Three Ways Operational Models are Bringing Innovation & Value to Construction Projects

July 12, 2023
By Andy Kaiyala, VP of Construction Technology & Controls

In the world of civil engineering, the success of a construction project hinges on efficient planning, precise execution, and effective management. Fostered by new technology, the creation of operational and constructible 3D models is bringing innovation to construction projects and greater value to stakeholders. WSB is at the forefront of advanced technology which brings innovative solutions for clients.

Creating an Operational Model:

In the past three years, WSB has focused strategic energy on the creation of operational models, bringing the digital future to construction projects. But how do we define an operational model, and what makes them important?

Operational models take projects to the next level, providing construction and management information which improves the overall project. Operational models visualize the relationship between engineering data time, construction sequence, logistics, asset management and cost. This valuable information allows project stakeholders to make informed decisions, forecast costs, optimize resource allocation, and manage project timelines.

The Benefits of Using an Operational 3D Model

How do operational models improve construction projects? Here are three ways they are revolutionizing our industry.

  1. Improves stakeholder communication. Stakeholders access and utilize the same details and data by leveraging an operational model. This shared information minimizes delays, conflicts, and confusion, promoting better collaboration and coordination among project participants.
  2. Optimizes project resources. By creating an operational model, WSB and its stakeholder partners are able to use resources efficiently and effectively. Specifically, by considering cost data, alternative material options, and supplier details, operational models help identify cost-effective solutions, preventing unnecessary expenses and delays, while streamlining project timelines.
  3. Brings continuity and transparency across the entire life of a project.  A 3D digital environment helps mitigate conflict through the introduction and visualization of a project. Essentially, a project is digitally “built” before anyone is in the field. Moreover, the shift from traditional 2D paper to 3D digital models ensures continuity across the entire lifecycle of a project. From design and construction to operation and management, a 3D operational model allows for real-time updates and seamless communication, fostering efficiency and reducing errors.

Andy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this position. The role was developed in response to the growing availability of project delivery methods, including Construction Manager/General Contractor (CMGC) and progressive design build.  The entire AEC industry is recognizing the value of a more transparent process that’s being driven by digital delivery. With Andy’s expertise, WSB will guide our clients through a process that mitigates risk and reduces conflict for all stakeholders.

Construction Delays: How to Plan for the Expected and Unexpected

May 15, 2023
By Michael Rief, Sr Vice President of Construction, WSB

It is not every day that a construction project is delayed due to digging up unmarked graves, but it certainly happens more than the public might realize. Construction projects face the potential of delays in work for many reasons. Some of these are within the control of the managing company, while others are outside of their control. It is essential for industry leaders and local municipalities to understand the potential causes of delays and to have plans in place to address them promptly and mitigate cost, schedule, and quality.

Controllable Delays

Delays that are within the control of a company are often preventable and are caused by a variety of issues. Plan issues, utility conflicts, poor workmanship or low-quality materials can result in the need for rework, which can delay the project, impact schedule, and increase the cost of your project. This can happen if the work is not done to the required standard or if the materials used do not meet the specified quality criteria. The time and effort required to rework or remove and replace the work can be significant, and it can result in delays to other work later in the schedule that is dependent on it.

Permitting, environmental and safety concerns can also cause delays in construction projects and may require work to be stopped, which can also result in additional costs. Communication or misunderstanding in the planning and execution of the work between project stakeholders, can lead to confusion about project requirements, timelines, and other critical information

To mitigate these risks, WSB takes proactive measures, such as implementing quality control processes, investing in safety training, improving team communication, and ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations.

Uncontrollable Delays

In addition to these internal factors, there is a number of external factors which can cause delays in construction projects. Weather is the largest external factor in delaying construction. Whether it be snow, high winds, extreme temperatures, or severe flooding, all are outside the control of the construction project team and create significant setbacks.

Subsurface obstacles such as poor soils, unidentified utilities, contamination, or historical and religious artifacts uncovered during excavation significantly impact the project timeline. These may require design changes, new permitting and approvals, and additional costs.

We have also experienced government shutdown or stoppage in programming funding which has delayed construction because contractors are no longer able to be paid, and approval processes shut down. These delays can potentially shut down work by months, even years, depending on how long the stoppage lasts

These external factors are harder to influence and, in many cases, impossible to control, but there are ways WSB’s team and partners work to eliminate and minimize their impact on projects.

How WSB Can Help:

WSB thinks through all possible scenarios to ensure that it’s prepared to prevent, address, and resolve any delays that may arise.

Existing processes such as project scoping, soils exploration and project planning along with technological advancements like ground-penetrating radar and drone surveys help WSB identify potential issues like subsurface items or utilities that must be cleared before a project begins. These approaches help to further define the nature of the work and identify issues in the planning and design phases to prevent costly changes which can impact, cost schedule and quality during the construction phases of the work. Planning and sequencing of construction activities is also managed with technological advancements. WSB identifies conflicts for each stage of the construction stages by applying conflict analysis on temporary construction elements such as drainage and traffic needs by utilizing clash detection and contract time determination.

Construction project delays can be caused by a range of factors, both within and outside of the control of the owner and contractor. However, by implementing proactive measures, investing in technology, and prioritizing communication, WSB minimizes the risk of delays and ensures that projects are completed on time and within budget for municipalities.

Mike Rief leads WSB’s Construction Services team. He has nearly 30 years of experience in civil engineering, with an emphasis on pavement and materials, pavement management, quality management, project management, design, risk assessment, project controls, contract administration, construction, and preventative maintenance. Throughout his tenure, he’s managed several complex, high-profile projects across Minnesota.

[email protected] | 612.518.8329

Michael Rief
Synchro 4D

WSB and Bentley Systems Offer New Digital Construction Management Service Based on SYNCHRO

March 13, 2023

Will Provide Digital Integrator and Advisory Services for Construction Digital Twins Running in Bentley Infrastructure Cloud

Bentley Systems, Incorporated (Nasdaq: BSY), the infrastructure engineering software company, today announced a collaboration initiative with WSB to lead civil infrastructure owners and contractors to adopt and use infrastructure digital twins. WSB has launched a new digital construction management solution and advisory service, based on Bentley’s SYNCHRO, to help the civil infrastructure market overcome challenges of adopting model-based digital workflows and leveraging the power of construction digital twins. WSB is the first firm to join the Bentley Digital Integrator Program for construction to provide programmatic go-to-market support and knowledge transfer to eligible engineering and project delivery firms and system integrators creating and curating digital twins for their clients’ infrastructure assets.

SYNCHRO simplifies the delivery of infrastructure construction projects.
SYNCHRO simplifies the delivery of infrastructure construction projects.

Construction work is too often based on 2D drawings, spreadsheets, and document-based workflows resulting in errors, waste, and rework that cause most projects to be over budget and schedule. Bentley and WSB will lead firms in transforming construction by adopting technology and digital delivery.

“Owners and construction firms realize that new digital workflows are needed to meet infrastructure demands. Applying these digital workflows successfully requires a deep understanding of technology, processes, and data,” said Carsten Gerke, senior vice president of strategic partnerships with Bentley Systems. “The Bentley Digital Integrator Program is built around combining technology with subject matter expertise for improved infrastructure. WSB joining the program provides a leapfrog opportunity for all our transportation users.”

Through a combination of industry-leading software, expertise, and innovation, Bentley and WSB’s digital construction management initiative is helping to shape the way infrastructure projects are delivered. Key services include enabling a single source of truth by connecting project, contract, and document management to the future of design—a 3D/4D/5D constructable model—as well as the ability to create constructable models from current 2D plan sets, which allows the transition to a single source of truth for all stakeholders. This initiative is committed to putting the industry-leading model-based construction management tool in the hands of those who build the work. WSB promotes advanced project delivery and knows how to apply the right technology and expertise to support their clients’ aspirations for a digital future.

“WSB is committed to delivering innovative, reliable, and secure solutions through the use of advanced technology. We believe the successful deployment of an operational 3D model drives transparency, maximizes return on investment, makes possible true lifecycle planning, and drives collaboration to connect and align all stakeholders,” said Jon Chiglo, chief operating officer of WSB. “We have an entire organization that is leading, creating, and innovating into our digital future. Our partnership with Bentley is an important part of this vision and we are excited to bring this digital construction management service to market.”

SYNCHRO, Bentley’s construction management software that supports the entire civil construction lifecycle with simple office-to-field workflows and gives firms insight into project performance, productivity, and financial health, is the foundation for WSB’s offering. SYNCHRO is the construction service of the Bentley Infrastructure Cloud leveraging digital twin technologies, powered by iTwin.

Together, Bentley and WSB are meeting the market where it is and providing the tools, training, education, and support required to make the digital leap. Project teams will realize the value of model-based digital delivery for better project efficiency and outcomes. Civil infrastructure owners and contractors will overcome barriers to technology adoption to drive efficiencies from preconstruction planning through construction execution. Skills will improve as more projects adopt model-based delivery, resulting in it becoming the common standard.

“Owners and construction firms realize that new digital workflows are needed to meet infrastructure demands, but they often face issues when determining how best to adopt technology,” said Rich Humphrey, vice president of construction with Bentley. “In civil infrastructure, they also face unique challenges related to the nature of the design information they receive, and the spatial logistics involved. Bentley with WSB is the perfect combination to enable project teams to resolve adoption hurdles and ensure that technology results in a step function improvement in the way projects are delivered from design through construction execution.”

About Bentley Systems

Bentley Systems (Nasdaq: BSY) is the infrastructure engineering software company. We provide innovative software to advance the world’s infrastructure – sustaining both the global economy and environment. Our industry-leading software solutions are used by professionals, and organizations of every size, for the design, construction, and operations of roads and bridges, rail and transit, water and wastewater, public works and utilities, buildings and campuses, mining, and industrial facilities. Our offerings, powered by the iTwin Platform for infrastructure digital twins, include MicroStation and Bentley Open applications for modeling and simulation, Seequent’s software for geoprofessionals, and Bentley Infrastructure Cloud encompassing ProjectWise for project delivery, SYNCHRO for construction management, and AssetWise for asset operations. Bentley Systems’ 5,000 colleagues generate annual revenues of more than $1 billion in 194 countries.

www.bentley.com

About WSB

WSB, a design and consulting firm providing engineering, planning, environmental and construction services. Its staff improves the way people engage with communities, transportation, infrastructure, energy and our environment. WSB offers services in more than 30-complementary areas to seamlessly integrate planning, design and implementation. Its coast-to-coast client base is served from 15 offices in five states. WSB’s staff is inspired to look beyond today and capitalize on the opportunities of tomorrow. Guided by a strong vision and an authentic passion, WSB is a company that strives to forge ahead. To learn more, visit wsbeng.com.

© 2023 Bentley Systems, Incorporated. Bentley, the Bentley logo, Bentley Infrastructure Cloud, AssetWise, iTwin, MicroStation, ProjectWise, Seequent, and SYNCHRO are either registered or unregistered trademarks or service marks of Bentley Systems, Incorporated or one of its direct or indirect wholly owned subsidiaries. All other brands and product names are trademarks of their respective owners.

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20230313005563/en/

Twin Ports Interchange

Twin Ports Interchange

January 12, 2023

By Chad DeMenge, Director of Contract Administration, WSB
Bryon Amo, Senior Engineering Specialist, WSB

Well-maintained, organized infrastructure is vital to safe travel and commerce, including the transportation of materials, goods, and people across the country. The Twin Ports Interchange in Northeastern Minnesota, which connects I-35, I-535, and Hwy 53, needed a significant upgrade to be viable and meet the modern needs of users.

The previous interchange was a series of intertwining and crossing bridges, roads, and traffic signals, serving as the main connection for goods and tourism through the city of Duluth. The original interchange was built between 1969 and 1972, and serves as a vital access point for the port of Duluth, one of the Great Lakes’ major ports.

Alternative Delivery Benefits

Delivered through a CMGC method, the contractor and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) were actively involved from the beginning of design and worked collaboratively to deliver this project. Active participation in early design allowed our team to gain an understanding of the history of the project and the impacts of the unique location and design.  

Engineering Ground Improvements

When the Interstate and interchange were originally built, the engineers were challenged by poor soils. The project area was formerly part of St. Louis Bay and had been filled by various industrial and railroad activities for over 100 years. The solution was to build the highway on low-level bridges on piers, allowing the highway to be supported on piling. The piling was nearing the end of its lifecycle and showed signs of corrosion. In addition, the open bridges between the bay and the neighborhood posed safety hazards, as pedestrians could freely travel under the highway, and through the highly active railyard.

To eliminate the low-level bridges, streamline maintenance costs, and isolate the railyard from the neighborhood, the team chose to build the roadway directly on the ground through the area, using the placement of grouted column ground improvements. The geotechnical team mapped the entire area, determining depths and spacing for over 8,000 ground improvement columns to support the new roadway embankment.

Combining Creeks

Miller Creek and Coffee Creek are two designated trout streams that crossed under the Interstate and ran under city streets. To provide a more suitable habitat for fish and other wildlife, the two creeks were opened and combined into one. Eliminating one entire crossing under the highway saved millions in construction and future maintenance costs.

Relocating Rail Lines

To accommodate construction staging throughout the project, the three-rail lines entering the railyard needed to be relocated three times. Due to the proximity of the bridges and new roadway to the railyard, the collective project partners including owner, contractor, engineer, and the railway worked together to maintain up to ten active rail crossings at a time.

Mitigating Contamination

The surrounding area is rich in industrial history that caused contamination in the soil and groundwater. To pre-treat all the groundwater before it’s discharged to the local wastewater treatment plant, the contractor built a water treatment center. Making these improvements and mitigating contamination allows the project to meet current Pollution Control Agency and Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Construction innovation for the future.

The project’s new design began in early 2019. When complete, the project will not only increase safety, but will allow operations in, out, and around the interchange to run more seamlessly for the interchange’s 80,000 daily users. The new interchange will be able to support the oversize and overweight loads coming in and out of the port. Construction of the Twin Ports Interchange is expected to be completed in 2025.

WSB Services Provided:

  • Constructability Reviews
  • Independent Cost Estimating during Design
  • Construction Oversight and Inspection
  • Contract Administration
  • Change Management
  • Material Testing Services during Construction
Construction Industry

Construction Industry Volatility and Rising Prices: Avoid Frustration & Achieve Success

October 14, 2022
By Christopher Kester, Sr Estimator, WSB

Economic instability, rising inflation, and labor and supply chain issues have created price fluctuations and instability in the construction industry. Simply put, costs and supply availability are harder to predict, adding undue complications to those planning and executing construction projects. 

Every project, every client, and every contractor is different, but many are facing similar challenges. While there are no quick and easy solutions to completely predict and overcome rising costs and swift market changes, there are some things to consider that can help mitigate risk and help you overcome obstacles. 

  1. Consider alternate materials. Material acquisition is more difficult than ever as our industry feels the squeeze of supply chain shortages. It can be difficult for suppliers to provide certain building materials to contractors at certain times, and short summer construction seasons in colder climates can squeeze supplies even more. This then causes problems for owners who don’t have a backup material they would like to use for their project. When preferred materials aren’t available, have a contingency plan and substitute building materials where possible. Clear communication between contractors and owners about which substitute materials should be used is an important part of the design process.
  1. Plan ahead. It is important to plan out projects ahead of time as much as possible and stick to your timeline. Right now, suppliers are having difficulty putting materials on hold for clients. Planning ahead and coordinating with suppliers on timing of materials can make a huge difference.
  1. Be flexible and work in stages. As the road construction season comes to an end in northern states, many suppliers are out of high-demand materials, meaning a good number of projects will have to be put on the waiting list as supplies come in. If you can delay certain parts of a project and work on others to keep a project on schedule, this can help overcome temporary roadblocks. Completing the project in increments also gives the construction team enough time to complete the tasks and gives the contractor and owner time to coordinate material acquisition.
  1. Understand risk and how developers predict cost. Trying to predict project costs has become more difficult, from the price of materials to the cost of labor, and everyone is working to keep their financial risk at a minimum. Often, there is a sizable imbalance between the price it takes a contractor to complete a project and the price the contractor bids for the work. Dramatic price fluctuations have caused a great deal of frustration for owners who are confused as to why a project might be so expensive compared to the price of the same project a few months earlier. Different types of projects like design-build and construction management/general contractor, for example, come with different amounts of risk, so it’s important to think through what works best for your project. 

While there’s no crystal ball in the construction industry, common sense planning and following these tips can help mitigate risk, provide confidence to all parties involved, and set your project up for success. 

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

Tips for Safely Maneuvering Construction this Summer

By Jason Daugherty, Director of Safety and Risk Services, WSB

Between the increased number of travelers and the many road construction projects underway this summer, this time of year is one of the most dangerous times to be on the roads. According to the United States Department of Transportation, there were over five million crashes in 2020 alone and as the country moves into a post-pandemic landscape, that number is anticipated to increase.

As a Director of Safety and Risk Services at WSB, it’s my job to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep drivers, passengers and road crews safe when moving through a zone where our surveyors and engineers are working, ensuring everything from signage and lights to proper barricading is in order. There are plenty of steps drivers can take to ensure the safety of those around you as you hit the road for summer travel.

Make sure your vehicle can go the distance.

Swimsuit? Check. Sunscreen? Double check. You may have nailed your packing list, but your vehicle needs just as much attention. Make sure your tire pressure and tread are up to par, and that your spare tire is looking good too. Don’t forget to keep a break-down/emergency kit handy as well. This includes a jack and tools for any flats or blow outs that may occur.

Plan ahead.

Knowing whether there is road construction on your route is important. Check with your local Department of Transportation or city website for project updates, detours and road closures in your travel area.

Stay alert.

Don’t count on coffee to keep you vigilant while driving. You may be itching to get to your destination, but make sure you take regular breaks and get at least eight hours of sleep before hitting the road.

Adjust your speed.

Speed is the number one cause of accidents and fatalities in construction zones. Move over for parked emergency or maintenance vehicles, and slow down to 20-miles-per-hour when passing.

Practice defensive driving.

It may take a bit of a driver’s ed refresh, but defensive driving is key. Accidents in construction zones are often a result of drivers having little or no reaction time, leading to rear-end collisions. Avoid distractions, cell phones, passengers, or anything that is taking your attention away from the road. Allow plenty of stopping distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, a minimum of two car lengths.

Do NOT drive impaired.

It seems obvious but driving while under the influence is a leading cause of death in construction zones, second only to speed. If you choose to indulge, be sure to have a designated driver.

As we all look forward to summer travel, keep these tips in mind. This simple list could be the difference between getting to your destination safely, and not getting there at all.

Jason Daugherty is the Director of Safety and Risk Services at WSB and has been a safety specialist and safety manager for over 20 years in construction, pipeline, aviation, DOT, environmental, and incident/accident investigation. Jason served as the emergency response officer/safety specialist for the State of New Mexico responding to, supervising, investigation and remediating incidents related to Occupational Safety and Health.

[email protected] | 612.352.8455

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

Construction Health & Safety Compliance

Supply Chain Woes and Construction Projects: Thinking Creatively to Overcome Barriers & Adjust

By Michael Rief, Sr Vice President of Construction, WSB

The supply chain is tightly integrated, and when one part of the supply chain faces issues, it can have a domino effect. For those working in construction, supply chain problems have caused project delays, a long wait for and lack of key materials, and frustration over the past year. Unfortunately, it shows no signs of improving in 2022.

With a shortage of labor, shipping delays, and trouble getting materials, we should prepare for our recovery to take longer than many people anticipated. As our industry continues to tackle supply chain problems, there are things construction teams can do to anticipate, innovate, and adapt to the current situation.

Be Flexible Where You Can

Flexibility is key to adapting to supply chain uncertainties. While many contracts require specific materials, if clients and contractors can build some flexibility into the contract to use alternative materials, it’s more likely that a project will be completed on time or without significant delays.

For example, some of WSB’s transportation contracts require a certain kind of seed mix, but those seed mixes may not be available for many months or at all into the foreseeable future. Allowing a substitution that is available and still meets the needs of the project allows us to finish the job sooner and more efficiently.

Consider Buying Hard to Procure Items Sooner

This applies to both construction teams and clients.

If municipalities are planning a project where they know they will need to procure certain items that may be hard to come by, doing so early and paying to store it may be more efficient in the long run and ensure your project won’t face unnecessary delays. Similarly, some contractors are procuring high-risk items and pre-purchasing material for clients, working in storage cost to help prevent delays.

Additionally, as more contractors buy materials in advance, they sometimes find they need to move materials around to different projects that face more critical needs or that have tighter timelines. Being flexible when possible can benefit both contractors and clients.

Manage Risk

With every project, it’s important to manage risk. If cities or contractors purchase hard to procure materials in advance or in bulk, and then find the value goes down in a year, they could be stuck paying to store a material that is worth less than what they paid for it. Each will have to make decisions that work best for their needs and anticipated projects.

Furthermore, building risk management into contracts can be helpful. Whether it’s procurement of materials or more flexibility on timing of projects, thoughtful contract terms can help both cities and contractors, mitigating some risk.

A great example of mitigated risk in many current construction contracts is a provision for fuel cost escalation. If the cost of fuel goes up significantly after a contract is signed, a client may pay more to cover fuel costs. Similarly, if it goes down significantly after a contract is signed, a client may recoup some of those savings. Thinking about how contracts can offer more flexibility in ways that adjust to supply chain and labor issues is something that could offer substantial benefit to all parties.

Since supply chain issues, labor shortages, shipping slowdowns, and numerous other factors are expected to continue creating challenges for the construction industry over the next year, innovation, flexibility, and adaptability can help keep projects moving forward for clients and contractors.

Michael Rief

Mike has nearly 30 years of experience in civil engineering, with an emphasis on pavements and materials, pavement management, quality management, project management, design, risk assessment, project controls, contract administration, construction, preventive maintenance, planning, education, and technical team supervision. Mike has managed several complex, high-profile projects throughout Minnesota.

[email protected] | 612.518.829

Improve Project Outcomes Using an Owner’s Representative

By Bob Barth, Director of Land Development, WSB

From inception to completion of a project, having an expert walk alongside you can make all the difference. An owner’s representative, often seen as a significant value in private sector projects, can and should be used for public projects to add value as well.

What is an Owner’s Representative?

An owner’s representative is essentially the eyes and ears of a project – representing the owner, investor, or developer throughout a project. A deep understanding of the overall goals of the project, as well as having an in-depth knowledge of engineering and construction, means this person is an advocate and champion that can ensure a project goes according to plan, while helping to mitigate risk.  

Given the proven value of the service, it is curious that public sector vertical construction has traditionally underutilized the owner’s representative in favor of project leadership from the lead architect or general contractor. So why should the public sector use an owner’s representative?

They help keep projects on track and on budget.

The more expensive the project, the more the architect and contractor get paid. Though obvious, this fundamental conflict creates competing incentives for both the architect and contractor. The owner representative’s compensation, in contrast, is often determined by the original project budget and does not subsequently increase or decrease as the project budget increases or decreases. Their job is to act on behalf of the owner, keep the budget on track, and represent the overall financial interests of the project.

Owner’s representatives see the big picture.

Public project financing is very different from private project funding. Public sector projects are often financed through bonding, and operating budgets serve as a proxy for revenues. Cost needs to be managed throughout a project’s duration, as do relationships. An effective owner’s representative does this.

Additionally, the project schedule is more complex than the design schedule kept by the architect, or the construction schedule managed by the contractor. The project schedule includes time building stakeholder consensus, conducting preliminary environmental and property investigations, aligning financing, and developing project parameters. These activities often precede the architect’s involvement and need to be managed by someone with a wider perspective on the project – the owner’s representative. The project schedule also includes post-construction activities such as commissioning, grant close-out, sustainability certification, occupancy, and logistics. These are not activities contractors can effectively manage but, rather, activities that the owner’s representative expects to manage.

They simplify decision-making and mitigate risk.

Finally, well-structured projects allow the owner’s representative to lead in all aspects of a project, empowering them to make decisions over contractors, architects, and other consultants. Effective owner’s representatives also build consensus among teams and stakeholders. All of this brings critical leadership and certainty to projects.

When unexpected change orders, cost overruns, unforeseen environmental and property issues, or other problems arise, a good owner’s representative help manage and mitigate risk. 

In summary, owner’s representatives bring expertise, leadership, and credibility projects. Given their value, they should be utilized in more public projects.

Bob has over 20-years of experience providing technical and management support to public and private clients. In addition to leading our Land Development Group, Bob is also responsible for our Commercial Market Sector, delivering a wide-range of services to industrial, institutional, property management, and construction clients.

[email protected] | 763.231.4876

Construction projects: 5 ways a Constructability Review improves success

By Paul Kyle, Project Engineer, WSB

Construction projects are complicated and include many moving parts. One way to help assure a project’s success, is to engage in a constructability review early in the design phase of a project to make sure all those moving parts are working together as efficiently as possible. These reviews give a second set of eyes to examine your project’s plans and specifications to address areas of risk, identify areas for cost savings, and reduce claims during construction with minimal additional cost or turnaround time. Having an experienced professional provide independent review and suggestions from the viewpoint of a contractor bidding on the project can result in more bidders, better and more competitive pricing, as well as a high-quality and less risky bidding and construction experience.

However, constructability reviews can often become superficial and ineffective due to a lack of understanding of the process, improper implementation, and limited resources. By better understanding the process, the odds of success increase. Below is a list of 5 ways a constructability review can impact a project.

Knowledge of Construction Means and Methods

Effective constructability reviews begin with an in-depth evaluation using knowledge of standard construction methods, materials, and techniques so a project can be analyzed from a construction or field standpoint. Reviewing a project from this perspective evaluates things like the equipment needed to complete the work, environmental or spatial constraints, and installation procedures for the materials being used. Considering these items results in fewer issues during construction and fewer changes in scope.

Understanding of Contract Documents, Specifications, and Special Provisions

Providing a constructable project with transparent and well-defined expectations in the plans and specifications increases the likelihood of more potential bidders on the contract. Clarity in these project documents and specifications supports a clear approach to the project allowing contractors to provide more competitive and accurate bids.

Discipline-Specific Expertise and Resources

Discipline-specific knowledge and resources eliminate the potential for missed or overlooked details resulting in delays or open-ended contract requirements. Expert understanding of specific materials, practices, and specifications leads to an efficiently planned construction project that will stand the test of time.

Understanding of Contractor Scheduling and Bid Methods

Understanding contractor production rates and bid methods reduces the risk of project delays, missed completion dates, and uncertainty in bidding. Knowing how to accurately predict the contractor’s approach, sequencing of work, and bid methods will result in reduction of claims, change orders, and non-competitive or high bidding. Thus, increasing the overall likelihood of an on-time and on-budget completion of the project.

Delivering Intended Project Scope

The goals and purpose of a project often have significant influence over the design process but can sometimes be lost in the transition between design and construction. Incorporating construction specific personnel into the design process ensures the project’s original objectives are integrated into the plans and maintained during construction.

Paul has nine years of experience in construction services and is MnDOT certified in several disciplines. His expertise includes project management, quality engineer, project design, construction inspection, contract administration, record documentation, and materials testing. Paul’s experience as a contract administrator and quality assurance make him a valuable asset to any project.

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