Douglas Herbst 2016-02-17 04:21:10
The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) released its study titled “Universally Applicable Design- Build Best Practices” in 2014, which identified practices that had two basic characteristics: 1) they were useful for any type of design-build project and 2) they would directly and positively impact project performance. As an extension of this effort, DBIA recently worked with market sector experts and other industry trade groups to develop design-build best practices related to three specific markets: federal, water/wastewater and transportation. This effort resulted in the release of a new document, “Water/Wastewater Design-Build Best Practices,” in December 2015, in collaboration with the Water Design-Build Council. It offers detailed guidance on how to put design build best practices and techniques to work efficiently and effectively in the water/wastewater market. Prepared by DBIA’s Water/ Wastewater Markets committee, the document’s chief authors were Michael Loulakis, Esq., DBIA, president and CEO of Capital Project Strategies LLC, and Douglas Herbst, DBIA, collaborative project delivery advisor for Freese and Nichols Inc. Herbst served as vice chair of DBIA’s Water/Wastewater Markets committee during the production of the water-specific best practices document. In a recent interview, Herbst provided insight into specific elements of the document. What is unique about the water/wastewater market that warranted the development of this document? There are a couple of unique characteristics. Most water projects are implemented on the local level. Thus, the procurement authority can be complex and affected by state statutes, local ordinances and policies. Adding to this, local owners have limited capital programs and are heavily reliant on outside advisors for project development assistance. These owners have significant expertise in plant and systems operations, and they have strong views of what technology and process equipment they want to use on their facilities. The characteristics of a water/ wastewater project are quite different from those found in other public sectors. Whether small or large, these projects are anything but cookie-cutter in nature. Projects involving upgrades and/or expansions to aging facilities create challenges regarding how to ensure uninterrupted operation of the facilities during construction, and how to integrate new technology and processes into existing plants and systems. Greenfield projects give owners wide choices of technology and equipment. Most importantly, the raw water or wastewater quality of each project is different. While this creates opportunity for innovation, it also creates execution risks, particularly to regulatory permitting, startup and commissioning, acceptance testing, owner training and turnover to the owner. Are the needs of a water/ wastewater owner substantially different from those of other types of facility owners? The major difference is that water and wastewater infrastructure, for the most part, is underground and/ or out of sight from the users and decision makers. As such, the provision for water and wastewater services often goes underfunded, unnoticed, under appreciated and misunderstood. No one likes tax increases or rate increases, and this propensity sometimes makes it very difficult for the public water and wastewater professionals to get the funds needed for the proper maintenance, repair and replacement of this critical infrastructure. What can water utilities with aging infrastructure learn from DBIA’s “Water/Wastewater Design-Build Best Practices”? That there is an option available for the timely and cost effective delivery of water and wastewater infrastructure called Design-Build Done Right! Speaking of what water utilities can learn, there is a great opportunity to learn about Design-Build Done Right for water and wastewater infrastructure at the DBIA 2016 Design-Build for Water/ Wastewater Conference in Charlotte, N. C., this April 20–22. Ideally, water utilities should not rush into design build. Owners need to take the time to objectively assess their program and project needs and the organization before deciding to use design-build. The DBIA conference is a good place to start. Is procurement a significant variable when using a design build delivery system for water infrastructure improvements? Procurement is significant and extremely important. The procurement approach, first and foremost, must comply with existing law and owner procurement policies. Legal limitations and/or flexibilities should be fully understood. The procurement should enhance and maximize collaboration and be consistent and compatible with an owner’s expectations for selecting design-build. The development of evaluation criteria and the relative weighting of price and non-price criteria should be carefully considered. Owners need to fully understand and consider the two different forms of design-build and decide whether fixed-price design build or progressive design-build (PDB) best meet their objectives and expectations. What benefits does design-build offer to a water utility client? The short answer is that owners experience faster delivery, cost savings, higher quality and better risk allocation. Perhaps the biggest benefit is the single point of accountability for design and construction. With design-build, the owner can include acceptance testing to demonstrate project performance. The single contract streamlines project delivery and transforms the relationship between designer and builder into an alliance that fosters collaboration and teamwork among themselves and the owner. Right behind that is the ability to save time. Because design and construction activities overlap, total design and construction time can be significantly reduced. Design-build is amenable to fast-track techniques. Materials and equipment procurement and construction work can begin before the construction documents are fully complete. Different means and methods can be utilized to deliver the construction in a more time-efficient manner. Why has progressive design-build been so popular in the water sector? The PDB approach is being embraced by the water sector because it addresses some of the drawbacks associated with the fixed-price design-build model. It provides for timely and cost-efficient procurement. Maintaining substantial input and control during the design process can lead to optimum life-cycle costing and equipment selection, while maximizing operability, safety and maintainability. These benefits are generally not available when an owner uses fixed price design-build. The collaborative design development process enables design decisions to be made in an open book cost environment, giving the owner real-time information that influence design-price trade offs. PDB enables an owner to decide the optimal point at which to obtain a price proposal from the design-builder. Once the design is developed to a point where the project and scope of work and quality are well defined and acceptable to the owner, the price can be negotiated. Price proposals are typically obtained at some point between 50% and 90% of the overall design completion and can be based on either a guaranteed maximum price or lump sum contracting approach. Additional information on this topic is available through the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA). For more details and a copy of “Water/Wastewater Design-Build Best Practices,” visit www.dbia.org and click on the Resources tab.
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