dismiss unsupported lawsuits without much expense. Below are some key points from the Bill, (it helps to know your rights as a business or property owner):

1. If your business is in a building that was completed after Jan. 1, 2008 or has had a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) inspection, you have 60 days to fix an ADA violation and statutory damages go down from $4,000 to $1,000.
2. Businesses with 25 or fewer employees that haven’t had a CASp inspection have 30 days to fix a violation and their statutory damages are reduced from $4,000 to $2,000.
3. If the property is a new construction or improvement that has been inspected and approved by the local building department’s permit and inspection process on or after January 1, 2008, and has had no modifications/alterations that affect compliance with the ADA standards since then, has 60 days to correct violations if any.
CASp stands for Certified Accessibility Specialist, it is a program designed to meet the general public’s need for experienced and trained individuals who can advise on Accessibility related issues in light of State of California codes and regulations and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Senate Bill 1186 works in your favor if you have had a CASp inspection for your premise and a CASp report has been issued.
If you would like to know about Accessibility related issues or are interested in having your property inspected, hb+a Architects can help. Our team’s combined experience can help guide you through regulatory requirements and advise accordingly.


Historic Preservation efforts in San Francisco and Venice

Preserving Buildings in San Francisco, Bay Area

Historic Preservation efforts in San Francisco and Venice.

San Francisco sports some recognizable landmarks, despite being heavily influenced by historical elements from around the world, the city has

Health initiatives at hb+a Architects’ Bay Area office.

Photograph taken in Baja.

Photograph taken in Baja.

Health initiatives at hb+a Architects’ Bay Area office.

We can all agree that there aren’t enough hours in the day. We are all living, breathing, high achieving individuals, multi-tasking careers, family, charity obligations and ambitions, daily. In between some of us squeeze in fitness, marathon training & races.  Quite often a work day starts with coffee and ends with a sleeping aid or happy hour.

At hb+a Architects the culture of health goes beyond paper and talk to actual practice and advocacy. Good health is the best insurance, and it works wonders in improving the quality of work too. As much as we talk about healthy building practices, we’ve built an internal culture that promotes healthy living. While most businesses opt for a company wide happy hour, encouraging folks to reach for a  glass of wine or beer, we have been more creative with our vices.

People in shape are better able to tolerate a stressful life constantly on the flux. Fantastic management and operational practices help manage time, people and projects more efficiently, with realistic mental and physical breaks. Physical exercise has no comparison which is encouraged with our lunch time or otherwise studio runs, engaging talks outside of work.  The owner of the firm opts for a boot camp 3-4 times a week and encourages walking and biking. She has established a healthy culture by practice, she doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, sodas, energy drinks or sugary processed juices and the fridge at the office doesn’t sport any of these either.

Besides, the obvious benefits of physical exercise we encourage healthy habits listed below through practice & advocacy:

  1.  2-3 litres of water a day. This habit keeps physical energy up, nerves down and moods in check.
  2. Deep-tissue massage sessions, 15 minutes can be done quickly during the day.
  3. Acupuncture, is a great way to lower stress, an hour works as a mini-vacation in a 12 to 14 hour day.
  4. Cupping, leaves week-long bruises, but  the suction provided by cupping can loosen muscles and encourage blood flow. Cupping can help to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue etc.
  5. Chiropractic adjustments, keeps everything aligned. Again, health needs to be good to keep up with the stress and ward off seasonal illnesses.
  6. Herbal, green, white and black tea is a great alternative to coffee and different types can be sipped all day. Tea helps to hydrate and has health benefits that coffee is lacking.
  7. Going on for weeks without a break, it is sometimes,  just necessary to drop everything (hopefully after a deadline) and head to the beach, near or far, no matter what the weather is, without the phone, iPod, laptop, kindle or any other battery operated device. Connecting with nature is a great therapy, that helps to get a mental, technological break and reset the clock. We encourage folks to take at least 1 day off a week & immerse in nature.
  8. Our office fridge is always full of healthy snacks, fruits, nuts, raw treats, green elixirs and water.
  9. Work stations at our office get plenty of light and windows are always open helping to improve the indoor air quality and productivity. Operable windows is a very small measure that goes a long way to improve the Indoor Air Quality and thermal environment of a space to make it comfortable for everybody.
  10. Our desks and work spaces are ergonomic which help maintain good postures and alleviate back or neck discomfort. We encourage micro-breaks so folks can avoid prolonged periods of sitting.
  11. It is also very important to keep the building’s indoor environment clean and free of toxins to further avoid sick days and make everybody more productive in their daily activities. Some green building practices may not necessarily be healthy.The practice of “green” architecture has for example encouraged the use of fly ash as an alternative to the conventional Portland cement. However, fly ash can very well be a byproduct of hazardous waste, so be sure to check the source. Finishes need to be as non-toxic as possible.  Stained concrete makes for a very attractive, low maintenance finish, when using stained concrete make sure to not use aniline-based coloring agents, instead use only high-quality mineral pigments free of chromium and other heavy metals. A fully cured slab can also just be sealed to prevent moisture and control soil gases from entering the building, some fairly benign products include, Vocomp-25, a water-based sealer or Weather-Bos Masonry Boss.
  12. Wood framing & finishes can also be treated with safer alternatives for mold protection. A few suggestions are  Bio-Shield and Timbor, which is a water soluble borate powder. BioWash products also offers a line safer than conventional products for wood maintenance and cleaning. Plaster in general is a healthier alternative to paint and can be sealed with Okon Seal and Finish for a satin gloss. 
  13. Carpeting also contributes to several health problems and cleaning/maintenance requires further use of chemicals. AFM Safecoat has some safer alternatives to carpet shampooing. 
  14. Some other measures include unplugging computers or other equipment when not being used and turning off internet when not needed.
  15. Herbal, pure Scents:  good scents, help relax and we’re not talking about air fresheners. Be very careful about phthalates, which are usually added to products to make the smell last longer.

Somethings we may consider in the future:

  1. A punching bag (everybody can use one) or in-house kick-boxing sessions.
  2. Group Meditation sessions (may be).
  3. In-house spinning sessions
  4. Lavender plants
  5. Reiki
  6. Korean Bath Houses  and/or Russian Banya group retreats.




Vision – San Francisco, Bay Area Architects on a mission

San Francisco, Bay Area Architects

Vision - San Francisco, Bay Area Architects on a mission

hb+a Architects located in San Francisco, bay area has an obsessive focus on creating awe-inspiring, healthy spaces with sustainability being

Random inspiration for Bay Architects and Designers

Inspiration for Bay Area Architects

We can all admit, that aesthetically pleasing color and pattern is lacking in the urban and architectural fabric of San Francisco, Bay Area. We are not talking about gaudy, orange or blue palette (which