Successful Projects Start with a Comprehensive Design Basis

You wouldn’t build a house without first laying a solid foundation, right? If you did, in all likelihood, the end result would not meet your expectations. The same can be said for the execution of a thermal remediation project. A design basis sets the foundation for a successful thermal project by clearly defining the problem to be solved, identifies a specific solution approach, and gets all project stakeholders on the same page regarding how the project will be executed. The development and documentation of a comprehensive design basis is a necessary first step for all remediation projects undertaken by TerraTherm.

There’s significant risk in getting too far into the details of a project without key stakeholders having bought into the design basis. If an element of a design work product misses the mark on a reviewer’s expectations (best understood and documented up front), there will be added effort to re-work that portion of the design. This adds costs and may impact the project schedule. The stakes are even higher when a project has transitioned from the design phase to the implementation phase. Cost and schedule impacts for any re-work during the installation and operations phase can be magnified due to the significant on-site resources utilized during this phase of a project. Extra effort to nail down a thorough design basis at the inception of a project will always pay off.

Dr. Gorm Heron of TerraTherm discusses project execution during a site walk

Dr. Gorm Heron of TerraTherm discusses project design and execution during a site walk

The design basis effort typically includes a site inspection and on-site meeting where the project is discussed with the stakeholders. The general content of the design basis report is summarized below:

  • Project Background
  • Technical Approach
  • Uncertainties and Data Gaps (best addressed as early as possible during the project)
  • Responsibility Matrix for Execution
  • Project Execution Approach:
  • Implementation Schedule
  • Cost estimate for Implementation

A design basis is often prepared as a stand-alone document, but it may also be presented as a section within another project-required deliverable. Regardless of format, the design basis should lay out a clear roadmap for the design and implementation phases of the work, and document the current understanding of how these subsequent phases of work will likely be contracted and executed. It is very important that the project design basis is reviewed and approved by key stakeholders before detailed design activities commence. This will help to avoid design re-work and schedule/cost impacts to the project, and ensure that all documented project expectations are met.

About Steve McInerney, PE

Mr. McInerney has over 29 years of experience in the environmental engineering fields. He holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts in Lowell (formerly University of Lowell). Mr. McInerney developed and commercialized a high temperature thermal desorption process for contaminated soils, sediments, and industrial wastes. He specializes in remediation and industrial wastewater and vapor treatment system design and construction. He has served as an Operations Manager and Chief Engineer for a nationwide portfolio of 40+ active remediation sites. Mr. McInerney is TerraTherm’s Engineering Department Manager and Process Engineering Discipline Leader, and holds Professional Engineering licenses in multiple jurisdictions.
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