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.

SOLD ON TPM

Missouri City, Texas, was so pleased with how TPM worked on a recent road project that they are using the method again on two wastewater treatment plant projects totaling $16.1 million. One reason that city officials have such a high comfort level with the one-consultant approach is that they have assigned city employees to monitor daily activities on the jobsites. “We have our own inspectors and they are actually on the team with the consultant,” said Dorger. This arrangement would discourage a consultant from trying to paint too rosy a picture if a project bogged down. But, he added, that's really not much of a concern currently.

He emphasized that cities can be a good source of repeat business for design and construction management firms, so they have plenty of incentive to make sure the project succeeds.

Barnes is a vice president and manager of the public works unit of Carter & Burgess's Houston office.

Ensuring success with TPM

For TPM to work best, community officials have to do some diligent research to choose the best firm for the job. The two areas that require the most scrutiny are cost and capability. “You have to be certain that the project is not over-priced, and you have to make sure that you hire someone who has the capability and capacity to do the project,” said David Yeager, an engineer in the project management division of the Texas Water Development Board based in Austin.

This is true no matter which project management strategy is used, but is particularly important when a community entrusts the whole project to one firm. Yeager recommends that community officials make sure they check references thoroughly and examine the work that consultants have done on similar projects when narrowing the list of candidates.

Look not only at the firm, but also at the personnel they propose to assign to the project, said Lee Dorger, director of public works for Missouri City, Texas. Officials should always meet with the key figures on the team that will do the work, not just the firm's principals who are mostly working in a sales capacity.

“During interviews, you can propose certain scenarios that might develop on the project and find out how (the project team) would handle them,” said Dorger. That way, community officials can get a sense of the management philosophy of the project team—how it resolves difficult issues—in order to see if they will be compatible with city personnel. It's a process like an intensive job interview with a candidate for an important position.

Having continuity on the project team is important, Dorger said. “If you keep the team together, it increases the chance that the project is going to succeed,” he said.

But it's important to note that turnover is a fact of life in every design and construction management firm. So, hiring a reputable firm with a long track record of success in the specialties required for the project is a wise move. If a key team member leaves the firm in the midst of a project, such a firm is likely to be able to replace that leader quickly with another qualified manager.