Water Environment Federation (WEF)

CM-at-Risk – A Better Method for Water Reclamation Construction?

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Courtesy of Water Environment Federation (WEF)

Collier County, Florida is located in the southwest part of the Sunshine State. It is a popular winter tourist destination as well as home to many seasonal residents. With one of the highest growth rates in the country, Collier County is continually expanding its utility infrastructure to meet ever-increasing demands. The Collier County Public Utilities Engineering Department is responsible for planning and implementing the development of water, wastewater and solid waste infrastructure.

The Collier County Public Utilities Division (County) operates two wastewater treatment facilities, one in the north of the County and one in the south. The south County facility began as a series of multiple package treatment plants. In the period from 1989 to 1991, these package treatment units were removed and replaced with the South County Water Reclamation Facility (SCWRF) intended to meet requirements for reclaimed water. The rated capacity of this facility was 8 million gallons per day (mgd), average annual daily flow.

Subsequent to the 1989 to 1991 construction work, new homes were built in very close proximity to the process units along the north border of the treatment plant site. Between 1995 and 1998 the plant was upgraded to be a better neighbor, including extensive odor control, new covered diffused air aeration basins, noise attenuation, and other mitigation features.

The County experienced operational challenges at the SCWRF following the 1998 upgrade. Some of the problems were related to excessive peak flows, a result of the influx of seasonal residents, upgraded master pumping stations and exceptional rainfall events, and considerably stronger raw wastewater.

Capacity problems at the North County Water Reclamation Facility (NCWRF) resulted in an administrative order with the State of Florida. The State required the County to commit to critical system wide improvements including expansion of the SCWRF. The County was also required to accelerate the planned expansion of the SCWRF from 12 mgd to 16 mgd with consent-order substantial completion by January 2004. There were also other improvements that included a
new flow equalization system to optimize treatment at the existing facility and a requirement for critical treatment units to come on-line by January 2003 to meet the peak season demand.

Significant improvements to the existing facility were necessary in order to meet the statemandated order. The County also had their own improvement objectives including better flow equalization and enhancement of system reliability and redundancy. Noise, odor, and traffic were of paramount importance to the local neighborhood. These issues would all have to be addressed while meeting the regulatory requirements.

Based on their past experience, the County settled on several key criteria for success:

  1. Budget adherence
  2. Schedule achievement
  3. Low neighborhood impact
  4. Maintain Compliance with regulatory agency requirements

Determined to improve project delivery performance, the County evaluated alternative delivery systems to satisfy their success criteria. A Construction Management-at-Risk (CM-at-Risk) delivery method was selected to enhance the construction process, provide flexibility during delivery and focus on achieving schedule restrictions. The County anticipated other benefits from the CM-at-Risk delivery system including value engineering and constructability advice
during design, improved project safety programs, and improved documentation during construction to reduce subcontractor claims.

The CM-at-Risk was selected in accordance with Florida Statutes on the basis of qualifications rather than “low bid”. The construction cost, including the CM-at-Risk fees during construction, were negotiated when the design was between 90% and 100% complete. Fees for CM-at-Risk services during the final design stages were negotiated and paid separately from the construction related services. Formal Partnering was implemented by the County to insure that the CM-at-Risk, the design professional, the inspector, and County staff worked together as a team with a mutual understanding throughout project delivery.

An aggressive Public Information Program was established including a web page with routinely updated information, a construction hotline, periodic newsletters, and door hangers that notified the neighbors of upcoming construction activities.

A guaranteed maximum price (GMP) proposal was provided by the CM-at-Risk during the final stages of design. This pricing, based on competitive subcontractor bidding, was developed in an “open-book” fashion and provided the County with an opportunity to exercise some budget control before a final price was accepted. In this manner, the project was “scoped” to match the County’s budget and time constraints while maintaining competitive bids on all construction cost of work.

In order to meet the regulatory commitments and seasonal demand, the project incorporated an innovative scheduling approach that included two defined, substantial completion dates and one final completion. The first substantial completion for the 16 mgd functional plant was necessary to meet the flow demands and to comply with the administrative order. The second substantial completion was for the balance of the work. The final completion included items on a comprehensive punch list.

The results of the team effort were impressive. Both of the substantial completion dates were beaten and final completion was achieved four months ahead of the contractual deadline. The Project came in well below the GMP. There were few complaints from the local community. The County set a new bar against which to measure future project delivery.

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