"Norumbega Covered Storage Project Under a Design/Build Approach"
Delivered to 1998 New England Regional Forum of the
Construction Management Association of America
by Douglas B. MacDonald
May 18, 1998



Now that the Boston Harbor Project is well on its way toward substantial completion, and the environmental and commercial benefits of that Project are already manifesting themselves, the MWRA is continuing its commitment to improving its infrastructure throughout Metropolitan Boston. A significant element of that commitment is the MWRA's Integrated Waterworks Capital Improvement Program, consisting primarily of the Walnut Hill Water Treatment Plant in Marlborough MA, the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel Project, the Norumbega Covered Storage Project, and its Other Covered Storage Projects. With each component, we are working to providing a high-quality finished product while being committed to uncovering cost and schedule-saving opportunities wherever possible. It is these cost and schedule savings commitments which led the MWRA to pursue an alternative project delivery system (in this case, Design/Build) on its Norumbega Covered Storage Project. In August 1997, legislation was introduced permitting Design/Build on the Norumbega Project.

In November 1997, Governor Cellucci signed legislation related to the Norumbega Project indicatory that ". . . MWRA is hereby authorized and directed to utilize such alternative [Design/Build] means of procurement of design and construction for the . . . project, as it determines to be reasonable and prudent in the circumstances . . . ." While the legislation was making its way through committee hearings and public consideration forums, MWRA engineering, construction, procurement, and legal staff completed an evaluation of this project delivery system and its applicability to the Norumbega Covered Storage Facility. They concluded that this approach should be successful on the Norumbega Project. In January 1998, the MWRA Board of Directors affirmed staff's conclusions, when it approved staff's request to proceed with a Design/Build approach on the Norumbega project.

This paper will review the project description and recent history of the Norumbega Covered Storage Facility ("Norumbega"), define the concept of "design/build" as used by the MWRA, evaluate its feasibility in light of the Norumbega project and outline the steps the Authority will take in utilizing this process.

Project Description/History

The Norumbega Covered Storage Project consists of a 115-million gallon reinforced concrete storage tank to be constructed west of Schenk's Pond, between the existing Norumbega Reservoir and the Massachusetts Turnpike. ( Site Plan Attached) The tank will cover approximately 19 acres and will provide operational and emergency storage for the MWRA water distribution system. When it is constructed and placed in service it will allow the MWRA to designate the existing open reservoir as an emergency back up supply. Extensive amounts of site preparation , excavation, drilling and blasting will be required prior to the concrete construction. The tank will be divided into three separate cells. Control of flow in and out of each tank cell, between tank cells, and through various pipe connections on site will be provided by sluice gates, butterfly valves and check valves. Transmission piping will connect the tank to the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel and ultimately the Hultman Aqueduct. An under drain system and overflow structure will also be provided.
(A more detailed description of the project scope is also attached)

This facility will be the fourth of five (and the largest) covered storage facilities to be designed and constructed as part of the MWRA's Integrated Water Supply/Quality Improvement Program. The program is designed to ensure a safe and reliable supply of drinking water, and to comply with state and federal drinking water regulations. Covered storage tanks are already under construction at Fells Reservoir in Stoneham, Loring Road in Weston, and at Nash Hill in Ludlow. A covered storage facility at Walnut Hill will be constructed as part of the treatment facilities and the covered storage facility for the Blue Hills area is still in the planning stage.

The Norumbega covered storage facility was included in the original June 1993 Consent Order between MWRA and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. This Consent Order was recently amended to extend this compliance deadline to December 2004 when all facilities related to the covered storage of the water supply at the Norumbega Reservoir would be completed. This extended compliance deadline is essentially the result of numerous delays in the much-publicized and now completed land transfer with the Town of Weston. However, the MWRA has made completion of this Project by late 2003 a high priority, so that it will support and coordinate with the startup of the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel and the Walnut Hill Water Treatment Plant, providing covered storage to treated water, rather than returning the treated water to an open reservoir.

Since 1993, MWRA has been working to acquire land in Weston for construction of the Covered Storage Facility. In April 1995, the draft preliminary design report was completed, with the final report put on hold pending completion of the land acquisition. Agreement with the Weston Board of Selectmen was finally reached in March 1997 on a mitigation package and other details of a land transfer agreement. That agreement failed to secure approval of Weston Town Meeting in July 1997. The state legislature, however, enacted the land transfer (including key provisions of the original mitigation /compensation agreement with the town) in November 1997 ( See attached copy of legislation). While work continued to complete the land acquisition and mitigation package, MWRA staff investigated alternative means to the traditional "design-bid-build" project delivery approach to improve upon the consent order compliance deadline and allow the Norumbega facility to be on-line during the startup of the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel Project and the Walnut Hill Water Treatment Plant.

These investigations concluded that the circumstances of the Norumbega covered storage facility, including its relatively straight-forward design requirements, MWRA's experience in designing and constructing facilities of this type, and the potential cost and schedule savings available made this project a suitable candidate for Design/Build.

Design/Build Defined

Design/Build means many things to many people. At its lowest common denominator Design/Build" is defined by the MWRA as a "construction method which utilizes a single entity for the design and construction of a facility, rather than separately contracting with a designer and then a general contractor." Design/Build thus means that the single point of responsibility for both final design and construction of a project is one party (the Design/Builder) who contracts directly with the Owner to act both as the engineer and builder of record. With the designer and the builder as a single contracting entity in relation to the owner, the potential for confusion over responsibilities, liabilities and errors is reduced significantly.

As a method of project delivery Design/Build has grown significantly over the past seven years. A recent Commerce Department study predicted that by the year 2000, 50% of all construction in the United States will be performed in a Design/Build context. As many of you know, D/B has now become standard practice in many federal government projects, including the Fan Pier Courthouse project in Boston. Finally, you know an industry or trend has hit the "big time" when it has its own magazine. In January, the first issue of "Design/Build" was made available through McGraw-Hill, the parent of Engineering News Record.

A recent General Services Administration report indicated that "Design/Build is applicable for all types of projects, regardless of size or complexity, as long as the project requirements are relatively known and stable." The recently enacted Federal Acquisition Reform Act outlines a two-phased selection process for design/build projects, with pre-qualified firms being permitted to submit "Best Value" proposals (encompassing technical approach and cost as selection criteria).

In recent years Design/Build has been used by the Commonwealth's Division of Capital Planning on several facilities, including the construction of correctional facilities in Eastern Massachusetts to ease the system's overcrowding. The new convention center in Boston is expected to proceed along the design/build model.

How Would Design/Build Benefit Norumbega?

A shorter project duration

Schedule savings from design/build project delivery are generally reported in the range 10-30%, achieved by the overlap of final design and preliminary construction work as well as the single procurement, rather than two procurements (first the designer, then the contractor) in the traditional approach. Staff has looked closely at how this approach can improve the project schedule likely to occur within the context of the traditional approach.

In June 1996, when the MWRA Board of Directors approved the FY97-99 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), the schedule for completion of the Norumbega project contained the expectation that land acquisition would be resolved in January 1997 and a notice to proceed with final design would be issued in December 1997 in order to support a schedule that would bring two (out of three) tank sections into service (at the earliest) in February 2004. However, with the delays experienced in transferring the land, the procurement for the final design would not have been able to begin until January 1998, with substantial completion of all three cells not expected until December 2004.

Under a design/build approach where some efficiencies in schedule can be achieved due to reduced procurement cycles and concurrent final design and early construction activities, the tanks can be delivered in 2003, when the common facilities of the Walnut Hill Water Treatment Plant and the MetroWest Tunnel are also scheduled for completion, as shown in the above chart. This will permit coordination of this project with the pressure testing and disinfection of the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel.

Lower overall project costs

Although schedule advantages are clearly present in the analysis shown above, the cost implications should also be closely considered. MWRA staff evaluation of cost issues are bulleted below:

Reduced Owner Risk Exposure

Studies of previous Design/Build projects have indicated that construction claims are reduced by approximately 50% (but not eliminated) when the design and construction tied to one entity. In addition, should disputes arise between the designer and contractor, they are resolved earlier and without the involvement of the Owner. Finally, the Owner should not be faced with claims or change orders for designer errors and omissions. Instead, the Design/Builder is singularly responsible for the finished product, working in accordance with the approved requirements.

What are the Possible Pitfalls of Doing the Norumbega Project as Design/Build?

An Incomplete Project Concept

Some capital projects require an iterative process of design submittals and reviews to clearly define the expectations for a project desired by the Owner. This is commonly referred to as the "I'll know what I want when I see it on your drawings" approach. In others, the expectation for the project may be very clear at the outset on the critical performance requirements. It is the latter project for which Design/Build is suitable, for the Owner will be willing to give some latitude in the specifics of final design to the Contractor. The key to a successful project in the Design/Build project delivery system is the achievement of certainty and clarity on the Project Requirements.

At Norumbega, the project concept has been established for close to three years now, and has been effectively been on-hold throughout the resolution of the land-acquisition process. As part of the procurement process to select a Design/Builder, MWRA has hired Malcolm Pirnie, Inc to act as Owner's Representative to assist MWRA staff in defining as precisely as possible those elements of the Norumbega Project where MWRA will accept no divergence from the Project Requirements and indicate where the D/B's flexibility in approach or design will be accepted. This exercise is clearly critical to the success of any D/B project, and failure to complete this exercise thoroughly is considered the greatest indicator of project failure (that is, cost overruns and disputes regarding the "final product").

The Owner's Representative will assist staff in ensuring that any D/B's proposal to complete the Project is consistent with the MWRA's requirements, and will monitor both the design process and construction in the field to ensure that all work is strictly in line with the MWRA's expectations for the project.

Loss of Project Control

With the changes in the project delivery approach, many Owner decisions are required to be expedited, creating a fast-paced project environment. In addition, owners inexperienced in this arena may find themselves giving up too much control. Finally, project managers used to operating in the more traditional approach may be less willing to exercise the flexibility and reduce control as discussed above in the performance of the work. Again, the use of an Owner's Representative will help to counsel Owner staff on their changed role in the Design/Build system, and ensure against insufficient oversight, while having enough experience to properly oversee the work of the Design/Builder.

With the assistance of an Owner's Representative sufficient Owner controls will be in place during the final design and construction of the Norumbega Project to ensure that the completed project will be consistent with MWRA's project requirements.

Design reviews will continue as is the current practice in the traditional project delivery setting, although the criteria for review will be focused more on the Project Requirements defined earlier by the Owner and the Owner's Representative and the D/B's proposal to complete the project. Throughout construction, the Owner's Representative will provide a full-time on-site project Resident engineer who will monitor quality of construction by performing independent audits of work performed and materials used, monitor contractor mitigation compliance efforts with regard to the standing MOU with the town of Weston as well as with permit compliance, participate actively in the construction progress meetings, and assure compliance with the contract documents. This on-site presence, along with the MWRA's own staff will ensure that work proceed only as agreed to in the contract documents.

Enlisting a Suitable Owner's Representative

As discussed above, as part of the feasibility evaluation of Design/Build, the function of an Owner's Representative in a design/build project is to assist the Owner in establishing a scope of work which is sufficiently flexible to obtain the benefits of D/B but restrictive enough in those areas where quality compromises are not acceptable, confirm design conformance with the Design/Builder's original proposal, assist MWRA to ensure that construction quality is maintained throughout the program, and monitor compliance with environmental, community and contractual requirements (MBE/WBE participation, labor harmony, etc). Many of these functions are counterparts to roles played by a construction manager in projects like MWRA's Deer Island Treatment Plant and MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel Projects. The level of services provided by the Owner's Representative in these areas will be of lesser scope and responsibility than those found on other construction manager settings. In a Design/Build context, it is more reasonable to expect these costs to be 2-3% of the cost to complete the facility.

The approved legislation included language that if Design/Build is chosen, the MWRA should secure services of an owner's representative through its usual procurement process for professional services contracts. MWRA is pleased to have Malcolm Pirnie Inc. on-board for the Norumbega Project. Malcolm Pirnie worked with the City of Seattle to procure a Design/Builder for its Tolt River Water Treatment Plant and recently completed oversight of the Broward County Resource Recovery Project, a $700 million Design/Build effort. One additional planned activity for the Owner's Representative is to review the current cost estimate within the context of a Design/Build project delivery mechanism. This will be used to evaluate the proposals and compare the cost of the project as a Design/Build job versus a typical Design-Bid- Build job.

What is the next Step ?

Contracting with the Design/Builder

In June, a Request for Qualification Statements (RFQ) that will also require submittal of a project work plan for the Norumbega Design/Builder will be issued At this time, the FEIR will have been filed and the Wetlands Order of Conditions and variance reviews ongoing. The final preliminary design report and drawings package will also have been completed and be made available to all the proposers. By the end of summer the D/B proposers will be short-listed, and shortly thereafter a detailed Request for Proposals (along with the MWRA's specially developed Design/Build Contract) will be issued to the short-listed firms. It is expected that the certificate on the FEIR will have been received by this time and the related Wetlands variance process well along .

Proposals will be required to be submitted in two separate envelopes, technical and cost. First the technical proposal will be reviewed and scored and then the cost envelope will be opened and scored. Our current thinking is that the scoring on the cost portion of the proposal will be weighted substantially more than the scoring on the technical portion of the proposal. The low bid would be awarded the full cost points and higher bids awarded points on a sliding downward scale. The details of this scoring system is currently being developed. Preliminary schedules have proposals due in late November, evaluated in December, with a final Design/Build recommendation to the MWRA Board of Directors expected early in 1999. Notice to Proceed would be issued following the Board's approval.


Design/Build at Norumbega seems like the right way to approach this project. The concept is clear. The schedule savings are apparent. Hopefully, these two project variables will translate into a savings for our ratepayers. The project, with the exception of the permitting issues which we are proceeding to solve, is relatively straight forward. As this project proceeds, we will look closely at our other work and go through a similar evaluation process to determine Design/Build suitability, working closely with our Board of Directors, the Legislature and the Governor's Office to identify more opportunities for cost and schedule savings in this arena.

Back to What's News