10 most outrageous construction stories of 2015

2015 was a big year for the construction industry as it continues to pick up momentum and is projected to see activity growth of 13% in 2015 to $675 billion. But peppered into all the economic reports, housing data, startup news and labor challenges were unique, unexpected and outrageous stories.

As 2015 comes to a close, we're taking a look back at the craziest construction stories of the year:

1. JFK Airport to build 1st terminal exclusively for animals

Renderings of pet resort in JFK animal terminal

In July, designers announced that New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport would soon be home to the world's first airport terminal for animals.

The $48 million, 178,000-square-foot terminal — named ARK after the Bible story of Noah — will shelter and quarantine an estimated 70,000 animals a year, ranging from racehorses to cattle to house cats, before and after their flights. Built on the site of a demolished cargo terminal, the facility will feature climate-controlled horse stalls with showers, dog suites with flat-screen TVs, on-site groomers, and a large pool for the animals.

The facility will reportedly charge hefty prices to animal owners. A horse owner, for example, could pay up to $10,000 to shelter, crate and fly a horse from one location to another. A dog suite will go for around $100 a night. Designers — from San Francisco-based architecture giant Gensler — collaborated on the facility's layout with veterinarians, and fashioned a "poo chute" to dispose of manure.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will have final approval over the terminal once it's finished. ARK Development — an affiliate of real estate company Racebrook Capital — signed a 32-year lease for the property with the New Jersey agency that runs JFK and the Port Authority of New York.

2. Chinese crew member without hard hat survives steel rod through head

A Chinese construction worker who wasn't wearing a hard hat found himself with a steel rod in the side of his head on a job site in Xi'an in January. The 32-year-old worker reportedly did not know the 5-foot pole was in his skull until he touched his head as he staggered toward his co-workers feeling dizzy and in pain, his co-workers reported.

The rebar reportedly fell from above the worker and struck him in the head. Doctors at a local hospital brought in fire department rescue workers with a blowtorch to help remove the rod, which had become lodged near the patient's optic nerve 1.9 inches inside his skull. A hospital spokesman told news outlets it was "a miracle" that the worker survived.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 84% of workers who have suffered head injuries on the job site were not wearing hard hats at the time of the accidents. 

3. Shingle Ladies: Australian skyscraper inspired by Beyoncé video

Elenberg Fraser-designed Beyoncé building

American pop icon Beyoncé was the inspiration for the architects at Elenberg Fraser, who designed a curvy, 78-story skyscraper in July to be built in Melbourne, Australia, that resembles the fabric-bound bodies of the singer and two dancers in her music video "Ghost."

The 740-foot-tall Premier Tower, which will include 660 apartments and 160 hotel rooms, was created using a computer-aided design technique called "parametric modeling."

New York magazine said that identifying Beyoncé in an artist’s rendering of the building is "like spotting the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast." 

4. Saints' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan sues builder over 'sinking' house

Rob Ryan, the former defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, and his wife filed a lawsuit in August against the developer, builder and engineers that worked on his $2 million Uptown, LA, home, claiming the building was sinking.

Ryan, who bought the new home in 2013, said the house was built on soft soil without pilings or properly spaced footings. It also said some of the home's structural joists were overloaded, and that pipes leak; the air conditioning malfunctioned; and an electrical meter was not properly wired.

The lawsuit named developers Jim and Catherine MacPhaille, contractor Southern Builders of Louisiana, and two engineering firms. Ryan's lawyers said in a statement that the Ryans wanted the builders to take possession of the house and refund the purchase price, and their failure to do so led to the lawsuit. The couple said they had to deal with years of construction-related hassles.

But the plaintiffs denied the claims and accused Ryan of filing the suit to "manipulate us into buying his house back at an enormous profit." One of the developers, Jim MacPhaille, countered that the house was structurally sound and that the suit was "full of exaggerations, fairy tales and outright misrepresentations in order to paint Rob Ryan as a victim."

5. News station busts CO builder's Peyton Manning home hoax

A Breckenridge, CO, custom homebuilder who reportedly misled local building officials and the public into believing Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had purchased an under-construction luxury home in the area admitted the story was a hoax in July.

"There is no Peyton Manning house," Jeremy Fischer, of Ivan Stanley & Associates, told CBS4 when reporters began investigating the claim. "It was a dumb joke in a small town."

The rumors began when Fischer indicated on a 2013 building application permit for a 5,999-square foot luxury home that the buyer was "P. Manning." He further pushed the story when he confirmed the buyer's identify with a local building official, and the home's architect told CBS4 that the house was for Manning. However, the architect quickly recanted his statement.

Fischer then confirmed that he is building the home — which will be finished in 2016 — on spec and will sell it on the open market. Fischer, who apologized for the hoax, told CBS4 he had reason to believe the rumor made its way to Manning.

6. Notorious D.I.G.: Rapping construction workers have 'Dozer Pride' in new Caterpillar video

Rapping construction workers in Caterpillar video

In a unique marketing campaign in November, manufacturing giant Caterpillar released a video featuring construction workers lip syncing to a rap about their new bulldozer, the Cat D6N.

The video has now received more than 289,000 views on YouTube. Caterpillar also offers a downloadable ringtone of the song and a full text copy of the lyrics. The chorus goes: "Look at me in my dozer, wanna be in my dozer, Care ... Free in my dozer! Yeah my day is over but I, Stay in my dozer, Lay in my dozer, (yeah boy) I love my job cuz work to me's like, Play in my dozer."

The company also encouraged construction equipment enthusiasts to share their satisfaction with Caterpillar products on social media using the hashtag #DozerPride.

7. Playing the field: Construction tractor soccer teams face off in Genie video

Genie tractor soccer game

Caterpillar wasn't the only equipment company to experiment with new marketing tactics. A month after Caterpillar released its "Dozer Pride" rap video, Genie released a "midnight soccer game" video, with the equipment company's tractors competing on opposing teams.

"What happens to your Genie equipment after the lights go out and everyone goes home after a hard day at work? Does it sit on the job-site or in your yard quietly and patiently waiting for the next work day? Of course not!" Genie wrote on its Facebook page. "Even Genie equipment needs some exercise with a midnight soccer game."

The game pits Genie White against Genie Blue, and the Blue team pulls out the win in the end. Although the equipment soccer game video hasn't received as many views as the viral Caterpillar video, it has been generating buzz on social media since it was posted in early December.

8. CA officials: Tom Selleck's alleged stolen water was legally purchased by construction company

Controversy surrounding an accusation in July that actor Tom Selleck had been illegally diverting water from a public fire hydrant to use at his estate near Thousand Oaks, CA, during a drought turned out to be unfounded, but refocused attention onto construction companies tapping into the hydrants and selling the water to residents.

The former "Magnum P.I." star reportedly accepted more than a dozen deliveries from tanker trucks full of water from the hydrant at his 50-acre Hidden Valley, CA, ranch since September 2013. The public works director for the city of Thousand Oaks told media that the hydrant was tapped by a construction company with a city-approved water meter. Contractors obtain those permits so that they can control dust and mix concrete on large building sites.

The contractor was allowed to sell the water to third parties, according to the Los Angeles Times, which noted it was unclear if the company sold the water to Selleck or to someone else who later sold it to the actor. Selleck and the Calleguas Municipal Water District reached a settlement in the dispute.

9. Where no building has gone before: Chinese exec creates 'Star Trek' office complex

NetDragon Websoft "Star Trek" office building

The Internet was abuzz in May with images of an office building in the coastal city of Changle in China's Fujian province that was constructed in the shape of the USS Enterprise from "Star Trek." Liu Dejian, a 43-year-old technology executive who sits on the board of search giant Baidu, constructed the headquarters for NetDragon Websoft, an online game developing company.

Construction of the 853-foot long, 328-foot wide, six-floor building began in 2010 and wrapped up at the end of 2014. This specific version of the USS Enterprise, the NCC-1701-E, appeared in three "Star Trek" movies during the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to The Wall Street Journal.

NetDragon reportedly asked CBS, which owns the rights to "Star Trek," for permission to build the replica office. Construction of the building cost 600 million yuan, or $97 million. The Wall Street Journal also reported that inside the spaceship/office building, there is a life-sized Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton replica. 

10. Fisherman hires carpenter to cut fishing hole in living room 

In January, Oklahoma carpenter Randy Aschlerman told local news outlets about the most unusual request he ever received, which came from a man who loves to fish so much that he wanted to do it from the rocking chair in his living room.

Aschlerman, who helped the homeowner build his 1,850-square-foot dream home in Skiatook, OK, said he cut a 4-foot square hole in the living room floor.

The hole led to a pond under the house, which the owner dug himself after he was turned away from a lake where he wanted to fish. He vowed to build a house where "nobody can tell me I can't fish there," according to a local TV station.

The porch of the fisherman's home overlooks the pond on three sides, so he could also fish from there. But the homeowner said he wanted an indoor fishing hole, so he hired the contractor he needed to make it work.

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Filed Under: Commercial Building Residential Building
Top image credit: NetDragon Websoft