AWT Environmental Services

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How the Right Approach to Estimating Remedial Excavation Can Help You Avoid Expensive Surprises

Consulting firms that manage remediation projects for their clients achieve the best results and maintain strong relationships by avoiding pitfalls that cause cost overruns, missed deadlines, safety issues, or property damage. No one likes going back to their client with bad news that will cost them more than they anticipated or budgeted.

Estimating Remedial Excavation
Comprehensive research, analysis, and planning can prevent most of these painful experiences. Of course, balancing the need for due diligence with tight client deadlines can be a tricky line to walk.

One option is to overestimate a project to provide a cushion for unforeseen circumstances, but this can lead to lost projects and lower conversion rates. The other is to underestimate, which can leave you with insufficient funds to complete the project properly.

The best and most valued contractor’s approach is to do the heavy lifting before a shovel goes into the ground and, just as importantly, make sure there is good collaboration with the consultant about the purpose of this heavy lifting. The result is a higher level of confidence in the budget, scope, and process with your client.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

We’ve all heard this phrase. When you base any project parameter on good data, you’re more likely to end up with a positive outcome.

The reality is no one can put together an accurate project scope and budget based on data that’s old, incomplete, or inaccurate. Seemingly minor errors or omissions inevitably snowball, leading to higher costs and unhappy clients.

Every project is unique, but even basic questions help to achieve the most accurate and effective response. For example, what’s the depth to ground water? What’s the source of contamination? Are there any special access issues? Does that building need to be shored? Are the necessary permits in place?

The goal should be to build the scope and budget, metaphorically speaking, based on a high-resolution digital photo rather than a 30-year-old Polaroid. The best results come from reliable, comprehensive data to identify and understand the problem, recommend the most effective remedial solution, and accurately estimate the project with the least possible risk of errors and delays.

Always Explain Why

A property owner or manager can easily become overwhelmed and frustrated when asked for the large amount of information typically required for a remediation project. That’s why we take the time to explain why we need everything we request.

We recently developed a proposal for project that involved removing two walls of a building and excavating 30 feet into the ground on a property near an underground structure. The client had a geotechnical investigation report, which explains the soil mechanics, but assumed we didn’t need it.

We explained that excavating a 30-foot hole near such a structure could compromise its integrity. Analysis of the soil mechanics would help us determine whether it needed to be supported. With a clearer understanding of why this information was required, the client promptly provided the report through their consultant.

When we explain the purpose of each request to the consultant, the consultant is better prepared to request that information from the client, and the client will become better educated about and more confident in our approach to and understanding of the remediation process.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

This old mantra from carpentry applies in many walks of life, including site remediation. The more you know and the more you plan, the fewer extra costs you encounter. And delays have indirect costs, from interest rates to penalties to liquidated damages to lost use of the premises.

Having an experienced contractor help guide you during your investigation is a benefit offered most often at no cost. A little extra data and information can go a long way toward receiving quality and accurate estimates for remediation. While dealing in the underground is never an exact science, your contractor partner’s goal should be to lay out for you everything that can be predicted, such as the number of loads handled in a day, how your fuel surcharge is computed, and what factors could lead to off-specification charges.

No one likes the terms change order or extra time. When you work closely with your contractor, you can avoid both.

The Earlier You Collaborate, the Better

No two remediation projects are the same. Think of remediation like building a house instead of buying a car. You can point to a car on the lot and say, “What’s the price?” However, you cannot simply point to a property and say, “How much will it cost to remediate this site?” There are far too many variables involved.
Because every project is unique, good contractors create best practices for each project based on the conditions, challenges, and goals. In an ideal scenario, your contractor will be involved with investigative work very early in the process. This ensures they have the information needed to develop and recommend an optimal remedial solution. Also, this early involvement establishes familiarity with the job site, customer safety protocols, and access issues prior to arrival so you can hit the ground running.

Working with a contractor that has broad expertise with many disciplines under one roof is advantageous. They can consult with internal subject matter experts in specific areas of remediation to build a comprehensive project scope in-house. They can work together to come up with an unbiased recommendation to solve the client’s problem and meet their goals.

Contractors should not be limited to a certain type of solution. The most effective contractors have the depth of resources and expertise to evaluate multiple options and objectively recommend what they believe, and what the data says, is the best solution.

One of the main factors in selecting a remediation methodology is the driver behind the project. Was there a spill? Is it for a real estate transaction? Is it to comply with a federal mandate or state enforcement action? What is your timeframe?

Knowing this can help determine whether immediate excavation (usually weeks to months) or an in-situ technology (less intrusive and sometimes less costly but longer in duration) is your best bet. Many project sites are best served by utilizing a combination of technologies to achieve the desired result.

Final Thoughts

You can only achieve success in the field with proper planning back at the office. This involves gathering the most current information, helping you educate the client about why you need the information you’re requesting, and following the optimal process. The earlier you bring a high-value contractor into the process, the more accurate the estimate and scope, and the lower the risk of expensive surprises.

Let’s face it. When a property is being used for a profitable purpose, the owner or manager is happy. The best way for consultants to avoid friction in their client relationships is to partner with an environmental contractor that takes the time to develop a comprehensive, data-driven proposal and has the experience to make reliable, unbiased recommendations.

If you’d like to discuss how AWT can help you strengthen your client relationships by taking a more informed, unbiased, and comprehensive approach to remediation planning, contact us today at 800-732-7701.

AWT Environmental Services

Call AWT Today! 1-800-732-7701