Over the course of any renewable energy project, the team is likely to encounter many hurdles: changes in project equipment, rotating staff on project teams, and even changes to federal or local incentives, codes, and standards. Proper documentation and communication are critical for recording key decisions and conveying design intent. This starts with a kick-off meeting and lasts through engineering, permitting, and construction, until generating final as-built documentation. This blog will provide a few tips on how basic project management techniques can help make a project successful.
The initial kick-off process goes beyond having a kick-off meeting but also includes setting realistic projects schedules, understanding budget goals, defining expectations, and meeting with the project stakeholders. The kick-off phase allows the project manager and engineers to understand the project requirements, review available documentation, and identify risks associated with missing information. While not all information will be available, the kick-off meeting is a great time to establish a schedule of need-by dates for any critical missing information.
Getting jurisdictional approval of a project usually requires compliance with a pre-determined list of information. On one recent project, the battery manufacturer was months delayed in completing the UL 9540A testing which evaluates thermal runaway fire propagation within a battery system. Since fire and life safety is a primary concern for a Building Official, the permits would not be issued without this a documentation of a passed test. Despite being incomplete, the permit application was submitted, and, as the manufacturer was continuously delayed, resubmitted again and again. The delays in the permitting process resulted in rework of the design due to changing project goals. In retrospect, the wiser path would have been to delay the original submittal until all documentation was complete. Although it can be a difficult conversation to push a project schedule, it is important for the project manager to evaluate the risks, determine the best path forward and mitigate risks associated with progressing with incomplete information.
Another common project challenge is the way equipment, codes and standards evolve over the development time of a project. One solution is to use a Design Basis document which is a dynamic document that can be set up at the initiation stage of the project life cycle and updated as the project progresses. The design basis document should include at a minimum, project scope, design assumptions, constraints, constructability, legal and code requirements. It documents any significant change during the design phase that will impact the project timeline, budget, and feasibility of the project. It is important that the client regularly reviews and approves the Design Basis to ensure all parties agree on the scope, and all the information is outlined in the document. Having the proper point of contact on the client side is crucial to confirm all design assumptions are accurate and to streamline information when changes occur.
Flux Energy Systems has a lot of experience in managing alternative energy projects efficiently. Our team is skilled at managing project constraints, increasing efficiency and communication effectively. When you hire us for projects, we will provide experienced project managers and engineers to mitigate risks associated with missing information, create, and maintain the design basis document, and ask the right questions throughout the project.
Blog written by Amalia Lopez, Project Manager at Flux.
Talk to us if you want to collaborate with us on your next project in the renewable energy industry!
Alison Brown, PE, PMP