Management of the 654-unit Via6 residential high-rise near the Amazon Spheres informed residents that they'll need to be out of their units from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week, for a month, while the building's piping problems are dealt with in a wide-ranging fix-it job.
One of the biggest luxury apartment projects built during Seattle’s recent boom has great views of the Amazon Spheres, a collection of eateries from acclaimed chef Tom Douglas on its ground floor, and a big problem — water leaks have forced management to insist many tenants leave their units all day for a month.
Management of Via6, a residential high-rise consisting of two 24-story towers with 654 units, informed residents last month that workers may need to access their homes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, between June 12 and July 12, as part of a wide-ranging “plumbing refurbishment project.”
“In order to successfully complete this project’s delicate timeline, our contractors insist residents be away from their homes during these Working Hours,” said one notice to residents dated May 30, 2018.
In another email sent to residents, management instructed tenants to clear specific areas of their homes before leaving at 9 a.m. Several full-time security guards were also hired to manage access to the affected floors.
The high-rise has been plagued with major water leaks, flooding and water shutoffs over the past year, according to several current and past residents.
“It’s been a bit of an ongoing debacle at the place,” said one resident who’s lived at Via6 for two years. “Over the past couple of years there’s been a great number of days when water has been cut off at the units.”
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A former resident named Hannah, who lived at Via6 for almost three years before moving out in April, said she began experiencing major water issues starting late last year, including scheduled shutoffs that would occur between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for several days in a row, sometimes on a weekly basis.
“They credited us $100 per month on our rent in order to compensate the residents because they had to turn off water,” she said. “When you’re paying $3,200 in rent for a 2-bedroom apartment, that doesn’t even cover a day of rent.”
Former Via6 resident Nitin Sagar said he moved out of the building in September 2017 for a multitude of reasons, among them the constant water problem.
“The south tower’s seventh floor was flooded due to a pipe break last year,” Sagar said. The flooding shut down an electric box, “leaving my apartment on the ninth floor with no electricity for four days.”
The work that started Tuesday in the south tower is part of a larger pipe replacement project that began in early 2017, said Jeanette Flory-Sagan, senior vice president of asset management at Bentall Kennedy (U.S.), which represents the joint venture that owns the property.
Several leaks were discovered throughout the entire Via6 building “within a relatively short period of time,” Flory-Sagan said in an interview. She wouldn’t provide any details about the cause of the problem and extent of the repairs, the number of residents affected, or the cost of the work.
She said affected residents are being offered various concessions, including reimbursement for those who need to use a co-working space or pet service provider during the day.
“We certainly understand that this project is extremely disruptive to our residents, and we have been working with them and communicating with them since last year and trying to come up with solutions…that work for each of their circumstances,” Flory-Sagan said.
Via6’s owner, Sixth & Lenora Apartments LLC, filed suit last July in King County Superior Court against Aquatherm, a German manufacturer and distributor of polypropylene pipe for pressurized plumbing and mechanical systems.
The Via6 owner claims Aquatherm and its affiliates intentionally misrepresented the performance and reliability of Aquatherm Pipe, promising it would “last for the life of the building they’re installed in.”
Aquatherm L.P., a Delaware limited partnership listed in the suit, claims the pipe problems are the result of improper design and installation of the water distribution system, according to court documents. It also alleges Sixth & Lenora Apartments failed to “act promptly” on the advice of Aquatherm and others.
Sixth & Lenora Apartments is also suing MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions, a Seattle based mechanical contractor, alleging the firm didn’t properly perform its work.
The property owners accused MacDonald-Miller of failing to properly design the water plumbing system and “failure to properly install the Aquatherm Pipe in a good and workmanlike manner.”
MacDonald-Miller has denied the allegations in court documents and claims Sixth & Lenora Apartment’s failure to heed warnings and follow its recommendations contributed to the pipe problems at Via6.
Polypropylene piping systems provide environmental and cost advantages when compared to copper, said professional engineer Dan Robles, founder and CEO of Edmonds-based CoEngineers.
“Every material has vulnerabilities,” said Robles, who was not involved in the Via6 project and was commenting on the Aquatherm product in general. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the quality of the product at all. It’s been around for a long time and has a long history in Europe.”
Robles, who wrote a product assessment of Aquatherm in 2013 for a client that was considering using the product, said one of the product’s disadvantages is that it’s more complicated to work with than other piping solutions.
“Installing the stuff is super tricky,” Robles said. Sometimes, he said, “plumbers take on the project without really knowing what they’re getting into.”
Construction of Via6 began in 2011, and the property opened in 2013. It received a gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green certification program.
Flory-Sagan said approximately 75 percent of the pipe replacement project has already been finished, and it’s expected to be completed in early 2019.