Billions Flowing to Miami-Dade

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Billions Flowing to Miami-Dade

Issue 1 of 2015


If there’s any region today that consistently generates enthusiasm from the water/wastewater design-build community, it’s Miami-Dade County. Since the 1920s, Miami, Fla., has seen remarkable growth, to the point that winter visitors felt the city changed so much from one year to the next, it was like magic. Miami is now nicknamed The Magic City, and its growth still hasn’t slowed down. To meet this demand, Miami-Dade has announced a massive Capital Improvement Projects budget of $13.5 billion over the next 15-20 years. “I believe the excitement from the water/wastewater design-build community comes with the magnitude of our budget and the manner in which we are going to execute these projects,” says Juan-Carlos Arteaga, AIA, NCARB, APA, CGC, CBO, LEED® AP. Arteaga is the Deputy Director of the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (MD-WASD, and is charged with managing capital improvements and regulatory compliance for the department.


Learning to Use Design-Build

MD-WASD didn’t engage in their first design-build project until 2004. There were two design-build contracts for a combined construction cost of $11 million to install a 54-inch force main in the public right- of-ways and also within county property at Opa-Locka Executive Airport. However, the department didn’t procure design-build services in the best way. “The department decided to select the lead constructor and the lead designer from a pre-qualified pool of engineers and contractors rather than advertising a solicitation for design-build services,” Arteaga explained. “In essence, the department forced an association of two firms to resemble a design-builder. Equally critical during the construction phase, our engineering and construction management staff directed both design-builders to take certain actions that ultimately resulted in excusable contractor’s claims for time delays and associated costs. The department begrudgingly paid those claims, but that experience led to an overall reluctance and unwillingness for implementing design-build projects.”

It wasn’t until 2008 that the department consistently embarked in a serious cultural adjustment to successfully procure and administer design-build projects. MD-WASD selected AECOM (a DBIA Industry Partner member) to prepare the design-criteria package for a high-profile project. The project, known as “Replacement of a 54-inch force main and a 20-inch water main in Government Cut Channel,” was properly administered, and completed on time and under the budgeted amount. Since that successful project, MD-WASD has successfully completed three design-build projects, with two projects under construction, three projects under the procurement process and seven projects getting ready for advertisement.

Arteaga explained that, “since 2009, the department has increased the total number of design-build projects from zero to 15, for a total construction cost of approximately $400 million. Demonstrating active staff participation from MD-WASD, the design criteria package for seven of the 15 design-build projects were prepared by in-house staff.”

The main design-build best practice MD-WASD employs is the two-step selection process. The department shortlists firms based on qualifications and experience before asking for detailed proposals. “Shortlisting serves to reduce industry costs in responding to requests for design-build proposals to encourage the most qualified design-builders to participate by increasing their chances of success and to reduce the cost to the agency of reviewing the proposals,” Arteaga said.

Then the department asks the shortlisted firms for technical and price proposals with the opportunity to present alternative technical concepts. At that point, the contract is awarded on a best-value selection. “Placing sufficient commitment and effort toward planning critical procurement steps will maximize the potential for delivering a facility that meets the owner’s need,” Arteaga argues.

The first three big projects using design-build procurement were the Government Cut Pipeline Relocation ($72 million), the Co-Generation Facility at South District Wastewater Treatment Plant ($21 million) and the Key Biscayne Bridges Rehabilitation ($3 million). The main drivers to use the design-build delivery method for these projects were schedule constraints, project complexity and the desire to have a single point of responsibility.

Arteaga also emphasized MD-WASD’s role in benefitting the local community. “Careful consideration is given in order to ensure that, besides satisfying the budgetary and scheduling requirements, we are spreading the work around in order to benefit all small, disadvantaged, minority, medium-size and also large sized companies so they all have the opportunity to participate in the rebuilding and refurbishment of our old failing infrastructure.”

In addition, MD-WASD issued an expression of interest to the private sector aimed to gauge the areas of interest and capabilities of the private sector to begin the public-private relationship and partnership. “The level of responses was extraordinary,” Arteaga said. “We received 32 official responses indicating the sector and area where these firms are interested in partnering with us. The private sector showed a particular interest in water and wastewater treatment plants, pump stations, bio-solid initiatives, automatic meter reading, and energy conservation.” Design-build is an inherent part of Public-Private Partnerships (P3s), which are increasing in popularity nationwide.


Going Forward

While Miami’s Capital Improvement Projects budget is larger than other areas of the country, both Juan-Carlos Arteaga and John Giachino see what’s going on in Miami as an example for other municipalities. “What Miami-Dade is doing really well,” Giachino said, “is seeking out design-build education and putting the principles of Design-Build Done Right to use in the field. If we can get more municipalities to seek out design-build training, the difference in project success rates will be very obvious.”

Arteaga says, “I strongly believe in the motto ‘plan the work and then work the plan.’ We want to make sure we leave the future generations a solid, vibrant community able to be an economic engine for the region. We will be pleased to share lessons learned as we develop and implement our Capital Improvement Projects.”