Two Projects, Two Locations, One Contract

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Two Projects, Two Locations, One Contract

Issue 1 of 2016

Pair of Water Treatment Plants Wins AECOM/ C.H. Nickerson Three Design-Build Awards

Winner of three National Design-Build Project/Team Awards, the Lawton Valley (in Portsmouth, R.I.) and Station No. 1 (in Newport, R.I.) Water Treatment Plants Design-Build Projects are stellar examples of the design-build process at its best. The delivery of these treatment plants embodies the best of design-build in both the pre-award and the design and construction phases. The projects – taken together – were large in scope, if not actual size, and involved noteworthy accomplishments not only in design and construction, but also permitting, start-up, operations and maintenance, manual development and final commissioning.

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There were elements to the projects that could be considered “degrees of difficulty” too. The Newport Water System is a regional system that provides drinking water to three communities. Additionally, they were under a consent decree and so needed to have their water quality meet a set standard with a firm deadline. Design-build was essential in promoting the integrated teamwork necessary to overcome these challenges.



When the City of Newport went through the selection process, they used some important criteria in reaching their final decision. As with most public projects, cost would have to be considered, but Newport placed heavy emphasis on a number of other, less tangible, elements. These included the schedule, the design-builder’s management plan, past performance, safety record, start-up/commission plan, their technical solution and how risks would be allocated. In addition, environmental concerns such as energy conservation and environmental sustainability were considered. And, in deference to the public, permanent residents and seasonal tourists, the appearance of the final plants was also important to the final decision.

All of these elements went into the selection process. The Newport government used a two-phase procurement process, as DBIA’s Best Practices advise, first shortlisting those responding to the RFQ and then making their final selection from the resulting proposals, which included technical solutions and costs. Newport chose a joint venture led by AECOM with C.H. Nickerson to deliver the projects they needed.


Design and Construction

As the project proceeded, the AECOM/C.H. Nickerson joint venture demonstrated their excellence in the design and construction phase. While having the two projects under one contract, may have complicated the design and construction process, this structure allowed the team to make a comprehensive improvement to water quality. The Lawton Valley Water Treatment Plant was a new facility replacing one built in the 1940s; in fact, the site chosen was adjacent to the old water treatment plant and in use by a holding tank. The Station No. 1 Plant was 25 years old and in need of significant upgrades throughout. Both, however, had to be completed without impacting the vital tourism industry, which affected traffic and the demands on the plants. In addition, while the summer is not only the peak tourist season – when demand for water is highest – it was also the season in which much of the work had to take place. Also in common, both plants were on land that had significant arsenic contamination, which required testing and safe disposal.

To achieve the desired level of water quality, the team developed a Quality Management Plan that was built around AECOM’s ISO 9001 system. The plan provided a framework that guided every step in the process to reach the projects’ goals. It included the entire scope of the projects, going beyond design and construction to include staffing, organization, communications, budget and schedule control, document control and risk management. In addition, team members provided continuity – while construction staff and start-up and testing specialists were involved in design, constructability, training classes and operability reviews, the team’s design staff stayed on the projects through the entire construction phase. This process meant that the water system got the best possible results from their design-build team, which paid off in the end.

In a letter supporting the projects’ Design-Build Project/Team Award nomination, City of Newport Director of Utilities Julie Forgue, P.E., wrote “this project demonstrates that when both the owner and the design-build team are committed to following design-build best practices within a framework of open communication and collaboration, the key benefits of design-build delivery can be achieved.

The projects were completed early – Station No. 1 five months and Lawton Valley over three months ahead of schedule. The water quality has never been higher and there were no interruptions in the water supply, even during peak tourist season. In recognition of the AECOM/C.H. Nickerson team’s accomplishments, the projects won the 2015 National Award of Merit and National Award of Excellence in the Water/Wastewater category.