How Can Education Address Impediments in Using Design-Build/CMAR Delivery for Water and Wastewater Projects?

Primarily due to efficiencies with schedules and the overall work process for both utility owners and municipalities during the past five years, the use of design-build and CMAR delivery for water and wastewater projects has increased. As the WDBC’s recent research report revealed, the use of collaborative delivery methods is continuing to gain significant momentum in the water sector because of the education process. The other good news is that WDBC’s research data shows that external impediments – such as legislative and regulatory requirements – are decreasing and progress continues within the states on that specific challenge.

However, in discussions during WDBC’s education sessions on how to select a delivery method for their project, some owners relate that there can be internal challenges in either their existing decision-making culture and/or their procurement process. They are often confused by messages received from some groups that ignore their organization’s needs and priorities.

Working with owners and further exploring the basis for internal impediments (as well as those identified in the 2013 research survey), the WDBC has focused its education process on supporting the (agency/utility) organization with an approach that gives decision makers and internal staff options and a direction to overcome these challenges. This preparation approach offers owners guidance on a roadmap addressing the internal and external factors that affect their water and wastewater projects in today’s environment. It includes guidance on building internal understanding and consensus about a project’s goals and priorities, as well as how to use those findings to make effective decisions.

WDBC’s education sessions focus on addressing impediments that impact projects. They provide owners and their staff with a process to determine what information they need for decision making, as well as what to include in procurement documents to help proposing firms understand the owner’s expectations, project priorities, and technical requirements. The end results are intended to accomplish the owner’s goals: an efficient procurement and a successful project— completed on schedule and within budget.

Preparing to procure and manage a collaborative-delivery project also involves the owner and its team compiling relevant information about the organization and the project, and then using the information for the components in a project implementation document.

Developing such a plan includes the following actions:

  • Conducting an overall assessment, answering and exploring a series of questions about certain factors—both external and internal to the organization—that ultimately affect the success of the project
  • Using that information to reach agreement on the project’s priorities—and translating those priorities into the project drivers
  • Developing the framework for a project implementation document, which incorporates the decisions made by the organization and may also identify the possible need for an owner’s advisor

The project implementation document is intended to capture the decisions made in the planning phase of the project – and is an essential tool for overcoming impediments. Its contents then become the basis for decisions made in developing procurement documents, and defining which components are included in the RFQ or RFP. This important information gives proposing firms a clear understanding of an owner’s expectations and priorities, as well as why the owner selected the specific project delivery method. It assists proposing firms in determining the appropriate work plan, as well as the best way to integrate its own team into a collaborative environment with the owner and owner’s team.

Because water and wastewater construction projects are complex undertakings, unexpected situations are likely to arise and become impediments. Having an effective process in place to address these circumstances works toward preventing them from becoming obstacles. Owners are advised to consider the project implementation document a living product, which can be adjusted or amended based on feedback from the proposing firms and changes resulting from any unusual situations. As an example, an owner should use the document to solicit input from the proposing firm on certain topics, through informational and confidential one-on-one meetings during the procurement process, thus initiating collaboration.

The fundamental solution to addressing project impediments is the preparation involved within the organization and its decision-making process. Through the WDBC education program, guidance and support are available to resolve situations before they become impediments.

About Linda Hanifin Bonner, Ph.D, Executive Operations Manager of Water Design-Build Council

With nearly 30 years of experience in the water/wastewater industry, Linda Hanifin Bonner provides a unique blend of organization, governance, and financial management experience to the Water Design-Build Council. Dr. Hanifin Bonner’s professional career has been dedicated to developing pragmatic and strategic oriented approaches through education to the factors influencing water and wastewater industry projects. Originally an environmental planner for Montgomery County, MD, her work over the years has been supporting federal, state, and local government agencies, the engineering community, and private industry.
Topics: CMAR, Design-Build, Education, WDBC Admin.

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