Submitted by Geoffrey Brooks – Association Member
Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall
I woke up on Sunday to see the sun shining, a gorgeous spring day followed. I went for a walk and carried out my own cursory rockery wall inspection.
After a gloomy Saturday, a long well-attended presentation and QA session at the TCTC, one felt that Somersett’s world was coming to an end. All 13.5 miles of SOA walls are about to collapse. All privately owned rockery walls are doomed. What about the “not-surveyed” walls in The Village, The Vue, and Sierra Canyon? Litigation that will go on for 5 years (minimum) and cost, if it goes to trial (with expert witnesses) probably the best part of $5 million.
Basking in early Spring sunlight, I could see that most walls in my Somersett neighborhood and in the communities nearby in NW Reno seemed robust, solid, well built, surviving at least 15 years of rain and earthquakes.
Yes, after our do-it-yourself primer from American GeoTechnical and studying their report, I was alarmed. However, they simply have not accessed the relevant site records to see how each wall was built, and the quality of the soil at that specific wall site. The real question, is what caused our 360’ walls to fail? Maybe this is primarily due to the poor soil conditions, which when saturated with rain, oozed away. Soil liquefaction can cause buildings to topple, rock walls to crumble. Just google mudslides in Southern California! Well built walls and buildings were carried away, we all saw it on TV.
Somersett has been developed over the last 15 years. One can see from the current Toll Brother activities at Village 6, that significant terra-forming of the foothill soils of Mt Peavine are required to construct suitable building pads. There have already been failure of building pads, requiring extensive shoring up of the houses built on them. We do have bands of clay within Somersett, which need to be removed before building a house (or pad). Clay with water makes great ooze, which will flow! There was a successful Chapter 40 suit by Somersett Development against the designers and builders of the “cutting”, and extensive modifications had to be made for safety reasons.
Perhaps our legal efforts should be aimed at the “failures” – so far. It seems that the affected areas are on the golf course where extensive terra-forming has been performed. The 13.5 miles of walls surveyed (presumably on SOA land), were most likely built to the prevailing good building standards (for rockery and other walls) at the time. It seems highly unlikely that any of these were “improperly built”. Hence, unlikely to fail.
Walls do require maintenance. Our reserve studies calculate the life of a Rockery Wall at 30 years. Much of Hadrian’s Wall in Britain is still standing after 1800 years. At the turnover, all the construction records, permits, approvals, etc. should be on file with First Services and available for either expert or curious homeowner inspection.
Somersett as a whole, has little to worry about from collapsing walls, unless you have a home in an extensively terra-formed area … but then the unusual climatic events which caused the walls to collapse has happened already. So, I suspect that you have little to actually worry about now; if your rockery walls are still standing!
Remember, it was Humpty Dumpty who fell down and had to be rebuilt – NOT THE WALL!