By Joseph A. Lauria, P.E., BCEE, ARCADIS Senior Vice President and National Design-Build Lead
Engineer's right, Contractor's wrong. Simple as that, right? Not at all, and it never has been. In recognition of the idea that traditional design-bid-build is NOT always the best plan, the water industry is now embracing collaborative delivery approaches to an increasingly greater extent. As that continues to happen, the designation of "alternative project delivery" will fade from our engineering lexicon – as it should. In fact, what's considered "alternative" today is quickly becoming just one of a range delivery solutions that, taken on a project's merits, may be applicable. Project delivery solutions exist on a continuum, and if there's one thing for certain, it's that there is no one-size-fits-all.
Consider just some of the benefits of a collaborative approach to project delivery:
- The best ideas for a project may be leveraged, whether they come from a project owner, a construction professional and/or an engineer.
- Energy may be devoted to developing creative solutions in a variety of areas, including technical challenge, schedule and budget.
- Project risk may be more equitably distributed.
- Overall schedule may be advanced.
And the benefits of advancing project completion are not just measured in time or earlier availability of completed work. In one recent example for a major southern California agency, an early finish by several months saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in so-called "soft costs" by allowing the agency's staff of project managers & engineers, resident engineers, inspectors, clerks and administrators to come off a design-build project and be re-deployed elsewhere without adding staff for other projects, simply because the work delivered collaboratively was "done".
As the water industry continues to employ collaborative delivery solutions, we'll quickly learn just where on the continuum is the best fit and best practice for project type and agency level of acceptance. This will require careful listening by all involved -- engineers, constructors, owners and boards -- to assure that high-value solutions continue to be delivered to the public whose needs are served by our work.
As has been noted by other writers and our own Environmental Protection Agency, water is a critical input for all that we do. As stewards of public infrastructure, we can do nothing less than deliver technically excellent solutions at the highest possible value, all the time. To do that most effectively, collaborative delivery solutions must always be on the table.