University of New Hampshire Water Treatment Plant Design-Build Project
Owner: University of New Hampshire – Durham, NH
Contractor: Waterline Industries
Lead Engineer: Woodard & Curran
Major Participants: Harriman Architects & Engineers; SFC Engineering; Jones & Beach; Frederick A. Meyer III & Sons; Hampshire Fire Protection; Earthwork Engineering; Maine Drilling & Blasting; Caprioli Painting; and SW Cole Engineering
When the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was ready to replace its small, antiquated water treatment facility, they partnered with design-build team – Woodard & Curran and Waterline Industries – under a single contract to perform the work. After several years of careful planning, design, and construction, the university and town of Durham, New Hampshire are now served by an efficient, modern, and aesthetically pleasing 26,000-square-foot water treatment plant (WTP) designed to reliably treat and deliver up to 2 million gallons of high-quality drinking water per day.
Immediately after being awarded the work, our project team began the design process with significant stakeholder engagement. Input was sought from both UNH and Durham officials every step of the way. The campus planning department reviewed iterations of conceptual design and Waterline Industries’ construction experts weighed in early on design concepts relative to constructability. The university’s existing WTP operations staff and Woodard & Curran’s in- house licensed operations specialists offered invaluable insight for functionality and long-term ease of maintenance.
This collaborative approach helped the project team develop a unique and flexible treatment process for the three extremely different raw water supply resources. Water entering the facility from Lamprey River, Oyster River, and Spruce Hole Well, or any combination of the three, as well as the recycled water from plant processes, creates a unique treatment challenge for design and operations teams. The new WTP includes state-of-the-art equipment that provides operators the ability to proactively optimize blended flow conditions and better anticipate treatment changes based on influent water quality.
The design-build team’s regulatory experts and engineers also considered UNH’s complex water withdrawal permit that allows the Lamprey River to recharge the groundwater at Spruce Hole Well during periods of high flow. This water is stored within the aquifer and is readily available as a groundwater supply when river flows are low. By incorporating this supply and recharge scheme into the new WTP’s overall control and reporting methodology ensures regulatory requirements are satisfied, available resources are maximized, and environmental impacts are minimized.
As construction on the new WTP neared completion, UNH staff turnover prompted the university to engage a contract operator. Woodard & Curran’s operations team responded to the bid and was awarded the contract, effectively turning the project into a design-build-operate (DBO) delivery. By including the existing operators in the design process and hiring them as Woodard & Curran employees under the operations contract, the transition from the old facility to the new facility in March 2020 was seamless.
Based on site familiarity, design-build expertise, and longstanding trust between the firms, the design-build team selected key members early during the qualifications and proposal stages of the pursuit. This resulted in an exceptional partnership throughout the entire duration of the project. Specialty partners were selected based on their experience with design-build delivery, locally based technical expertise, past performance, and strong existing relationships.
Woodard & Curran and Waterline Industries have enjoyed a long, collaborative history as teaming partners with successful delivery on projects even when working on traditional design-bid-build delivery projects. Architectural firm Harriman was added to the core team due to their significant history working on University of New Hampshire campus projects and ability to provide an architectural design suited to the university’s aesthetic vision. Involving Harriman and other specialty subconsultants early in the design process fostered collaboration and developed the best suited solutions for this project. Waterline Industries also engaged trade subcontractors to complete work not self-performed by their staff.
Regular stakeholder meetings, including pre-construction and progress updates, were held throughout the lifespan of the project, along with numerous meetings and ongoing communication with all subconsultants and subcontractors. During the design phase, monthly meetings were held with all project stakeholders. As the project began construction, monthly progress meetings continued in addition to weekly onsite construction meetings. These meetings were integral to maintaining open lines of communication throughout the project. Project meeting minutes for all meetings were posted to a common project management site for all the access and reference. In addition to meeting agendas and minutes, the electronic document management system employed throughout the project provided unlimited, real-time, remote access for all stakeholders to construction drawings, supporting data, and other critical documents, ensuring that all parties had access to the most up-to- date project information.
The design-build approach allowed for stakeholder input throughout the project. The client’s campus planning department reviewed multiple iterations of conceptual designs, constructability reviews were conducted by Waterline Industries, and operability reviews were performed by both Woodard & Curran’s operations group and existing UNH WTP operations staff. Throughout the entire project, this process was fully transparent with close collaboration between the university and design-build team.
At several points during the design process, there were process design workshops with the owner, owner’s project manager, engineer, contractor, and operations staff. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) and other regulators were also heavily engaged in the design process beginning with preliminary design to ensure that the design-build team could proactively address potential permitting concerns.
Lastly, the design-build team engaged with the university’s engineering department to solicit input from teaching staff relative to the design of the facility and additional components, such as a separate student laboratory (isolated from the main process area for security reasons), that could be included to further benefit the university and its students.