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Choosing the Right EPC Partner

As the need for project customization grows, the engineering procurement construction (EPC) delivery method continues to provide innovative design and construction solutions that shape the future of projects like water and wastewater treatment, waste management and energy use. Clients can reap the rewards of expedited project schedules, simplified contracts, reduced claims and often large cost-savings. Because EPC approaches the design and construction of a project in an integrated manner, these projects require collaboration, originality, flexibility and most importantly, trust. To deliver these EPC advantages to a client, choosing the right partner is critical to project success.

The Partnership Life Cycle
Collaborative steps need to be taken from the project’s inception to ensure the client’s vision and goals are carried through to the end. An essential part of this process is building trust and verification processes between the client and all members of the EPC team. Several steps are taken throughout the project life cycle to ensure a successful partnership:

  • Partnering session: The partnering session kicks off the project. It is an opportunity for the EPC team to meet and confirm the client’s vision and commitment to the collaborative approach. “This is vital to the success of the project and builds trust and agreement on paths forward. It’s an opportunity for everyone to become familiar with personalities, identify the project goals, set milestones and agree upon project controls,” says Peter Stringer, CDM Smith senior project manager.
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  • Planning process: Next, the team establishes the project plan by defining the implementation program backward from the desired end goal. By starting from the end, the team is able to focus on the target and desired results, establish safety programs, set realistic schedule expectations, refine opportunities for fast-tracking where needed, and clearly establish project milestones, check mechanisms and communication protocols. The EPC team reviews the scope of work and any client expectations or constraints, the latter of which may be questioned and confirmed as unnecessary limitations. For example, the client may want engineers to use a distinct type of technology, limiting the ability to develop unique solutions. Because this constraint is discussed in advance, the team has the opportunity to investigate and present various approaches to the client that may save time and money, as well as eliminate the constraint.
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  • Preliminary design: After the planning process, the team begins work on the preliminary design and remains together throughout the project life cycle. Constructor team members play an integral role during the planning stages and throughout the design, providing support during each design phase, such as on-demand pricing, to keep the project on budget and allow for redesign elements if needed. Constructors can also recommend schedule sequencing of early release packages that aid in early project delivery.
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  • Design review sessions: The review sessions can take place over 2 to 3 days, allowing the team to work through the preliminary and detailed designs together with an integrated mind-set. Team members come prepared to review the project and provide data and suggestions on ways the client can save time and money by making adjustments to the design. Because the EPC delivery model is so flexible, the client can still make many changes without causing delays or wasting funds.
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  • Weekly design reviews: From design implementation to construction completion, weekly on-site reviews occur between the designers, contractors and client. These reviews ensure goals are being delivered and on-track. Goals will be different for all team members. Construction, for example, may have the goal to maintain an accident-free worksite, while the designer’s goal may be to deliver a project that fulfills all expectations. The client’s goal is often to stay on budget and schedule.

EPC is a flexible and unique project model that can deliver a variety of advantages and one-of-a-kind solutions to a client. To make the most of these advantages, the EPC partnership must be built on a foundation of trust and fluid communication.

Be Informed
Design-Build Institute of America is an association of leaders in the design and construction industry utilizing design-build and integrated project delivery methods to achieve high performance projects.

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