What Stimulates Innovation in Design-Build Projects?

Innovation, what is it? Change, alteration, ingenuity, inventiveness. These are all words that describe the process and results of being innovative.

What stimulates innovation? Innovation is the result of the necessity to develop a solution based on a need, want or problem that must be resolved.

So how is innovation enhanced through the design-build process? Design-build is a method of collaborative delivery for construction projects. The only way for true collaboration to take place is to have at least two participants communicating with each other.  Ideally, the project contributors (design-build team and owner) are communicating all the way through the project to achieve the desired results.  Through communication, the project goals, complications, and desired results are made known and discussed.

Because the design-build process involves an owner, engineer and contractor (contributors), the opportunity to produce innovative ideas is increased. There are more people analyzing and discussing how to achieve the project goals, solve the complications and produce the desired results. A good design-build team will involve key subcontractors and suppliers in the design phase and encourage them to present their ideas and information. This entire collaborative process is what ‘enhances innovation’.

Simply put:

PROBLEM→ COMMUNICATION→ INNOVATION→ SOLUTION→ EFFECTIVE OUTCOME.

Example of Design-Build Innovation

Foley Company and Black & Veatch were recently awarded the Blue River Wastewater Treatment Plant Phase 1 Odor Control Design-Build for the city of Kansas City, Missouri, Water Service Department (WSD). WSD made it known during the RFP that even though the original facility odor control study and report had identified specific phases and what portions of the plant should be in each phase, they were open to options that provided the most value for the budget.

While analyzing the areas to receive odor control treatment in the first phase, Foley Company recognized a small area (Parshall Flume structure) to be treated in a future phase that seemed out of phase. This area was located very close to the screenings building which is part of the phase 1 project. Recognizing the proximity of the flume structure to the screenings building, it seemed logical to include that area into phase 1 somehow.

Foley communicated their idea to Black & Veatch and Evoqua (chosen odor control supplier) and asked them to evaluate the air flows and scrubber sizing.  This collaborative effort revealed that for a minimal cost the odor control scrubber could be increased in size to accommodate the air flow from the flume structure and not affect the efficiency of the unit if the additional air flow was not actually part of phase 1.

This air volume could be included in phase 1 to eliminate the need for an entire, separate odor control system in a subsequent future phase as described in the original odor control system design report. Foley Company and Black & Veatch included the larger scrubber for this area in their RFP proposal and project cost. As a voluntary alternate, the cost to provide and install the additional cover and duct work necessary to convey the flume structure air to the phase 1 scrubber was included in the RFP response.

Results

The innovative approach provided by the Foley and Black & Veatch design team for the larger odor control scrubber afforded WSD more value within the project budget.  Additionally, the alternate cost to include the cover and duct work so the flume structure air flows were treated in the Phase 1 project was accepted by WSD. The total contract amount with the alternate cost was still within the budget for phase 1 and provided even more value to WSD.

The lesson learned is that had an engineering firm been hired for a typical design-bid-build process and been tasked with following the recommendations of the original facility odor control report, the likelihood for this innovative idea to be provided would have been reduced.  The freedom to be innovative and uniquely interpret the intent of this RFP was enhanced through the design-build process.

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About Kevin D. Waddell, P.E., Estimating Manager – Water Treatment, Foley Company

Kevin Waddell has 24 years of experience working in the heavy construction and civil engineering industry. He has extensive estimating and project management experience on both small and large projects for water/wastewater facilities and heavy civil construction. Dedication to meeting clients’ needs and providing accurate, detailed preconstruction information is what he brings to each project he undertakes. Mr. Waddell’s strengths range from conceptual estimating, construction feasibility studies, and project cost analysis to subcontractor selection and value engineering.
Topics: Black & Veatch, Enerfab, Water Design-Build Project.

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