Launch Slideshow

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Total project management

Total project management

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    Below: Population growth and the demolition of a 30-year-old process treatment unit prompted the city of Lake Jackson, Texas, to commission Carter & Burgess to design a facility expansion from 3.15 to 5.85 mgd. The firm currently is providing construction phase engineering and construction management services for Lake Jackson. Photos: Carter & Burgess

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    Right: In Missouri City, Texas, Independence Park got a new boat ramp and dock. Carter & Burgess designed them, based on a total project management contract.

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    Carter & Burgess performed the master planning and design for the development of a new 2 mgd wastewater treatment plant for the Pearland, Texas, Southwest Environmental Center. This project included the development of a master plan for improving the wastewater treatment system in the southwest quadrant of the city.

In addition, TPM's promise of better coordination among designers and construction managers can save time in a few ways. For example, when a construction problem arises from a design issue, project managers working, for the same firm are more likely to know which designer to call to get a problem resolved quickly. “They can iron things out with one phone call,” said Nisbett.

WHEN TPM REALLY IS ‘TOTAL'

John Borden, president of the Fort Bend (Texas) County Freshwater Supply District No. 1, is another believer in TPM. Borden's district is in the design phase of a $30 million to $40 million water plant with distribution system and wastewater treatment plant with collection system project that will serve about 3000 homes covering 4250 acres.

Borden's water supply district doesn't have the resources and experienced staff common to most major cities. Neither he nor any other district staff member has an engineering background. “We wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to manage the project ourselves,” said Borden.

That lack of knowledge would have made it difficult for Borden's staff to evaluate design and construction management proposals. The TPM approach made it easier because one firm can guide them through the whole process from planning to construction, and having one firm responsible for the whole project makes keeping tabs on it easier for decision-makers lacking technical expertise. They have just one entity to turn to for progress reports and to resolve problems.

The district had hired Carter & Burgess to do a feasibility study, topographical survey, environmental report, geotechnical report, and other preliminary engineering tasks. Officials were pleased with the results, making the hiring of the consulting firm to manage the rest of the project a logical decision.

In addition, Carter & Burgess, with a huge stake in the project as the sole consultant, has an incentive to provide services that go beyond the typical design and construction management consultant's involvement in order to ensure that the project gets built on schedule. For example, the consultant has provided expertise in obtaining financing for the Fort Bend County project. “They've been instrumental in trying to get money,” said Borden. “They—along with a law firm we hired— helped secure a $1 million loan.”

SPECIALIZED EXPERTISE

Some communities choose TPM to build an unusually challenging project. TPM's advantage of close coordination between design and construction teams is especially desirable on difficult projects.

Such is the case with a waste-water treatment plan expansion in Lake Jackson, Texas. With a population of 27,000 people, Lake Jackson has two treatment facilities on the same site. The older facility is 40 years old, near the end of its useful life, and can no longer handle its share of the city's wastewater stream. The plan to replace it calls for the facility to be demolished and a new one to be built at the same site. It's the city's biggest and most challenging public works project ever.

“It's an intricate expansion because the new plant will be built in the exact same footprint as the old one,” said Nisbett. That boosts the challenges, he said, making the TPM approach more attractive. “We thought TPM would give us better quality management,” said Nisbett, “because the designers and construction managers would ‘be on the same team.' And good teamwork, while always desirable, is essential on this project.”

Lake Jackson didn't choose TPM until after the feasibility study and preliminary design work were completed, points out Sal Aguirre, Lake Jackson's city engineer. The city interviewed a few other firms to take on construction management, but ultimately decided that the TPM arrangement with Carter & Burgess was the best strategy for project management. “I don't think that you need to decide upfront (to use TPM),” he said. If a community has misgivings about TPM, it doesn't hurt to investigate other options.