Principles of O&M Engagement for Design-Build Projects

As design-build (DB) becomes more common for the development and construction of long-term infrastructure, the engagement of the owner’s operations and maintenance (O&M) team becomes significantly more important to project success. For some projects, the traditional design-bid-build process may not have taken advantage of the institutional knowledge available from the owner’s O&M teams as facilities and systems were designed, constructed, and commissioned. When projects are implemented without O&M team input, the O&M function can be “stuck” with facilities that do not work as well as they could have if there had been more O&M input into the entire project development process.

The opportunity to meaningfully increase O&M engagement in a DB project can be leveraged through collaborative delivery in a variety of ways. These opportunities are based on the key concept that a dedicated O&M team should become engaged EARLY in a project. In fact, the optimum time to engage an O&M team is immediately following the selection of the DB team. Once engaged, the O&M team should be available to actively participate in the following tasks:

  • Participate in the development of the design concepts
    • Participate in basis of design and treatment process optimization
    • Provide lifecycle-focused analysis and equipment selection support
    • Provide input and support the development of performance parameters for the treatment process, including collaborating with the DB team to estimate power and chemical demand over various operating scenarios
    • Participate in the development of operational protocols, instrumentation, and automation strategies
  • Review the operability of the DB’s design and layout
  • Actively participate in the development of the O&M staffing level requirements and qualifications parameters for staff:
    • Provide significant input into the development of the operations plan, O&M manuals, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and standard maintenance procedures (SMPs)
    • Actively participate in the development and testing of training materials so that these materials will be appropriate and useful for training staff when the project is complete
  • Provide input into DB cost development so that it includes true and realistic lifecycle costs as a decision tool, including:
    • Develop a repair and replacement plan and schedule aligned with the DB’s process design, operational assumptions, and equipment selections, including OEM guarantees, if any
  • Support the design-builder’s development of a commissioning plan and tie-in process
    • Assist the DB in developing acceptance criteria that will meet regulatory responsibilities and project objectives
    • Actively participate in the planning of commissioning, startup, and acceptance testing, including scope for O&M team observation and engagement

Early engagement and tapping into the institutional knowledge and memory of the O&M staff increases the likelihood of success for DB projects. It is a “WIN-WIN” for all parties!

About Leofwin Clark, Vice President, Brown and Caldwell

As a vice president at Brown and Caldwell, Mr. Clark develops market strategy and leads at-risk (construction management at-risk, design-build, design-build-operate, P3, and program management at-risk) pursuits from identification and positioning through the proposal and negotiations processes. In addition to many years of membership on the DBIA Water/Wastewater Committee and as a DBIA Conference Co-Chair, Mr. Clark has served in several officer and board roles for the Water Design-Build Council, most recently as the Education Committee Chair.

About Rhonda E. Harris, PE, P.Eng, BCEE, PMP, MIAM, F.WEF, Owner Advisor, O&M/Asset Management, Brown and Caldwell

Rhonda has more than 45 years of experience in managing and administering a variety of facilities and programs in the water environment sector. Her experience includes developing and implementing training programs for public and private sector personnel and developing regulations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as knowledge management and management consulting, condition assessments, business practice evaluations, asset management and lifecycle costing, engineering design, construction and O&M renewals, and operations for facilities and systems. She is a certified Texas water and wastewater operator and approved operations trainer, as well as a licensed wastewater operator in Ontario, Canada. Ms. Harris is a leader in operations management, O&M issues and asset management, working for change and improvement in the global environment.
Topics: Brown and Caldwell, O&M.

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