CEI in the Preliminary Engineering Phase (PART II)

If you recall last time (Part I) we discussed the benefits of involving CEI personnel in the PE phase by providing assistance to design Engineers. This is achieved through the interactive involvement of Construction staff with Design Engineers pre-advertisement.

The benefit to involving Construction personnel in the development stage is not restricted to only project knowledge. Construction personnel with the experience of working in the area and with Contractors and suppliers in the area, possess integral information regarding the ability to construct what is included in the contract documents. Crucial information such as concrete suppliers capacities and operating procedures, impacts from unrelated events such as adjacent construction projects or significant community events such as elections or annual celebrations, all impact the ability to construct a project in the timeframe and budget established and no other discipline has their finger on the pulse of these issues more than the Construction community.

“OK, you’ve made your case for inclusion of CN personnel in the development stage. So, when is the appropriate time to get CN personnel involved?” Once the project has a determined scope and preliminary design, initial contact should be made for a cursory review of the project. This serves two purposes; 1) it allows the CN staff to gain an understanding of the project and to continue day-to-day operations with the understanding that that project is in the pipeline and 2) it allows them to give input on the project itself to ensure that design personnel are not missing what could be a game changer later in the development stage.

The main point at which the CN staff should be involved in the project on a more consistent should be when the plans contain enough information to generate a “usable”, though preliminary, sequence of Construction concerning milestone activities and how they will be achieved. This should occur somewhere between the 30% and 60% plan stage and allows the Construction staff to get more involved with the project to piece together the required steps to achieve the desired result of the project. At this point that will look like big picture milestones, i.e. closures, traffic shifts, utility conflicts, detours, significant pours, construction of BMPs, etc. Once the contract documents surpass the 60% completion stage, Construction staff should be brought on for a constructability review that involves review of all documents, site visits, utility research, etc. This is the most important part of CEI involvement in the PE phase. Having been remotely involved to this point and kept in the loop through the development stage allows CN personnel to better understand the items that will be reviewed in detail at this time and to complete the review in an efficient manner.

While it is unreasonable to expect that any project can be built without some alterations to the work this should not be the excuse for not involving CN personnel in the PE phase. Every alteration that occurs on a project has the potential to derail an entire project. As an example, if the steel that is installed on a project is not “Buy-America” certified in accordance with FHWA requirements and is not able to be removed, there is a VERY real possibility that that project may lose ALL federal funding! Not funding that is only applicable to the items in question but ALL federal funding. While this error would typically be found in the field and through communications with the Contractor prior to arriving on site Construction personnel would review the documents to ensure that a requirement that will be fulfilled in the CN phase is clearly noted in the contract that will be agreed to by a Contractor. Random checks of quantities and measurements are all part of a thorough constructability (and biddability) review.

The last action to be taken by CN personnel during the PE phase is the completion of a biddability review. The biddability review is intended as a review of contact documents to catch items that would have a significantly detrimental impact to the project were they not remedied prior to advertisement. These items would be classified as so significant that advertising the project without remedial action would be to the immediate detriment of the project. Involvement of CEI personnel in the development stage is not a “requirement” for reimbursement at any level. Its only purpose is to provide the highest possibility of producing a successful project and in so doing protect the client from exposure to a claims scenario. The level of benefit to the project is directly related to the construction knowledge and experience of the staff performing those services. Through this heightened level of involvement from experienced CN personnel, we are attempting to reduce the number of occurrences that would result in an official change to the project. There will still be change necessary on projects (see “Change Happens”), but through the increased involvement of CN personnel, the potential of experiencing game-changing alterations to the work in the delivery stage is greatly reduced.

If your agency is looking to better understand the requirements of project delivery in the LAP program, we would consider it a privilege to conduct a lunch & learn session on topics of your choosing. If you are interested in advancing your program through a no-obligation training session, please contact Emily Ripka at 804.466.0455 (mobile) or eripka@nxl.com.

Written by Paul Moose, PE, Locality Program Manager