Collaboration, innovation, and inclusion are key to the success of big design-build projects. Implementing such measures in the early phases of a project helps ensure overall project success and should be a guiding principle on all large design-build projects. Moreover, a commitment to transparent, collaborative, and inclusive project delivery fosters a culture of communication and cooperation that yields the best overall project results.

This approach focuses on partnering early in the design process with design, construction, and O&M staff; stakeholders; permitting agencies; and the owner. Engineers, constructors, cost estimators, schedulers, and O&M leads should all be involved throughout the design phase to identify challenges, provide alternative solutions, and detail their impacts and benefits. This collaboration expands to include the owner with design workshops and progress meetings.

Taking an inclusion-focused approach to the collaboration provides maximum benefits to the project’s end results. An inclusion-oriented team ensures that a broader set of contributors are involved, each with valuable perspectives and experiences. Getting everyone involved, and involved early, ensures that the decision making is comprehensive and effective and delivers an optimal project result for all stakeholders.

From this collaborative and inclusive process to design-build projects, innovation can therefore thrive. One example where this approach is being used is for the City of Houston’s Northeast Water Purification Plant (NEWPP) expansion project. The project will increase the capacity of the existing facility from 80 mgd to 400 mgd (by 2024), dramatically increasing its ability to support steady residential and commercial growth while reducing the region’s dependency on groundwater.

The collaborative approach used for NEWPP ensures quick decisions, a buy-in by all, and also fosters innovative ideas such as a novel bromate control solution, ozone disinfection, manganese oxidation, biologically activated filtration, rapid mixing that addresses rapidly changing water quality, a cost-saving flocculation/clarification process, and many more. In this transparent, collaborative, and inclusive environment, the project’s experts constantly trade ideas, look for ways to improve the design, make the project safer, and assess the effects of design changes on the project’s cost and schedule. By working in this way, all the benefits of a design-build project can be realized to make the City’s vision a reality.