An Introduction to Flood Protection: Examining the Final Three Steps to Project Continuum

30 November 2021
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As part of a series of posts related to An Introduction to Flood Protection: What Owners Need to Know to Protect Their Properties by Doug Coenen and Ray Drexler, this article examines the final three steps related to the flood protection project continuum—bidding, construction, and maintenance. In case you missed the first three steps of the flood protection project continuum, please review our previous post: 

4. Bidding

The bidding is dependent on the procurement requirements of the owner and typically includes solicitation for bids from preferred contractors. The solicitation should require the contractor to provide a list of previous flood protection projects and contacts, allowing the owner to review their prior work and historical performance. A mandatory pre-bid site walk with all potential bidders and providers of significant pre-engineered components, such as flood gates/doors, is strongly encouraged so all parties understand the owner’s intention, constraints, and specific requirements. The design team is often active in the bid tabulation and selection of manufacturers and contractor(s).

5. Construction

Planning for the construction observations and inspections starts during the design phase. Utilizing a standardized design, where possible, with consistent reinforcement bar sizing and spacing or consistent plate thickness aids the contractor during construction and facilitates observations and inspections for the design team. Additionally, drawings typically identify items that require special inspection and testing. The special inspection is performed by an independent testing laboratory/agency hired directly by the owner. This helps provide the owner with protection from material and construction errors because the testing agency is accountable only to the owner.

Visits to the project site are required at appropriate intervals for the team to become familiar with the progress and quality of the work and to determine if the work is being performed in a manner indicating that construction, when completed, will be in accordance with the contract documents. At the beginning of the project, site visits are usually on an as needed basis as the contractor is mobilizing and starting the layouts, then as construction becomes more involved, the frequency of site visits increases. The team must ensure the contractor requests a special visit when problems or concerns occur in order to avoid costly rework later. While on site, take photographs and videos as necessary, and discuss work progress with the contractor/site superintendent. Issue field reports after each site visit to document observations, any construction related issues or changes, and any corrective actions required. These reports document construction progress for the owner and entire project team, including the contractor. Construction documents also specify contractor required submittals. Appropriate action on those construction submittals needs to occur in a timely fashion. Submittals may include shop drawings, project data, test samples, additional information requests, clarification, or interpretation related to the project.

For most flood protection projects, reserve a quarter to a third of the design budget for construction services. Site visits are an integral part of any flood protection project—water will exploit any weakness. In flood mitigation projects, poorly executed joints will leak in the future and may defeat the whole project purpose. The design team needs to be aware of all planned and unplanned construction/cold joints and other barrier penetrations such as MEP lines, to ensure the proper water proofing/detailing occurs. The team needs to educate—and be educated by—the contractor on how the various system components fit together and interact or, potentially, fail to interact.

For example, will the pipe passing through a new flood barrier wall be directly embedded in concrete or will a sleeve and link seal-type fitting be used? Both will work, and have their own advantages and disadvantages, but one may work better with the contractor’s methods and means of construction.

6. Maintenance

After the construction phase, a written protocol for how to operate the flood protection system must be developed with owner’s staff to provide the necessary understanding and documentation for deployment of the system. The documentation serves as a guide to train future staff and is a critical reference before and during a storm event.

The end of construction is the beginning of the flood protection system life. The owner’s staff should train and maintain the system on a semi-annual to quarterly basis. Documentation addressing system maintenance, testing, and operations must be developed by the design team in consultation with the owner staff to establish future protocols and responsibilities.

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