An architect and expert witness told a Philadelphia jury Tuesday that architects for the Salvation Army and New York real estate speculator Richard Basciano failed in their professional responsibility to protect the public in the deadly 2013 Center City building collapse.
Walter E. Green testified that Pennsylvania's licensing rules for architects and the standards of professional conduct of the American Institute of Architects require an architect to protect the "life, health and safety of the public."
Green is a career architect who now works as a consultant and expert witness for Fleisher Forensics in Ambler.
Green took the witness stand in an abbreviated session marking the start of the fourth week of testimony in the civil trial of lawsuits filed on behalf of the six killed and 13 injured in 2013 when an unsupported wall on a demolition site toppled and crushed the Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market Streets.
The trial before a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury will resume Thursday after a day off for Yom Kippur.
Questioned by plaintiffs' lawyer Jeffrey P. Goodman, Green criticized the professional conduct of two architects at the center of events in the weeks leading to the June 5, 2013, collapse.
Center City architect Plato A. Marinakos Jr. was hired by Basciano's firm, STB Investments Corp., to monitor the demolition of five Basciano buildings in the 2100 and 2200 blocks of Market.
The lawsuits contend that Marinakos was not qualified for the role he assumed and then hired an inexperienced demolition contractor who had never worked on large commercial buildings.
The suits also contend that Marinakos called the contractor the night before the three- to four-story wall toppled and warned him of the danger of its imminent collapse. Marinakos, however, never called police, fire, city officials or Basciano's top aides.
Architect Jack Higgins was hired by the Salvation Army in May 2013 to research the Philadelphia building code to see what protections there were for the thrift store and document the store's condition in photographs.
In testimony Friday, Higgins told the jury that he went to the site on May 20, 2013, spoke to the demolition contractor, and concluded that no demolition was ongoing.
Green, however, viewing photos of the demolition site on May 21 in which the fourth floor of the Hoagie City building was missing, disagreed.
"Clearly demolition has occurred and it would have taken a fair amount of time," Green testified.
Green said Higgins, of Kunkletown, in the Poconos, was also aware of a letter from a Basciano lawyer warning of the danger of a collapse.
But Higgins never asked to see a demolition engineering plan - none was ever filed - or pursued the danger warning, Green said.
Green testified that Higgins had a professional responsibility: "Any concern he has with the demolition required a certain amount of investigation to resolve."
Green will continue testifying when the trial resumes on Thursday. Higgins is then to return to the witness stand to finish his testimony.