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The Crucial Role of Owner’s Engineers in Alternative Delivery Projects

Alternative delivery projects are complex undertakings, demanding thorough planning, design, and implementation. Alternative delivery methods, such as design-build or public-private partnerships (P3) offer owners numerous advantages, including accelerated delivery, cost savings, and enhanced quality. However, they also introduce significant challenges, such as risk ownership, reduced control, and complicated contracts.

To successfully deliver major transportation and infrastructure programs via alternative delivery approaches, project owners require a reliable partner with sufficient professional resources to advocate for their interests and guide them throughout the project. This is where Owner’s Engineers can assist.

Associated Engineering has acted as Owner’s Engineer for several high-profile transportation projects, including the Regina Bypass, West Calgary Ring Road, Edmonton's Capital Line South LRT Extension, and the Deerfoot Trail Improvements in Calgary. We served a pivotal role in steering these projects to successful planning, design, construction, and commissioning. Our expertise and guidance have contributed to developing safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation systems benefitting society.

As Owner’s Engineers, our role is to work directly for the project owner, acting as their representative and advocate. We are deeply integrated into the project team and actively participate in the decision-making process. We bring our extensive knowledge, experience, and industry best practices to offer professional advice and guidance to the project owners, stakeholders, and contractors. Our primary responsibility is to assist owners to successfully deliver projects with the highest levels of efficiency, safety, and quality, while adhering to established technical standards and regulations.

Our key responsibilities include the following:

Strategic Planning: We assist in defining project objectives, scope, and key performance indicators, creating a comprehensive project plan that specifies technical requirements and budget constraints. We also aid in selecting the most suitable delivery method and contractor for the project, considering project goals and risks.

Quality Assurance: We oversee project design and implementation for compliance with technical requirements, industry standards, local regulations, and best practices. We conduct site inspections, audits, and tests to verify the quality of work and materials, providing an early warning of potential issues. Our vigilance helps identify and address potential issues early, reducing the risk of costly revisions or delays.

Risk Mitigation: We identify and manage risks, conducting comprehensive risk assessments and proposing mitigation strategies. We monitor the project schedule, scope, and budget, ensuring that any changes are properly documented and approved. This minimizes the likelihood of unexpected challenges derailing the project and helps protect the project owner from any claims, disputes, or liabilities that may arise.

Contract Management: We play a vital role in administration, reviewing the Alternative Delivery Team's work for adherence with the project's terms and conditions, and overseeing the contractor's performance. This includes reviewing and approving the detailed design, invoices, change orders, and claims resolution; certifying construction completion; and evaluating items for traffic availability. We also help resolve any issues or conflicts that may occur between the owner, contractor, and other stakeholders by championing partnering principles.

Project Monitoring: Throughout the project’s lifecycle, we provide continuous monitoring and reporting services to keep the project owner informed of progress and promptly address any deviations from the plan. We use various tools and methods, such as dashboards, reports, and feedback loops, to track and measure the project’s performance against the established objectives and indicators. We also provide recommendations and suggestions for improvement and optimization.

Communication: We facilitate effective communication between the owner, contractor, and other stakeholders to keep everyone informed and aligned throughout the project, applying partnering principles and holding alignment sessions. We use various platforms, such as meetings, websites, and online project management systems to share information and updates. Our approach employs clear, concise, and consistent communication.

Problem Solving: In the face of unforeseen issues, we leverage our expertise to propose effective solutions using techniques such as root cause analysis, collaboration, and brainstorming to analyze and resolve problems. We also implement corrective and preventive actions to avoid recurrence and improve performance.

Selecting the right Owner’s Engineer team is critical to the success of alternative delivery projects. Associated Engineering's leadership, expertise, and guidance has made the difference on the successful delivery of many major projects.

As we work closely with project owners, we make significant contributions to create safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation systems. These systems not only facilitate smoother commutes, but also stimulate economic growth by improving access to jobs and services, and the movement of goods.

About the Author:

Jim Zagas, RET, PL (Eng.) is Vice President, Transportation and has over 30 years of experience delivering highway infrastructure. He has effectively managed large teams of engineering and technical professionals on complex, multi-year transportation assignments. Jim has been a project leader on many large-scale transportation projects.

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