Update Ver 1.9 – 03Jan00; 7:00 pm                 

Innovations in American Govt.: Harvard - KSG / Ford foundation                

Initial Date: Wed, 02 Jun 1999 - F I N A L D R A F T

1. Describe the program. Please emphasize its creative and novel elements. What is the innovation? (400 words)

This is a general description of our complex program to design & build the new, state-of-the-art, two story, 155,000 SF, National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) on the Denver Federal Center (DFC). This technically complex facility supports the USGS & is a significant upgrade to it’s technical capability. Unlike other government, NWQL is a "fee-for-service" operation, providing high-quality analytical & biological data. & is committed to pollution prevention. This lab was finished on-schedule & on-budget. Relocated lab operations resumed within two weeks of move in.

The landlord (GSA) wanted process improvement & was open to innovation. We completed this facility professionally & appled innovation in any way we could while complying with Federal Regulations. We can’t say innovation was in any single, large activity. Our innovation was a process with large & small innovative components yielding synergy & quality. Most people said a $25 million construction budget was "optimistic", but we did it. As we progressed thru design and construction, we continually innovated to complete this needed facility.

Planning started in 1990 with GSA’s facility programming. In 1993, the DFC site was selected, & GSA started the construction manager (CM) and architect/ engineer (A/E) concurrently, on full time efforts to resolve technical and budget issues. Further, we indoctrinated non-laboratory personnel to meet the budget. During design, we realized the need to adapt standard, cost effective building components in a unique manner to resolve technical and budget issues with energy efficiency and reliability. Prior to bidding, we acknowledged the importance of effective and efficient field operations. In 1996, GSA started construction bidding.

            Real people provide real labor to build real buildings

Innovation developed on many levels. Our formal & informal partnering program was most visible. Successful partnering results were achieved without claims or default actions. Real innovation was required to refine partnering and include stakeholders in the technical, financial, & personnel decisions for timely action.

Partnering began before site work started - our workshops were well attended, fun, individually focused, and highly productive. Partnering was helped with (then) un-tried Internet tools - project web site, email, etc, to help assure timely decisions. Partnering resulted in continual quality assurance for a clean job site, offering excellent operational conditions upon move-in.

Partnering applied to continual value engineering and open dialog with experienced & knowledgeable tradesmen. On-site technical problem solving quickly and effectively allowed field personnel to maintain momentum. As well, personnel issues did not effect productivity.

There are huge policy implications for innovation and effective government project delivery. There’s a backlog of necessary public and military facilities. Our successful project delivery system can be re-used and modified for other public / private partnerships.

Another example of public / private partnerships has been undertaken by the U.S Navy for military family housing. Rear Adm. Veronica Froman has promoted & "cost avoided" more than $50 million in San Diego with innovative public / private partnerships & to date, has sponsored the private provision of over 3,800 housing units in San Diego alone.



2.             What problem(s) does your innovative program address?   (250 words)


We addressed complex construction problems:

A)         Scope determination (size, configuration, components, & lab modules).

NWQL is part of a large water quality program to provide non-commercial, quality science to support data for long term trends. Our "strategic framework" for the building scope supports leading edge analysis and worker safety balanced with cost effectiveness, durability, flexibility, visual appeal, and efficiency. This lab maintains leading edge service for future analysis methods and techniques. Part of this strategy is to safely minimize potential hazards to lab personnel; from low level contamination, and from operational waste.

B)         Funding (steering the project through the Federal system from 1993 to 1999).

As a Federal project, we applied for and waited on Congressional funds – an arduous process. In addition, we performed work under the "pilot" umbrella provded by the "Reinvention of Government". In terms of project execution, we acted to:

                        1)         "Do more with less"

                        2)         Restructure "traditional" project management perceptions to maximize our efforts

3)         Provide fast & effective technical problem solving to meet budget and schedule

                        4)         Minimize "extra GSA paperwork" that did not bring about a valuable result

                        5)         Adapt continuous construction value engineering with on-site decision-makers:

                                    a)         Management and minimization of cost over-runs

                                    b)         Management and minimization of project delays

                                    c)         Management and minimization of change-orders

C)         Construction effectiveness (to maximize stakeholder trust understanding during construction)


Construction effectiveness was achieved by combining several activities which were difficult to measure . They included:

a)         careful prebid and proposed bidder analysis

b)         professional and through technical preparation

c)         continual partnering

Partnering is more than "feel good" sessions for upper management. Real work performed by real people requires learning faces, names, interests, and skills - a key responsibility. Quickly learning who has good habits, who has good problem skills (regardless of rank) is also key. Improving understanding, and trust was based upon fact and joint situational analysis. Our partnering workshops provided a basis to understand the individual. Trust was not just given away with a title.

3.             Cite the best verifiable evidence of the most significant achievements of the program (250 words) 

            A)         Client and Worker Satisfaction

Clearly, evidence of our success is a satisfied client. NWQL took possession of the lab per the base contract schedule (no extensions). This project team has received accolades and awards supporting a successful and well-managed project.

Skeptics predicted up to six months delay to move into the new facility. NWQL’s move from the old facility into the new one happened in two weeks with minimal coordination problems. Of course, there were minor issues, such as a few new electric outlets to support old lab equipment. Some "production lines" moved in the first week were set up and operational in the second week, while other lines were being set up.

In our final partnering workshop, our Partnering Facilitator (Norma Barr, Ph.D.) undertook a comprehensive and impartial survey of project participants to rate individual feelings towards work on this project. Our ratings were the highest the Facilitator has seen. The summary analysis is available separately.

            B)         Cost Management

We continually applied value engineering with the contractors. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs) require that we bid "plans and specs", however, we made it clear to all bidders that once the contract was awarded, we would maintain an active value engineering (VE) program. VE, with job site leadership and decision making, supported many beneficial relationships to reach the desired balance of construction quality, schedule, and profitability.

            C)         On-time Delivery

For leading edge science, we provided a cast-in-place structural concrete frame to minimize very small vibration that may effect sensitive equipment. Such a structure is both labor and material intensive. In spite of "off-site" conditions, including a very wet spring in Denver in 1998, a critical shortage of concrete, and a chronic labor shortage, work was on time. Unlike other projects, the schedule was never changed. The final delivery date was the exact date agreed to in the bid documents. The construction teams’ continual effort to maintain a clean work site brought about good results for quality work and finish quality with a minimal punch list and mimimal "end of project" delay.

            D)         Minimal Change Orders

Although change orders were an ongoing occurrence, they were typically minimal and were mostly just a clarification of the specifications from a Request for Information (RFI). All stakeholders were aware of the adverse impact of change orders, and subsequently inappropriate change orders were minimized.


4.             Who are the current and potential beneficiaries of your program?

What are the direct or indirect benefits to citizens? (200 words)

The immediate beneficiaries of this program are the employees of USGS and NWQL. With the new facility, USGS is now capable of supporting mission-critical analytical and biological work well into the 21st century.

NWQL beneficiaries include existing, new, and future customers (domestic and international), who can access a state-of-the-art analytical facility. NWQL now provides higher quality, more through analysis, and quicker results.

The public benefits from this laboratory as dedicated to environmental sample analysis, to improved understanding of water quality issues, and from information modeling for resource planning. Two recent specific examples the work of this lab has addressed are:

1)         The depletion of oxygen in the waters adjacent to New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico and the associated impact upon the commercial fishing industry.


2)         The components of MTBE from treated gasoline appearing in fresh water with the associated impact upon the EPA’s clean air decisions and the automobile and gasoline industries.

Other beneficiaries of this program include the DFC who benefited from timely completion. Additional private sector beneficiaries include the general contractor, the sub contractors, and on site workers. Many workers were proud to say that this was the best project of their careers.

Beneficiaries of the improved professional management practices include the owner, the building users, the construction contractors, and their families. By providing innovative professional construction management services, GSA provided a profitable and timely work environment.

Our "public" state-of-the-art Internet communication tools helped eliminate many possible delays. The electronic transfer (i.e. FTP) of design documents to or from the architect provided a faster review of the bid documents while in production. Further, our construction web site displayed up to 12 weekly progress photos, 24 hours per day. Local and national government officials from both GSA and USGS, employees, sub-contractors, equipment suppliers, and families of workers were able to see for themselves actual progress from the previous week.


5.             How replicable is the program or aspects thereof?

What obstacles might others encounter? (250 words)

Innovation can be replicated for other construction programs or private sector interaction. Establishing credibility and trust was the first and most important issue. Establishing a clear scope of work and positive relationship is required. Further, competent and comprehensive planning by knowledgeable professionals is a pre-requisite for on-site construction. We achieved success through an emphasis on quality in the first partnering workshop by teambuilding and establishing credibility. This is balanced by timely technical problem resolution and responsible financial management.

Further, we established positive synergy from:

a)         Competent leadership by NWQL project management.

b)         NWQL as a well organized client with clear mission, strategy, & appropriate scope of work.

            c)         GSA as owner, was open to innovation for a more valuable end result.

To simplify another significant issue - time is of the essence and time is money. With a clear project scope described in the bid documents, contractors could effectively plan for supplies, materials, & tools. Material management was not a real problem in spite of the heated Denver construction market. Correspondingly, on-site personnel management was problematic without a bad systemic effect.

We made tough decisions at the proper moment and effectively explained our reasoning. Leadership committed to teamwork with timely, fair dealings, and clearly communicated expectations. As project owner and construction manager we were actively engaged in continual, responsible, professional, timely and productive dialog with front line supervisors. We understood the timing to facilitate individual work schedules. A notable example is that most "Requests for Information" were answered on the same or next working day.

Personnel obstacles include:

1)         Those unwilling to "hear" a necessary goal, or not to be open to innovation.

2)         Individuals or firms who are neither professionals nor "top-notch" performers.

For success, everybody needed to understand the required outcome and set aside narrow interests in favor of project goals and dialog independent of the formal organizational chart to accomplish "real" goals.

Our "spiritual foundation" established a credible strategy to support the contractors other business goals. We realize that as beneficiary of the new building, we can’t do the work for them, but we can be flexible in our thinking and decision making to understand other demands and allow flexibility to accomplish our needs.


6.             List all current funding sources, with dollar and percentage contributions for each for your current operating budget. If applicable, include separate subtotals for public and private funds and sources. Provide details of any unusual financial features not described elsewhere. (200 words)                


1)         NWQL has an approximate annual operating income of $11.5 million, which is part of the larger $60 million, USGS - National Water Quality Program.

2)         There's no specific correlation between lab operations and GSA rent, as the services provided by NWQL are a unique government function, independent of commercial interests.

3)         GSA's preparation cost for the "base building" for about $22.5 million was fully included within an annual Congressional appropriation for the Executive Office.

4)         GSA contributed previously amortized (unimproved) property on the Denver Federal Center. However, if we assume commercial Denver real estate with a present market value of $500,000 per acre for Denver’s active real estate market, GSA's land contribution would have an approximate value of $4 million.

5)         The new construction site offered existing utility connections for electricity, gas, sewer, & domestic water. Specific dollar cost were not an expressed part of the "base building". However, sewer / water tap & permit fees, together with electrical & natural gas extensions are estimated at $400,000.

            On this project, GSA participated in a new, Congressionally authorized, utility savings program. Public Service Company of Colorado provided up front funds to subsidize energy savings equipment with GSA’s long term commitment to use natural gas. For NWQL, this was $1.3 million.

            The projected energy savings for this lab are significant. We built a balanced heating and cooling system offering unique savings for any laboratory facility. In addition to chillers & boilers, we provided evaporative cooling & heat recovery to provide the most cost effective thermal comfort system over the life of the building. Savings should be considerable given the very high air change requirements required for leading edge water analysis.

6)         With a new location on the Denver Federal Center, GSA provided a cost reduction for the Federal Protection Service now valued at $39,277 per year. This value is less than the lab’s expense associated with their former (isolated) location.

7)         USGS's contribution to the project included funds for new lab casework as installed by the general contractor with an approximate value of $2.5 million. Other special costs brought the total USGS portion to a total of $4.75M.