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When Disaster Strikes: Series Introduction

With over a century in business, there aren’t many scenarios that the Bell Engineering team hasn’t encountered. We like to think that developing solutions is easy when you’ve faced the problem before. Our new series, When Disaster Strikes, will take a closer look at actual situations we have handled with our clients over the lifetime of a project and various steps we have taken to overcome challenges.

Even prior to COVID-19, there were many challenges from start to finish of a project. Contractor or vendor bankruptcy, unpredictable bidding environments, and limited funding opportunities will only be compounded by the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. As an Owner, you may find yourself facing circumstances you never thought possible. When things go wrong, it is critical that you have an experienced team that you trust to guide you through developing solutions and, ultimately, still achieve a successful project.

We begin this series by discussing the project life-cycle, team members, and roles. Every project follows a pretty standard process to get from idea to completion. While planning and design can be technically challenging, it is often during the bidding or construction phases that unforeseen or uncontrollable issues can develop.

When an issue arises in a project, it is important to know: Who is your team? What are their roles throughout the project life-cycle? How can they help address challenges?

Owner: As the Owner, you are responsible for providing high quality, affordable services to your customers. Your ability to quickly make decisions throughout the project life-cycle and as issues develop assists in successfully navigating various situations.

Engineer: The Engineer is responsible for delivering the most cost-effective design solution that meets the Owner’s goals for a project. As one of the first team members, they play a key role in most projects including serving as a liaison between the Owner and other parties. Aside from the Owner, the Engineer is likely the only team member involved from planning through construction.

Funding Agencies: Without appropriate funding, your project can’t happen. Many Funding Agencies have some flexibility in what they are able to offer and established relationships with key personnel become extremely important. Funds may come in the form of a loan and/or a grant; both of which have requirements for usage that must be taken into account. Funding Agencies should be brought on as an early team member because getting funds into place and working out the parameters takes time and creativity.

Funding Administrator: This role is typically filled by the Area Development District or an independent, contracted administrator. Depending on the source, the Administrator assists with the procurement and proper administration of loan and grant funds. They communicate regularly with the funding agency and it is best to involve them early in the planning process. They help to ensure compliance with agency requirements and that team members receive timely payments for their work.

Contractor: The Contractor typically joins the team as the last member. They will construct the project and are an integral part of troubleshooting problems through reviewing solutions and impacts. Excellent communication between the Contractor, the Engineer, and the Owner is paramount at all times, and particularly so when there are challenges to address.

Stay tuned for our first installment in April, When Disaster Strikes: Bids Exceed Budget.


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