Water Design-Build Council Blog

Smart Utilities Designed and Delivered Smartly

Posted by Joe Willich and Jim Fordyce, Brown and Caldwell on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 @ 10:17 AM

smart-utilities-water-design-build.jpgIf the process control system is the nerve center of a water or wastewater treatment plant, the electrical system is the heart.

To keep a treatment plant’s core mission a priority, process control system and electrical services engineers and integrators must cooperate as system infrastructure is installed, upgraded, or replaced. This demand for a higher level of collaboration and integration is compelling utilities to select design-build project delivery.

Design-build has proven to be ideal for maintaining alignment among project stakeholders as process control and electrical systems are integrated into mission-critical water and wastewater treatment systems.

Increasingly, instrumentation and control engineers, focusing on plant controls, data acquisition, and programming, are working alongside design-builders, sharing knowledge of how collaborative delivery complements SCADA (Supervisory Controls and Data Acquisition) and, ultimately, Smart Utility Systems (SUS).

With nearly $6 trillion estimated to be spent on the “Internet of Things” over the next five years, and much of that investment coming from the government sector, Smart Utility will take information processing to the next level.

In Smart Utility, municipalities, with the use of analytics, will be able to merge business data with real-time operational data, allowing them to make well-informed and immediate decisions. For water and wastewater utilities, it means greater confidence in treatment plant performance to meet regulatory expectations.

To meet this demand, design-builders like Brown and Caldwell are bundling in-house electrical and instrumentation control engineering and programming services to help utilities trying to keep up with environmental standards and emerging technology. Design-build delivery brings more advantages over design-bid-build delivery when bundling electrical and control system upgrades in the following ways:

Standalone Status: EPAS (Electrical and Process Automation Services) is one service that aims to deliver electrical upgrades, arc flash hazard analysis, programming services, or SCADA and plant control system replacement or upgrades. This, coupled with design-build delivery, can reduce much of the risk associated with plant-wide electrical and control system replacement or upgrades.

Scheduling Efficiency: When a utility needs to buy new hardware to update a system or completely overhaul a control system at the end of its lifecycle, a traditional design-bid-build delivery method can take up to a year for the right equipment to be procured. With design-build, equipment can be ordered during the design instead of after, potentially speeding up a project’s completion to three months instead of a year.

Team Communication and Collaboration: With the same team leading a utility’s infrastructure upgrades with SCADA programming, they have more control and can make faster decisions, resulting in a more defined roadmap to results. The design-builder’s knowledge transfer during a highly complex process control system project begins at project inception/scope definition through startup and commissioning. The designers, engineers, integrators, contractors, and utility engineering staff and operators all collaborate to minimize risks and to avoid utilities finding surprises further down the road.

Recently, the water and wastewater industry has seen utilities bundling electrical, programming, and data processing.

One example is Renewable Water Resources (ReWa) in Greenville, South Carolina. ReWa used a progressive design-build delivery model for upgrades of both plant control systems at their Mauldin Road and Lower Reedy water resource recovery facilities when it needed a single entity who knew how the plant’s control system worked and could maintain operations without interruptions while sustaining compliance with regularity.

The progressive design-build delivery method, the most collaborative of design-build delivery methods, fits the complex assignment of maintaining plant operations without interruptions while sustaining compliance. Progressive design-build offers the benefits of collaboration combined with speed and efficiency of design-build. The iterative method that is the genesis of progressive design-build’s name can expedite plant upgrades and overhauls using a single entity accountable for the entire project.

Smart Utility is the next and new frontier. But with the combined forces of collaborative delivery teams and electrical and automation processes, safe and reliable operations will be the assurance to embrace this journey with confidence. 

About the Authors

Brown and Caldwell Vice President Jim Fordyce is BC’s IPD and EPAS lead, with 29 years of experience in designing, construction, supervising and managing electrical and control system projects for various private and municipal projects.

Brown and Caldwell Vice President Joe Willich, with 32 years of experience, leads BC’s project development for Integrated Project Delivery in Denver.

Topics: design-build