Authored by: Chitra Foster, Vice President, and Andrew Beaton of CDM Smith
Every owner knows that innovation is vital to building and maintaining water and wastewater infrastructure. If you’re looking at design-build delivery, you’re already moving in the right direction. Design-bid-build siloes engineers, contractors and owners in traditional roles. Design-build teams achieve a better final product with higher value and greater innovation, because engineers, builders and owners are given the agility to collaborate in an integrated process.
Set Up Your Project for Innovation
The path to a more innovative project begins not with your design-build team, but with you, the owner. To ensure that your desire for innovation will be fulfilled in the final product, prepare your RFP documents accordingly. Overly prescriptive RFPs may hem in the winning team and quash their potential for innovation, so as you develop your scope of work and specifications, be specific about the kinds of innovation you want to encourage. Describe a range of innovative technologies you might want to implement, and let each team make a case for one of them in their proposals. Provide performance-based incentives to encourage the winning team to maximize innovation in delivery and design. Outline the parameters of the design, and let the shortlisted firms develop the details with an eye towards wowing you with their skill and creativity. When you set your project up for innovation, the results will exceed your expectations.
Innovation through Cross-Pollination
Cross-pollination is what the engineering and construction industry is all about, so look for a partner that knows how to take advantage of the latest developments. Many of today’s water and wastewater plants use computer systems pioneered for use in the space program; membrane technology developed by the power industry; and innovative processes first developed for Superfund cleanups. Cutting-edge innovation today includes 3D-4D BIM technology that is crossing over from the vertical sector and revolutionizing the way that water and wastewater projects are designed and delivered from project start to plant startup. The best design-build teams know how to take advantage of technologies from a variety of industries and from all over the world, so seek out a team that unceasingly searches for the next great innovation.
Collaborate to Innovate
The best design-build projects benefit from robust collaboration between not only engineers and builders, but owners as well. Truly successful design-build teams are built on trust, and partners that trust each other are able to greatly enhance the creativity of design, the effectiveness of delivery, and the quality of the final product. Owners are the most powerful partner in establishing a relationship based on trust and driving toward a common goal. Collaboration breaks the traditional mindset of us-vs-them and puts everyone on the same team, making decisions that are best for the project. This philosophical shift allows design-build teams to push the envelope and develop more innovative outcomes, because great ideas can come from anywhere on the team and can be enhanced by all perspectives. When a team creates an atmosphere of trust and collaboration, the benefits to the project are manifold and obvious.