As construction projects at wastewater treatment plants near completion, everyone involved usually has a bit of fatigue. The delivery team has been on-site for months, the facility staff are tired of configuration changes to their operation and a slew of additional people walking around their plant, and subcontractors want to close out their scopes. At the end of the day, everyone just wants to get to final completion as fast as possible. It’s not an overstatement to say this stage is the most critical of the entire project.
At this point in the project, all the individual parts that have been built, installed, commissioned, and started up must now function together in a system as they were designed. Given the complexity of starting complete systems and given everyone’s fatigue at this stage, there is a huge margin for error. At Energy Systems Group (ESG), it has been our team’s experience that the last 5% of the project requires at least 20% of the effort.
The additional effort ensures that all the interrelated complex systems are working together as required. From the beginning of the treatment process to the final effluent discharge, there can be several interrelated systems that make the treatment process possible. When additional components are added to the process like co-digestion, thermal drying, and additional nutrient removal, the stakes are that much higher. When connecting a wastewater plant’s excess treatment capacity to the entire system of surrounding conveyance and related service areas, finding solutions that integrate all the treatment systems and the ancillary commercial components into one system is paramount.
The phrase “Stand, Walk, Run” describes ESG’s approach with owners at the end of every wastewater project. Stand, Walk, Run is an approach that ensures an owner’s project isn’t just complete in terms of the features installed, but that final completion occurs only when those features are working together properly as a system and the owner feels comfortable with the new configuration. While it’s a simple concept, it requires a significant amount of prior experience from the lead firm, as well as forethought, detailed planning, peer review, constant communication, flexibility, and a high level of discipline to execute.
All the designed infrastructure must be built, installed, commissioned, started up, and tested. It is important to remember that a lot of the time this is all new to the owner. There needs to be detailed training ahead of time, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience—and you should stay with the owner throughout the entire process. At this point you are leading the process, answering questions, and giving advice. You have “stood up” the infrastructure.
Everything is running and the system is performing as expected. Any teething issues have been resolved. At this point the owner is getting more comfortable with the new processes and now takes the lead, but you still advise and answer questions. The infrastructure is now running, and you are “walking” with the owner.
All systems are designed to perform in a certain band of technical requirements. You have ideas about what you would do, but at the end of the day the owner decides how much of their capacity they would like to use. The infrastructure is humming along and everyone is comfortable with the process and understands how to manipulate the system. The owner decides how fast they want to run and how much involvement they want from you. When the owner feels comfortable, you can gradually reduce your involvement.
While Stand, Walk, Run may seem like a natural way to handle the final stage of wastewater construction, it is not the norm across the industry. Using this approach, the result can be a true collaborative delivery experience.