Using remote technical review collaboration to ensure successful project delivery

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Sept. 30, 2017
An isometric rendering of a utilidor, a large underground concrete duct that has multiple utilities inside. The concept is to keep utilities together in one structure to facilitate future operation and maintenance in an environmental climate that has frozen ground nine months of the year. The use of the utilidor provides year-round access and also minimizes the potential of frozen lines, which can occur with direct buried utilities.

An isometric rendering of a utilidor, a large underground concrete duct that has multiple utilities inside. The concept is to keep utilities together in one structure to facilitate future operation and maintenance in an environmental climate that has frozen ground nine months of the year. The use of the utilidor provides year-round access and also minimizes the potential of frozen lines, which can occur with direct buried utilities.

In the design of engineering products, a critical component is collaboration, whether it’s at the initial design phase or the final review before the project is posted for bid.

“Each person on a design team or review team sees collaboration as one of the most important aspects of the job in order to make a project successful,” said Paul Heist, Chief of the Cost and Project Engineering Team with the Buffalo District (LRB).

Along with Drew Gang and Jim Scungio of the Cost & Project Engineering Team, Paul recently lead efforts to complete a unique technical review for a project being designed by the Alaska District. Project collaboration was initiated by the Alaska District Design Branch Chief who contacted the Buffalo District, explaining that the Alaska District was currently executing an in-house design for a utility duct system (utilidor) that consisted of steam and condensate return, fire protection, potable water, and sanitary sewer at the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.  The Alaska District reached out to see if the Buffalo District had the capability and capacity to conduct a technical review of the civil and mechanical design aspects of this $48 million project. 

To provide a general idea of the scope of this project, it’s a large underground concrete duct that has multiple utilities inside. The concept is to keep utilities together in one structure to facilitate future operation and maintenance in an environmental climate that has frozen ground nine months of the year. The use of the utilidor provides year-round access and also minimizes the potential of frozen lines, which can occur with direct buried utilities. The utilidor includes large manhole structures at changes in horizontal alignment or at a maximum spacing, as required by design guidelines (see photo of isometric view).

LRB assessed the required skill set and availability of the proposed review team, reviewed this with The Alaska District, and confirmed deliverable milestones with the entire project team. Upon confirmation that the work could be done, budgets were established and the appropriate cross-charge labor codes were created.

When reviewing another district’s work, it provides the opportunity to see the level of detail that the executing district is putting into their projects. It also allows the reviewer to assess the level of detail that is going into their own work, in a positive or negative light. Another interesting opportunity for professional development presented by this project was the necessity to become familiar with a number of design codes that are not typically used in this area.  Prior to opening the plans and specifications, the reviewer first had to become familiar with a number of Air Force design guides and the Army/Air Force Technical Manual, “Arctic and Subarctic Construction Utilities.”

“Believe it or not, construction means and methods and cold weather design considerations are actually stricter in Alaska than they are in Buffalo”, said Heist.

Throughout the design review process, the Buffalo District coordinated closely with Alaska District.  The review comments of each design submittal (performed at the 65% and 95% completion levels) were tracked using the computer software program known as “DrChecks”.  With DrChecks, the reviewers and the designers have a written record of changes discussed, and the status of the change implementation can be tracked. Although this project is thousands of miles away, open communication throughout the review process ensured a meaningful, positive review.

This project is a perfect example of intra-agency cooperation.  Working with multidisciplinary teams to achieve project objectives is one of the cornerstones of the leadership philosophy of the Great Lakes & Ohio River Division Commander, Brigadier General Mark Toy. Working to empower multidisciplinary teams, executing technical reviews in close collaboration with established technical review processes, ensures that quality control measures and proper due diligence are central to a working and effective project.