In the engineering and construction of a microbrewery there are numerous areas where legal issues come into play from concept to completion. This article will attempt to outline some of the legal issues one must ponder while progressing through the entire engineering and construction process of a new 15 barrel (bbl) microbrewery. The process will be divided up into two distinct sections – engineering design and construction.
Let us begin the engineering design process with the owner’s concept: “I want you to design a 15 bbl microbrewery for me”. As an astute engineer, you know that you need a written contract. This written contract must clearly contain several elements in order to be valid. These elements are: competent parties, agreement (offer and acceptance), consideration, lawful purpose, and form. The competent parties would be the owner and you (or your engineering company). The agreement would be your offer to design and engineer the microbrewery, and his acceptance would indicate and agreement. The consideration would be that you receive a fee (for instructional purposes let’s say you charge a flat fee to design building plans that will be accepted by the permit office for construction. The owner’s consideration would be those completed building plans that are accepted by the permit office, thus being ready to use for construction. The contract must be for a lawful purpose, in this case, the design and engineering of a microbrewery. The form, of course, would be the written form outlining all of the above elements. Now, that the basic elements of the contract are known, you must now work with the owner to get some answers that will help you design this new microbrewery.
Since the microbrewery is going to be a 15 bbl system, you might need details like:
What is the maximum annual production capacity expected?
What type of beer will be produced (ale, lager, stout)?
How will the beer be packaged (bottles, cans, kegs)?
You are asking these questions because they are needed to determine the size of the facility, as well as what special items must be designed. For example, the owner says he wants to be able to brew and store three brews a week. Knowing this you now have to calculate enough space and equipment to handle a maximum annual capacity of 2250 barrels at 50 brewing weeks per year.
Calculation of Annual Production
System Size (Brewhouse Size) x Number of brews per week x 50 weeks per year = Annual Production 15 Barrels (bbls) x 3 brews/week x 50 weeks/year = 2250 bbls/year
The owner also says that he wishes to brew both ales and lagers – 50% ale production and 50% lager production. You also know that each type of brew has a different cycle for brewing, and thus you need a different amount of fermenters per type of beer.
Calculation of Number of Fermenters
2250 bbl Annual Production Capacity (50% Ale, 50% Lager)
14 Day Ales / 28 Day Lagers with full fermentation in fermenters Ales – 25 cycles / fermenter / year (50 brewing weeks / 2 week fermentation) Lagers – 12.5 cycles / fermenter / year (50 brewing weeks / 4 week fermentation)
Ales: 1125 bbls / year / (15 bbls x 25 cycles/year) = 3 Fermenters Lagers: 1125 bbls / year / (15 bbls x 12.5 cycles/year) = 6 Fermenters Total: 9 – (15 bbl) Fermenters to produce 1125 bbls Ales and 1125 bbls Lagers
This information will affect the dimensions of the microbrewery. You know that ales ferment ideally between 65 and 75 degree F, but you also know that lagers ferment below 65 degrees and must age longer in lager tanks, so you must add not only a “hot room” for brews but also a “cold room” for the lager tanks and dispenser tanks. The owner says that he wants to dispense the beers in ½ bbl kegs and 12 oz bottles. He also stipulates that he needs enough space to store a month’s worth of each type of container. So, based on this requirement you need to calculate the space required for the bottling and kegging machinery, as well as the storage space for a month supply of ½ bbl kegs and 12 oz bottles.
Of course, you will need to figure out the other requirements specific to the microbrewery, such as water needs, drainage, floor finish, electrical, ceiling heights, venting, loading and unloading areas, etc. Slowly but surely the picture of what needs to be designed is coming together. As an engineer, you will need to ask many questions, and get answers to those questions, so that you can clearly outline the specifications of what needs to be built in the contract. In addition, by getting these specifications in writing you are further eliminating any ambiguities there might be which could be used to not honor the contract, or which could be used against you if you must go to court to resolve a contract dispute.
After several weeks of hard work, you finish the project, submit the plans for approval, and they are approved. You present the approved plans to the owner as consideration for your services, and as consideration you are paid your fee.
After having been pleased with your design and engineering services, the owner now asks you to be the general contractor for the construction phase of the project. He asks you to supply him with a bid as soon as possible. You call your suppliers to get prices, availability, lead time for delivery, etc. You receive bids from subcontractors for the various trades (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, flooring, etc). You pick those subcontractors that you think best fit your needs.
In addition, you have done your due diligence by making sure all your subcontractors are licensed, that they are carrying their own forms of liability insurance, and that their workers will be covered in the event of injury. As a general contractor, you, of course, must also be licensed, possess liability insurance, surety bonds, workman’s compensation insurance, etc. These are all instruments that help protect you legally in the event that any liability or injury issues arise during the construction of the microbrewery.
When preparing the contract for the bid (and the job) you ensure that the specifications contain all of the critical elements such as: general provisions, the schedule of work, change order procedures, drawings, receipt and storage of materials, warranty on labor, warranty on materials, methods of payment, procedure for lien release, etc.
Once you have collected your information you submit your bid, and the owner accepts. Of course, there may be many different contracts involved here: the contract between the owner and you (the general contractor); the contracts between you and the subcontractors; and the contracts between you and your suppliers.
Finally, the first building supplies arrive, construction begins, and within several months, you and your team have constructed a new top-of-the-line microbrewery, adding value to the community, the nation’s economy, as well as putting a little money in your pocket.
Now, let’s review. Along the way there were several areas where you could have encountered potential legal pitfalls. In the engineer role, you made sure that the contract contained all of the elements necessary for it to be valid: competent parties, agreement (offer and acceptance), consideration, lawful purpose, and form. Also, based on the owner’s input, you made very detailed specifications of the microbrewery design and you put it in writing. This helped prevent any ambiguities between what the owner wanted and what you thought the owner wanted; furthermore, you put the design specifications in writing.
In the general contractor role, you had to deal with potential legal pitfalls involving the contract between you and the owner, you and your subcontractors, as well as you and you suppliers. You possibly had to encounter labor issues, liability issues, injuries, workman’s compensation insurance claims, incorrect building supply deliveries, theft or damage of materials or equipment on the job site, or maybe even attractive nuisance issues. Whatever you might have encountered as an engineer and as a general contractor you know that you are armed with the knowledge to jump over any legal issues you may encounter. It’s time to have a beer!