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FMI Quarterly/December 2013/December 1, 2013

Partnering for Profitability: FMI’s Best Partnered Projects

workingplans18_imageSince the design and construction industry embraced the partnering concept almost 25 years ago, the partnering focus has evolved. While partnering certainly helped enhance collaboration among all stakeholders in the 1990s, the emphasis in the last decade has been more toward high-performing teams that are taking on much larger projects involving even more complex schedules, tighter budgets and evolving technical challenges. The growth in use of collaborative tools, such as BIM and LEAN principles, along with increased use of colocation of the parties, has further fueled the metamorphosis of partnering.

During this period, FMI has had the opportunity to work with more than 1,000 projects across a number of industry sectors. While there were many fine projects along the way, and we risk not mentioning some that may warrant attention, the following are projects that stand out and represent a mix of those from the early days of partnering to more recent applications. In addition to staying true to the partnering principles of accountability, consistency and total team involvement, those mentioned also had one or more of the following:

  • Outstanding results in one or more of the key goal areas of safety, quality, budget and schedule
  • Innovative implementation of the partnering process
  • Innovative technical approaches to the project that helped deliver the results
  • High levels of trust and morale among the parties — keeping the handshake in the business
  • Achieving a greater good or impact to the industry/community beyond the immediate project

These projects had their own unique set of challenges and circumstances and are listed alphabetically:

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Calif.
($117 million, completed in 1998)
Team: Kajima International, HOK/EHD&D, Turner/Kajima
Project Delivery Method: CM/GC – CMAR

To achieve the overall goal of a world-class opening, this team diverted from what was the “normal” practice of partnering at the time (where sessions were periodically held off-site in hotel rooms) and instead held all activities on the jobsite. Monthly and bimonthly meetings of project leaders and off-site executives drove accountability for team goals and aligned schedule expectations between the construction team and the aquarium staff, as it was essential to align the “species collection” time frames of the aquarium with the delivery of the tanks from the construction team.

Long before integrated project delivery (IPD) became an industry catchphrase, project leaders involved the aquarium staff, subcontractors and field team on what was important to the client: Early delivery and turnover of the tanks. Project leaders then graphically displayed achievement of the tank milestones at the jobsite entrance. Savings generated from value engineering ideas were reinvested into the state-of-the-art surge systems. This team achieved a high morale and results-oriented atmosphere through a number of activities, including mini-sessions between the aquarium staff and subcontractors, an innovative “Craftsman of the Month” peer recognition technique where subcontractor crews voted for an individual from another trade, and numerous social events. A world-class opening was achieved!

Broad Run Water Reclamation Facility, Loudon County, Va.
($180 million, completed in 2008)
Team: Loudon County Sanitation Authority, CH2M Hill, Black & Veatch, Hill International, Pizzagalli, Frucon
Project Delivery Method: Design-Bid-Build

This team’s objective from the outset was to find a better way to get projects done for all parties and thereby create a model for the mid-Atlantic region and the industry. Partnering was the vehicle for this. The activities used on this multiple-contract program included quarterly executive sessions with each contractor, interim staff-level surveys and ongoing fact-based decision-making (FBDM) as part of the issue resolution process. Two years before project completion, an additional “all-projects, all-hands” session, attended by all supervisory personnel from all projects, focused on commissioning and start-up. The overall comprehensive partnering effort involved a total of 31 sessions and 24 team evaluations during three and a half years.

The results included a safety rate of less than 2.0 OSHA Recordable Incidents, compared to the industry benchmark of 6.9. The Pizzagalli projects completed with zero lost workday incidents in more than 1,000 days and won the company’s “Safety Project of the Year” in 2006. Loudoun Water met its new discharge goal by discharging treated effluent and then meeting all permit parameters since June 2008. The change order experience of less than 3% on the program was less than 50% of the industry average. This project demonstrated a better way to get projects done.

Interstate 81, Harrisburg, Penn.
($59 million, completed in 1995)
Team: Pennsylvania DOT, Urban Engineers, Lane Construction
Project Delivery Method: Design-Bid-Build

The need for the 19-mile reconstruction of this highway north of Harrisburg, Penn., was confirmed by readers of Overdrive magazine in 1993, which ranked this section of I-81 as the seventh-worst road in the United States. A phased approach to partnering was used with a kickoff session and workshops held in February of each year, just before construction was started up in the spring. To ensure accountability to the process, action items from the partnering sessions were placed on the agenda of monthly progress meetings, weekly project leader meetings and quarterly executive meetings. Ongoing morale-enhancing social activities were held throughout the project.

The project finished six months ahead of the original three-year schedule. A change in the temporary pavement design resulted in a $1 million savings to the public. This savings helped fund 24-hour police presence during construction to bring under control inattentive drivers who ignored posted construction zone speed limits. Additional safety elements included more warning signs, raised pavement markers, rumble strips, flashing message boards and “drone radar” to set off radar detectors. The upgrades to construction work-zone management by this team ultimately helped improve safety for Pennsylvania motorists on all Commonwealth construction projects on interstate and primary roads.

LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal Improvement Project, Los Angeles, Calif.
($575 million, completed in 2010)
Team: Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), Parsons Transportation, Leo Daly, Clark-McCarthy Joint Venture
Project Delivery Method: Design-Bid-Build

This team’s challenge was to complete the upgrade of close to 1 million square feet of occupied space in a phased delivery, while ensuring 10 million passengers a year could safely and efficiently move through the terminal. In the post 9/11 era, this included replacing three miles of baggage handling systems and the mechanical, electrical, IT and building management systems without shutting down the terminal. The partnering process included a combination of executive-level sessions among all parties, including subcontractors, large “all-hands” management group sessions, staff evaluations and special discipline sessions to improve change and schedule processes.

The project was broken down into different elements, and leaders of each element generated “hot-issues” lists for a weekly meeting. The team adopted the term “microphasing” to describe the problem-solving and resulting collaborative work plans to address the hot issues. At the conclusion of the project, a special partnering session was held that generated lessons learned that LAWA and other parties could take to future projects at LAX and other airports. In the process, the team supported 3,000 disruption notices and 50 major system temporary shutdowns, while incorporating the latest security features into the terminal in support of TSA mandates. This is what we call an “on-time arrival.”

Main Runway Replacement, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
($107 million, completed in 2008)
Team: Army COE, Air Force, CH2M Hill – Interstate Highway Construction Joint Venture
Project Delivery Method: Design-Build

This team’s challenge was to replace one of the world’s longest runways while maintaining operational access in time to support not only the ongoing operations at Edwards Air Force Base, but also a high priority space shuttle mission and then subsequent landings during the last several years of NASA’s space shuttle program. This storied runway played a significant role in the development of virtually every aircraft to enter the Air Force inventory since World War II and from which test pilots expanded the frontiers of atmospheric flight. The team first built a temporary alternate asphalt runway and then rebuilt the 16,000-foot long, 300-foot wide main concrete runway. Partnering steps included a well-thought-out project charter that addressed key objectives, quarterly executive sessions attended by multiple users of the runway, and adherence to an issue-resolution structure that facilitated rapid communication and decision-making.

The team overcame a 26% escalation in the price of cement and steel between the time the project was sent to Congress for approval and award of the design-build contract. Design-build interaction between the joint venture and the USAF resulted in optimizing the airfield pavement structure and logistics hurdles, resulting in the project team, in effect, generating 14% more money than was originally granted and allowing scope betterments for Edwards AFB, a national asset. When the main runway opened on September 30, 2008, the team had beaten the aggressive 800-day schedule by 90 days, while concurrently supporting more than 15,000 aircraft movements and operations and working more than 420,000 hours with zero lost-time incidents. Along the way, this team became a model for the role of people over process and partnering among the Owner/Stakeholders/contractor.

Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Upgrade 35 Project, Brooklyn, N.Y.
($700 million, completed in 2009)
Team: New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Greeley & Hansen, Hazen & Sawyer/Malcolm Pirnie, Skanska, Skanska-John Picone-James McCullagh Plumbing-Perini
Project Delivery Method: Design-Bid-Build

The New York City DEP’s formal partnering paid huge dividends. On this piece of the overall $3 billion program upgrade to New York City’s largest wastewater treatment plant, this team originally was going to build just the new north battery and reconstruct half of the central battery. When sheeting issues arose on another contract that created potential delays to the project and the program, the team resequenced activities to meet the DEP’s consent decree — all on a handshake to keep the project moving. The partnering process included 1) quarterly executive sessions to manage the handshake while the paperwork was processed and 2) interim project staff level team surveys to solicit additional input from those on the ground. A $210 million change order, which added work from a future contract to complete the central battery, benefited the overall program schedule. This team completed the original contract and the change order work one year ahead of schedule while maintaining the best safety program on-site, which was an even bigger boost to the success of the overall building program.

New Jersey Transit (NJT) Newark Light Rail Extension, N.J.
($207 million, completed in 2008)
Team: New Jersey Transit, DMJM-Harris/STV, BRW/Parsons Brinkerhoff, Conti Enterprises
Project Delivery Method: Design-Bid-Build

This light-rail extension of Newark’s subway enables passengers coming from NJT’s suburban lines to reach Newark Penn Station within a few minutes. The line was constructed in a complex urban environment, including additional construction activities of power, rail installation and relocation of utility systems, six new stations, 850 feet of subterranean work and an 800-foot stretch of “floating” slab versus traditional grade slab to dampen vibrations of light-rail cars that may rattle users of the nearby Performing Arts Center. Accountability was achieved by having an ongoing series of partnering activities requiring all parties to account for the various actions needed by each, including kickoff sessions, quarterly follow-up sessions, team evaluations and a special session focused on acceptance and closeout.

The project came in on time, despite the intensive nature of utility relocation, and kept the final project budget within range of NJT’s expected value with carefully thought out value-engineering proposals. Additionally, an intensive outreach program kept the community and office-building managers informed of upcoming construction activities and included coordination with the local baseball team (Newark Bears) and Newark police for security purposes. RFI and submittal processes significantly improved, and administratively the project completed months ahead of the norm.

Safe and Sound Bridge Program, Missouri
($487 million, completed in 2012)
Team: Missouri DOT, Kiewit-Traylor-United-HNTB-LPA
Project Delivery Method: Design-Build

The Missouri DOT’s answer to the well-documented aging infrastructure problem in this country was to develop an innovative, first-of-kind program using design-build to replace 554 rural bridges across the state with an original schedule of  five and a half years. A component of the partnering process included regular executive sessions where project leaders presented metrics status on a dozen team goals. This consistently reinforced the principle that “you do what you measure.” This team also maximized the value received from the use of two different partnering team evaluations that solicited input from MoDOT-KTU project staff and local Missouri subcontractors that did 85% of the work.

The results of the MoDOT-KTU surveys identified areas of improvement in the overall management of the program and addressed specific concerns. The subcontractor survey ran at the conclusion of each construction season, and the results were used during the winter downtime period to adjust/tweak the approach. This proved particularly important during the transition from the first construction season to the second construction season, when implementation of the majority of the lessons learned occurred. This set the stage for an immensely successful outcome to the project and an example of a unique use to a partnering tool in a unique project setting.

In addition to beating the MoDOT schedule by 24 months, two additional bridges were constructed for the same budget, and, most importantly, jobsite safety was enhanced across the state as subcontractors and MoDOT adopted KTU’s progressive safety practices, ensuring all workers arrived home “safe and sound.”

T-REX, Denver, Colo.
($1.7 billion, completed in 2006)
Team: Colorado DOT, Regional Transportation District, Carter-Burgess (Jacobs), Kiewit – Parsons Transportation
Project Delivery Method: Design-build

This massive $1.7 billion multimodal transportation project involved the reconstruction of Interstate 25 and I-225 for 17 miles and the addition of 19 miles of a new double-track, light-rail transit line, including 13 new stations, between the two major business districts of downtown Denver and the Denver Tech Center. Other aspects of the scope of this project included the reconstructing of seven interchanges, (including I-25/I-225), reconstructing or widening of 60 bridges and improving drainage (including 29 miles of pipe). All of this occurred while maintaining three lanes of traffic during daylight hours in each direction. While there were a number of factors behind the success of this project, including unprecedented agreements among local, state and federal agencies, an innovative procurement approach and well-thought-out staffing plans of all organizations involved, a key supporting element was the implementation of the most extensive and committed partnering effort ever undertaken for a project of this size and complexity. The process was implemented from the executive level through all task force discipline teams, including initial sessions and multiple sessions at the executive level and with a number of discipline teams, bimonthly and quarterly surveys for the duration of the project, and issue-resolution meetings on critical issues.

In addition to completing the project 22 months ahead of the original seven-year timetable, the light-rail segment was completed a month ahead of the proposed schedule, and more than $74 million in third-party enhancements were added to the scope without impact to the schedule. Additionally, the team achieved more than an 80% approval rating among residents and a 93% approval rating among commuters, the safety record was six times lower than OSHA’s incident rate for heavy-highway construction, and the project completed under the established base budget of $1.67 billion. The project then went on to win both the AGC Marvin M. Black Excellence Award in Partnering and the AGC Build America Grand Award.

U.S. Highway 75 S-2 Project, Dallas, Texas
($125 million, completed in 1998)
Team: Texas Department of Transportation, Granite Construction
Project Delivery: Design-Bid-Build

This project was a reconstruction of a heavily travelled 4.4-mile segment of U.S. Highway 75 in Dallas, known as the North Central Expressway. The existing four-lane freeway was replaced with a depressed, eight-lane freeway with cantilevered frontage roads. It involved the removal and construction of 1 million square feet of retaining walls as well as the installation of extensive underground utilities, irrigation and landscaping systems. To accomplish this in the 65-month schedule, the team used a combination of partnering and Total Quality Management (TQM), which had been explored within the industry during the mid-1990s and is based on similar principles to what is now known as LEAN. The focus recognized that a key to worker motivation is creating an environment where worker input is appreciated and recognized in a continuous effort to improve the way the project is built. The process involved a “central idea” team that met biweekly to review and provide feedback on ideas generated from all levels of the organization, including inspector and craft level, and then recognized the best ideas in front of the entire team on a quarterly basis. Ideas generated on the first 50% of the project that was reconstructed on one side of the highway were applied to the second half of the project being reconstructed on the other side and to the adjoining S-1 project, which the Granite team won as well.

This project completed nine months ahead of schedule while maintaining flow of 150,000 vehicles per day, avoiding up to $60 million in user delay costs. The project won the 1997 AASHTO Value Engineering Award, the 1998 Texas Quality Initiative Award for Teamwork, the 1999 National Quality Initiative Award and the 1999 AGC Marvin Black Award for Excellence in Partnering.

VA Healthcare System Building 1 Seismic Retrofit, San Diego, Calif.
($67 million, completed in 2008)
Team: Veterans’ Administration, Leo A. Daly, Clark Construction Group
Project Delivery Method: Design-Bid-Build

This six-story, 855,000 square-foot medical facility, originally constructed in the early 1970s, no longer satisfied appropriate seismic codes and was at risk for major damage in an earthquake. The project supported the uninterrupted operation of the facility so the VA could continue to serve the estimated 267,000 area veterans each year. The team used a multifaceted approach to partnering beyond the traditional kickoff session, including quarterly staff-level evaluations, a midpoint session where all goals were rated and analyzed as a way to propel momentum for the last year of the 30-month schedule, and a lessons learned session with subcontractors at project completion to transfer knowledge to future projects. VA San Diego, through this project, became the first actively functioning hospital to construct an exterior structural steel-braced frame for seismic support.

The job completed four months ahead of schedule with zero lost-time accidents. Additionally, during construction, the military medical community came under scrutiny after the discovery of substandard care and conditions at certain facilities, and this project was selected for a Continuous Readiness Inspection by the Joint Commission (JC). The JC inspected the hospital, and VA San Diego received full accreditation, becoming the only facility nationwide to have passed the JC process during a major construction project.

FMI tips its hat to these projects and all other projects that hold true to partnering principals, implementing the process in a proper fashion and producing exceptional results along the way.


Bill Spragins is a principal at FMI Corporation. He can be reached at 303.398.7211 or via email at bspragins@fminet.com.

 

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