WSB Promotes Kyle Klasen to Vice President of Survey & Digital Delivery

As Vice President, Klasen will help WSB elevate digital delivery workflows and revolutionize industry practices

Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today that Kyle Klasen has been promoted to vice president of survey & digital delivery. This is a new position at WSB, and Klasen will help oversee the firm’s strategic vision to expand survey work nationally and develop digital delivery solutions for clients. Klasen has been with WSB for more than 15 years, and in that time has led the firm’s growth in surveys along with advancing constructable 3D models to field applications.

“WSB has been designing constructable 3D models for contractors long before it has been part of an engineering function and deliverable.  Looking back 15 years when we initiated our 3D modeling efforts, to where we are today incorporating 4D, 5D and visualization is truly amazing,” said Klasen. “WSB’s digital delivery advancements transfers usable data from design to construction that results in mitigated risk, accelerated schedules, and ultimately saves stakeholders money. I am excited to continue to bring value to our clients and partners, innovate with data workflows from design to construction, and grow WSB’s strategic vision for the future.”

In his new role, Klasen will focus on growing survey offerings through client development and strategy. He will also oversee strategic hires, partner pursuits, and help facilitate and infuse digital delivery and trailblazing technology into every division at WSB.

“Digital delivery is the future at WSB, and we are excited to further advance that offering with this new role. Kyle has an amazing ability to understand and bridge the needs of designers and contractors, delivering value to clients and partners. I know he will do an excellent job managing and growing his team and helping WSB stay at the cutting-edge of our industry,” said Jon Chiglo, WSB’s chief operating officer.

WSB delivered the first set of fully digital, 100% model plans to the Minnesota Department of Transportation last year for its Highway 169 Redefine – Elk River Project. The 3D Design Model provided greater flexibility and detail in the design and helped save taxpayer money through efficiency and digital delivery.

Water Sustainability and Community Planning

By Alyson Fauske, Sr Project Manager, WSB

Last summer, Minnesota experienced a drought due to above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. This created a significant challenge for many community leaders and public agencies. To keep up with demand, wells were pumping at or near capacity over much of the summer, and communities were forced to implement water restrictions for the first time in decades. Some cities banned lawn sprinkling all together, though this is not water sustainability.

Heading into 2022, Minnesota is still facing drought conditions in some parts of the state. There are a number of things that communities and public agencies can do to plan for and respond to drought conditions using sustainable water planning.

Water Sustainability
The graphics above from the U.S. Drought Monitor track the progression of drought conditions beginning in June, 2021.

Limit Water Usage

In drought conditions, limiting water usage is critical and often the first step taken. Communities can help limit water use by developing water reuse systems and plans. They can also implement landscaping practices that require less watering including native plants and drought resistant plantings and grasses. Native plants also have the added benefit of supporting local wildlife health and helping to protect pollinator populations.

Tap Into Local Grants & Resources

In 2021, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) put together a Drought Assistance Proposal. This proposal includes a request for $13.3 million in funding to help cities address the effects of last year’s drought. WSB is tracking the funding package as it moves through the legislature and will be prepared to assist clients with grant applications for any approved funding, as well as identify other funding opportunities that are tied to this effort.

Long Term Water Sustainability

A significant portion of the budget for the Drought Assistance Proposal is set aside for proactive water conservation measures that would help combat the effects of potential future droughts.

Municipal engineering and sustainability go hand in hand. Municipal engineers develop plans and projects that maintain infrastructure, considering the whole life cycle of the project while aiming to minimize the amount the taxpayer needs to provide to routinely maintain the infrastructure.

Proactive water conservation measures allow communities to be better prepared for the next potential drought. These measures may consist of finding and repairing leaks, increasing irrigation efficiency, or incentivizing residential and business customers to install water-saving devices.

Climate change and a greater risk of drought impacts community planning, and leaders who implement sustainability measures that are proactive, and not just reactive to an immediate crisis, will fare better in managing drought.

If you want to learn more, contact Alyson Fauske, Senior Project Manager at 612-263-1736 or [email protected].

With 20 years of engineering experience in the municipal industry, Alyson Fauske has built her career providing municipal engineering services throughout the Twin Cities. Her portfolio of work includes street and utility reconstruction, technical analysis and field observations, direct project planning and management, and comprehensive and capital planning services.

[email protected] | 612.263.1736

A Step-By-Step Guide to Pavement Management

By Matt Indihar, Sr Project Manager and Matt Henderson, Graduate Engineer, WSB

Pavement management plans are crucial for cities to properly oversee their networks of pavement. These plans help decision makers maximize their limited budgets by implementing the most cost-effective maintenance solutions on every segment of their roads, parking lots, and trails. A good pavement management plan helps decide which roads should receive maintenance, when they should receive it, and what kind of maintenance would be best. Additionally, a pavement management plan must be frequently updated to accurately capture pavement conditions and needs.

It can be complicated deciding how to allocate funds in a network of roads. Fortunately, there are analytical and scientific ways to help cities decide on the best way to use their street maintenance resources. While the process of creating a pavement management plan can seem overwhelming at first, it can be broken down into six steps.

  1. Assess Inventory

The first step in creating a pavement management plan is to take inventory of all the roads that are to be included in the plan. This usually results in an updated map of all paved streets. Roads can be broken up into numbered segments so each section of pavement can be identified. Taking inventory can also include gathering maintenance records from recent pavement maintenance.

2. Pavement Inspection

Next, gather raw data from the pavement segments in the inventory. To understand the condition of each segment, the present pavement distresses are noted. Walking the streets and visually documenting distresses is one of the most detailed methods of capturing the data. An inspector can provide notes relating to unique distresses, maintenance, and other factors that cannot be captured by simply driving the road.

3. Condition Assessment

Once the raw data is recorded, the condition of a pavement section can be quantified using a single number such as a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) or Overall Condition Index (OCI) value. These numbers are calculated from the amount, type, and severity of the distresses surveyed. Having a segment represented by a single number makes it easier to compare against other segments. An average value condition index of the entire pavement network can be calculated to set budgets and track trends in the city’s pavement.

4. Condition Forecasting

Most pavements in a specific area exhibit a common pattern as they age. A standard degradation curve or a custom curve based on historical pavement maintenance tracking can be used to predict the condition of a segment in the future. This is important because pavement degradation is not constant. Knowing when a segment is about to enter a period of steep decline in condition is useful when deciding how to allocate maintenance resources and dollars.

5. Scenario Modeling

Using the current condition information and future condition information, a model can be created to analyze the future of a pavement network. Inputs such as budget, priority segments, preferred maintenance techniques, and construction costs are all variables that can be analyzed as models are created. These factors are dependent on discussions with the city to maximize the pavement conditions and align with a preferred strategy.

6. Capital Improvement Planning

The condition analysis allows cities to create a plan that optimizes pavement condition. Results usually include a list of road maintenance and construction projects that should be completed in each of the upcoming years. Furthermore, letting a computer optimize spending removes the guess work and ensures travelers are getting access to the highest quality roads possible. City officials can use the work plan to request work from contractors and notify residents of future projects.

While the six fundamental steps of pavement management are outlined above, every city has something that makes them unique. WSB has the technology and expertise to help tailor a pavement management plan for your community. We would be happy to discuss how we can help meet your pavement needs.

Matt Indihar is a Project Manager in WSB’s Construction and Design-Build Service Group with eight years of industry experience in construction and project development. Prior to
WSB, Matt worked at MnDOT’s District 3 where he served as a Graduated Engineer, Senior Engineer, and Resident Construction Engineer.

[email protected] | 218.341.3614

Matt Henderson has experience performing construction inspection, contract administration, project management, and material testing on a variety of transportation projects. Prior to WSB, Matthew worked as a Planner and Assistant Project Manager for MnDOT in District 7 where he developed an expertise for coordination and communication with MnDOT and stakeholders.

[email protected] | 612.759.7218

How Communities and School Districts Can Collaborate and Plan for Population Growth

By Lori Johnson, Sr Professional Community Planner, WSB

The housing market is booming, and many families are making major investments in a new home, choosing houses and communities based on school district boundaries. But as communities rapidly grow, those school district boundaries can change. How are these decisions made and how are school districts and communities planning and adjusting to growth?

Developing a Master Plan

Cities plan for growth and explore ways to best utilize available land. Cities develop comprehensive plans that focus on areas of growth throughout a community, taking into consideration numerous elements like expected population growth, transportation access and road realignment, the utility capacity of the area, the natural aspects of the land (i.e., is the land wetland, heavily wooded, etc.), and more. Comprehensive plans are an important tool to guide zoning decisions and help communities grow with success.

The Relationship Between Communities and School Districts

When cities make land use decisions on where and how to develop and designate land, it’s important for school districts to be part of that conversation. In my experience as a city planner, I’ve been fortunate to work with many superintendents who proactively reach out to the city to talk about growth.

Working with cities at WSB, part of my job is to advise and encourage our clients to have meaningful discussions with their local school boards and superintendents. Examining school district boundaries, zoning, and projected growth can help build collaboration and confidence in decision making among leaders.

When School Districts Change Boundaries

For community members and families impacted by school districts altering boundaries, it can be confusing about who is making the decisions. School districts evaluate boundaries according to state law, and they look to cities to help explain where growth is likely to occur. At the end of the day, school districts own the process of setting up district boundaries and make decisions on where they build schools to meet the needs of their students and communities.

For school leaders looking to redraw boundaries, it’s critical to host public meetings and gather community input. Even holding one to two neighborhood level meetings before larger school board hearings can help alleviate concerns and better prepare leaders for these big conversations.

Furthermore, unexpected growth can place greater scrutiny on those decisions. When a school is built and is almost immediately at capacity – community members can be frustrated or feel like growth was not properly planned for. With the exponential and unexpected housing boom during the pandemic, sometimes even the best planned growth expectations can fall short of reality.

Clear and straightforward communication with the public and collaboration among community leaders is critical to zoning decisions, redrawing school boundaries, and building strong, resilient cities.

Lori has more than 25 years of experience working in a municipal planning department, having worked her way up through the planning department at the City of Blaine to become their city planner. She has worked in all aspects of city planning activities including project management, site plan and application review, public participation and long range planning.

[email protected] | 612.364.3029

Should Your Project Include a Constructability Review

By Christopher Kester, Sr Estimator, WSB

A constructability review is a useful project management tool that allows a client to “think like a contractor” throughout the design phase of a project. Looking at the buildability of a project, problem-solving cost, and risk in design has numerous benefits, providing clarity for both owners and contractors.

It is especially valuable to projects that have a higher degree of variability, whether in scope, size, location, subsurface conditions, schedule, or material shortages. Reviews consider the unique variables of every project and help better inform an owner of cost and risk, giving them the tools to make the best decisions possible for their individual needs.

Why include constructability review in your project planning? Here are five reasons why it adds value.

Greater Accuracy in Estimating Cost

It’s no mystery to anyone in the construction industry that right now costs are volatile. Whether it’s the price of oil, materials, or supply chain woes, estimating cost as accurately as possible and finding cost savings is critical.

Average prices are often used in our industry to estimate the cost of a project, but these baseline costs are relied upon too often – creating greater risk and opportunities for sizable miscalculation. Just think about the cost of materials and labor in 2021 for a project, and how much those costs have jumped in just one calendar year. Using data that could be as much as 15 months old, in a volatile market, and the significant variability of costs depending on the uniqueness of a project, shows the value of a constructability review and how it goes hand-in-hand with cost estimation.

Mitigating Risk

A constructability review provides value throughout the project’s design iterations from initial concept to final design. Every project involves risk, but the proper feedback during a constructability review can provide information to help the owner/designer better define scope and adjust their design plans and specifications as needed before the bidding process even begins. This allows contractors to better understand what to bid and how they will get paid, reducing their risk.

For example, think about how a contractor might approach a bid for a street reconstruction with no geotechnical report, and therefore not know the subbase conditions or how much pavement and base will need to be removed. That is a risk to the contractor, so they may bid higher to cover that risk. There is also a risk that unsuitable material is found once construction begins, which will increase the price of the work and potentially the schedule of the project. Understand, the contract documents how a contractor gets paid, and any uncertainty will increase pricing.

Mitigating risks should not be seen only as a means to reduce threats, but also as a way to identify opportunities to create positive outcomes. It is essential to analyze and monitor identified risks that could both positively or negatively impact the overall outcome of project. This aspect of a constructability review helps with building a mature risk register and determining evaluation practices to identify threats and opportunities appropriately.

Measure the Risk

Some risks cannot be mitigated or avoided, and a constructability review helps to identify them. The risk is thereby accepted and can be measured and calculated, along with the probability of it occurring

Furthermore, using the Monte Carlo simulation techniques and (PERT) Program Evaluation and Review Technique method to analyze the risks provides precise statistical results that accounts for thousands of potential outcomes. Utilizing these techniques to evaluate budget and schedule risk assists with improving predictability, provides guidance for effective monitor and control practices, and improves the ability to eliminate probable failures or reworks during execution.

Refining Design & Realizing Value Before Construction

Because a constructability review can be used throughout design stages, projects can identify constructability and payment issues before the bidding process which is more time and cost efficient than addressing them in the field with a contractor. Are you using a certain kind of pipe when a less expensive alternative could be substituted? Do your specifications leave a quantity up to each contractor to estimate and bid incidental or lump sum? These types of issues are easy to address throughout the design stages to save headaches down the road.

Especially for government and public entities – if bids come in higher than what was budgeted for, going back to the design process and rebidding will delay construction and add money and time to the project.

Tailoring Constructability Review to the Project

Perhaps most important is that a constructability review is scalable and can be adapted into any project. Whether it’s a high-level, one hour review into a focused risk or a deep dive in every stage of design, owners can integrate a constructability review plan that is tailored to meet their needs. Thinking like a contractor allows the owner to better understand the likely range of project costs before the bidding process begins and to improve the biddability of their plans by reducing the uncertainty for the contractor.

Chris spent most of his career with a regional construction company where he prepared production-based estimates in excess of $300 million annually, many of those being DOT or State-Aid. He provides the ability to analyze from the perspective of a contractor and assemble a contractor-style estimate while identifying, analyzing, and mitigating risks.

[email protected] | 651.492.3853

How to Leverage Infrastructure Bill Funding to Advance Clean Water Projects

By Ray Theiler, Project Engineer and Ryan Spencer, Sr Environmental Scientist, WSB

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden late last year, provides a meaningful opportunity for communities across the country to invest in essential water infrastructure and address key challenges related to poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination and other emerging contaminants like manganese and nitrates.

There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, and high levels in our water supplies can cause risk to human health, as well as environmental risks. But removing these chemicals from drinking water can be a serious cost to local governments, as they often have to monitor contamination levels and either retrofit or build new treatment facilities to manage it.  

The majority of the money over the next five years will go through existing Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. This is on top of existing dollars.

Protecting water resources and providing clean water is a critical role of local government, but it also can come with significant financial costs. For that reason, communities should be looking at how to take advantage of this historic investment in infrastructure and tap into funding opportunities.

Where to start? Here are a few tips.

  • Be proactive and get on the appropriate Project Priority List.

This is the first step that every community should take. The Project Priority List (PPL) ranks projects with respect to other proposed projects and that will be ready for construction within the next five years. Communities must be on a PPL to become eligible for state revolving funds to help with clean water and drinking water projects.

  • Put together your plans and specifications.

Once a community is on the PPL, the next step is to put together a schedule, plans and specifications. Consultants can help communities navigate planning and design projects that meet their specific needs.

  • Request to be placed on appropriate Intended Use Plan.

If a community expects to be ready for construction and is seeking state funding, their projects need to be placed on the appropriate Intended Use Plan (IUP). The IUP identifies projects that are on the PPL and are eligible for state revolving funding.

  • Make sure your project meets all criteria for funding.

Don’t forget that throughout this process, it’s important to make sure your plans and specifications include all necessary criteria for project funding like using iron and steel products produced in the United States. Additional requirements are expected to be announced by state agencies in the near future as they finalize grant application processes and criteria.

For communities who may feel overwhelmed, or not quite sure where to start, WSB can help whether it’s filling out a PPL application, navigating environmental impacts, or designing a project. The federal infrastructure bill is a historic opportunity to advance clean water projects across the nation and improve the health of our environment and communities.

Ray is a Project Engineer specializing in project planning, feasibility studies, computer modeling, preliminary and final design, bidding, construction management, grant writing, wellhead protection planning, risk assessments, emergency response planning, community engagement, and state water permitting.

r[email protected] | 612.360.3163

Ryan has over 14 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry servicing both public and private sector clients. His work includes planning, management, and completion of Regulated Material Assessments, Demolition Specifications, Phase I & II ESAs, Remedial Investigations, Response Action Planning, and Construction Monitoring.

[email protected]m | 612.723.3644

Graphic with line drawing of a town

WSB hires Behnaz Beladi to direct the firm’s renewable energy team

As director, Beladi will lead, manage and grow WSB’s renewable energy market and team

Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today that Behnaz Beladi has joined the organization as their director of renewable energy. Beladi joins the firm’s Minneapolis office where she will lead WSB’s renewable energy efforts and solutions.

As director of renewable energy, Beladi will manage the multi-disciplinary renewable energy team in project and program operations. Beladi will also guide market strategy and oversight to ensure compliance and preparedness in growth regions. The addition of this new role will strengthen the firm’s renewable energy services and cultivate a team that is proactive with client management, client retention and opportunity development. Beladi brings vast industry knowledge and technical expertise to the fast-growing firm.  

“As companies and communities around the world strive toward reducing cost and risk, meeting evolving customer and other stakeholder demand, advancing NetZero goals, renewable energy and the infrastructure that supports it will become vital in preparing for the future,” said Amy Fredregill, senior director of sustainability at WSB. “The expertise that Behnaz brings to WSB will only enhance our growth in the renewable energy market. Her comprehensive experience with solar and wind energy and knowledge of local, state and federal environmental policies and the market overall will be an asset for both our staff and clients.”

Beladi was most recently the vice president of engineering at Apadana, a Minneapolis-based a full-service solar engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firm for commercial, residential, agricultural, non-profit, and utility-scale solar energy customers. Beladi is an accomplished academic, with a PhD of Mechanical Engineering from the Technical University of Vienna, and an associate of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Previously, she served on the board of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association, advocating for policy and regulatory initiative’s that strengthen the industry.

“WSB’s commitment to cutting-edge technology, combined with their deep understanding of our community’s infrastructure needs has allowed them to deliver many large-scale solar and wind projects in recent years,” said Beladi. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this important work and to shape the future of energy with such a talented team and next-generation tools.”

As director for the firm’s renewable energy team, Beladi joins a dynamic team with collective expertise delivering innovative energy solutions for the firm’s clients.

Main Street

How Communities Can Effectively Manage Population Growth

By Jay Kennedy, Vice President | Texas Operations, WSB

Experiencing significant growth is exciting for communities, and many places are seeing considerable population growth and expansion across the country. But this growth also leaves many leaders asking, “How can we effectively manage this growth for our community and residents?”

Meeting the needs of new and existing residents, and addressing development, environmental, infrastructure, and other related challenges that come along with growth is critical. Here are some things cities can do to effectively manage growth.

Planning, Planning & More Planning

Communities must plan for the future thoughtfully, understanding risk and tapping into opportunities. Generally, communities have a 30-year land use plan, which drives the development of comprehensive infrastructure plans to accommodate the growth. A complete plan also includes a capital improvement plan including a financing plan. These plans are updated on average every five to 10 years—especially if a community needs to pivot or adjust due to faster than expected population growth.   

For significant improvements, such as water and sewage treatment facilities and significant transportation projects, the approval processes can be time consuming, so it is important to manage risk and find a balance that meets the community’s needs for delivering infrastructure at the right time.   

Managing Permitting & City Work

When a city experiences dramatic population growth, they are not always able to add staff resources to respond to increased permitting requests within the required deadlines. Especially if applications are flooding in at the same time, city staff can be overwhelmed, and applicants can experience delays awaiting approval.

There are some things that cities can do to help streamline this process and make it more efficient.

First, technology can help speed up the process for cities. Programs that help track and schedule reviews ensure tasks are clear, and development proposals and permitting requests are reviewed in a timely manner.  Automation and improved workflows can also minimize the time for reviews.

Additionally, many cities also contract with firms like WSB where we work hand in hand with staff to help review development requests. Bringing in outside experts can help manage peaks and make the permitting process more efficient.

Furthermore, it’s vital that cities clearly lay out the requirements and what criteria they expect from applicants. This helps reduce delays and improves the chances of getting a quality, thorough submittal package.

Finally, during construction, city representation at construction sites helps keep projects are on track and meet city requirements. With proper monitoring on site, it verifies that projects are going according to plan and won’t cause more headaches for city staff down the road.

Understanding the Value of Development

Many cities have a philosophy that development pays for itself. An expanded tax base, critical infrastructure investments, and proactive planning all help bring value to the community, making it an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family.

For communities, it’s important to remember when reviewing development applications that once a project is done, it’s up to that community to manage the roads, parks, utilities, water, and other essential services associated with the project.

Proper planning and investment, along with choosing smart projects, will help cities manage growth effectively.

Jay has over 30 years of experience managing municipal and civil engineering projects. He has also provided land entitlement services for residential and commercial projects. Jay’s specific experience as a City Engineer included leadership and management of comprehensive infrastructure plans, as well as CIP development and implementation.

[email protected] |  512.518.1819