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project a logical decision.
The fox-guarding-the-henhouse concern never arose because of the
smooth working relationship between the district and the firm, as
well as Carter & Burgess' experience and reputation on similar
projects in the region. "I never really had any reservations about
Carter & Burgess taking us from start to finish," Borden says.
In addition, Carter & Burgess, with a huge stake in the
project as the sole consultant, has an incentive to provide services
that go beyond the typical design and construction management
consultant's involvement in order to ensure that the project gets
built on schedule. For example, Carter & Burgess has provided
expertise in obtaining financing for the Fort Bend County project.
"They've been instrumental in trying to get money," Borden says.
"They -- along with a law firm we hired -- helped secure a $1 million
Providing specialized expertise
One situation that prompts some communities to choose TPM is a
need to build an unusually challenging project. TPM's advantage of
close coordination between design and construction teams is
especially desirable on difficult projects.
Such is the case with a wastewater treatment plant expansion in
Lake Jackson, Texas. With a population of 27,000, Lake Jackson has
two treatment facilities on the same site. The older facility is 40
years old, near the end of its useful life, and can no longer handle
its share of the city's wastewater stream.
The plan to replace the plant calls for the facility to be
demolished and a new one to be built at the same site. It's the
city's biggest, and most challenging public works project ever.
"It's an intricate expansion because the new plant will be built
in the exact same footprint as the old one," Nisbett says. That
boosts the design and construction challenges, he says, making the
TPM approach more attractive.
"We thought (TPM) would give us better quality management,"
Nisbett says, because the designers and construction managers would
"be on the same team." And good teamwork, while always desirable, is
essential on this project.
Interestingly, Lake Jackson didn't choose TPM until after the
feasibility study and preliminary design work were completed, points
out Sal Aguirre, Lake Jackson's City Engineer. The city interviewed a
few other firms to take on construction management, but ultimately
decided that the TPM arrangement with Carter & Burgess was the
best strategy for project management.
"I don't think that you need to decide upfront (to use TPM)," he
says. If a community has misgivings about TPM, it doesn't hurt to
investigate other options, he says.
After three projects, sold on TPM
Missouri City, a fast-growing Houston suburb in Fort Bend County,
chose TPM to build a four-lane road extension from downtown to a new
high school. This community, too, looked at other firms for the
construction management contract before choosing Carter &
Burgess, it's designer, for that task.
"We were glad that we did (choose one firm)," Dorger says. "When
you have your engineering and construction people on the same team,
the construction managers can get a good understanding early about
what the challenges will be in the field. Then your construction
manager will be better prepared for them."
Missouri City was pleased with how TPM worked on the road project
and is utilizing the method again on two wastewater treatment plant
projects totaling $16.1 million that are also being managed by Carter
& Burgess. One reason that city officials have such a high
comfort level with the one-consultant approach is that they have
assigned city employees to monitor daily activities on the job sites.
"We have our own inspectors and they are actually on the team with
the consultant," Dorger says. This arrangement would discourage a
consultant from trying to paint too rosy a picture if a project
bogged down. But, he adds, that's really not much of a concern
"If you hire the right people, and interview and analyze the team,
you can find out what their (management) philosophy is," he says.
"When you're comfortable with their approach, that can waylay a lot
of concerns." And, he emphasizes, cities can be a good source of
repeat business for design and construction management firms, so they
have plenty of incentive to make sure the project succeeds.
And from the consulting firm's perspective, TPM makes it easier to
provide better quality service and a better end product, says Wendell
"Buddy" Barnes, P.E., unit manager of Carter & Burgess' Houston
public works practice. When the design and construction management
functions are divided among two or more firms, "many times you end up
working with someone else's design and you may not be able to change
it," he says.
"When we do the design and the construction management, we ensure
a high quality design by performing constructability review
throughout the entire design process; then during construction our
construction manager can ensure that the contractor produces quality
work the way it was intended in the design."
All in all, the advantages of TPM seem to be winning more converts
to this method, especially in smaller cities. When it comes time to
invest millions of tax dollars in a major infrastructure project,
anything that increases the chances of success is welcome by city
officials. In many instances, TPM provides such an advantage.
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