One of the most critical steps in any project involves providing a smooth and efficient handoff of information between the permitting team and construction crew. Without a clear and concise transition of information, a project might be temporarily slowed down to address issues or even shut down if not in compliance with permitting requirements.
When the permitting team is not involved throughout the project, disconnects can arise. Often, the project owner collaborates with an environmental consultant to complete the permitting phase before construction takes over. This phase typically includes biology and archaeology studies to help inform what permits are applied to the project and to also provide boundaries for how the project is designed.
Additionally, this phase may include important conversations between the permitting team and regulators to mutually establish key conditions of permit issuance. Some conditions of environmental permits are standard and construction crews will encounter these on most projects. However, each permit is different and special attention should be paid to unique conditions. The permitting team will be most familiar with these nuances.
Unfortunately, what can end up happening is a lack of clear communication or training on the permit conditions for the construction crew, especially if the project team is not cohesive or if the permitting group is not involved through to completion. When this happens, the construction team may not be fully aware of the conditions that are required to maintain compliance and the project can suffer.
For example, a permitting team typically identifies sensitive features or habitats that the construction crew must avoid. If these areas are not communicated and building takes place in a restricted zone, the project completion could be delayed and additional costs may be incurred.
Implementing the Four Stages
To help avoid a possible disconnect between permitting and construction, the following four steps should be considered during the project:
- Upfront permitting — The upfront permitting includes studies that identify sensitive environmental features to help support the project design and construction and create boundaries that keep the project in compliance. In many cases, features can be identified and avoided, significantly reducing permitting efforts and, therefore, associated compliance requirements.
- Transfer of power — This step helps facilitate continuity. This means that the permitting and environmental team is involved in permitting handoff meetings between the project owner and construction contractor so that any permitting requirements are clearly communicated.
- On-site compliance training — The third step can be completed in person or virtually depending on the situation. For this, the permitting team provides any pertinent information — often in presentation form — to the rest of the on-site project team. During this presentation, the field members learn what to recognize on-site and any areas to avoid. This is also an ideal time to review shared construction drawings and spatial data to check that avoidance areas are clearly identified and communicated.
- Construction compliance monitoring — For this, the environmental inspector can be present on-site full time or can provide weekly audits and reports as needed depending on the project. This person or team helps assess whether construction is in compliance and can report to the project owner on anything that may need to be improved or repaired, or otherwise identify deficiencies and provide corrective actions in order to get back on track.
Putting Permitting Into Practice
While these recommended steps can be applied to any project, those working on mission-critical facilities like data centers can especially benefit from following them.
For data center projects, which often need to maximize development space, it can be difficult for design and construction crews to avoid certain environmentally protected areas. Many of these projects are built near land and water that serve as homes for protected species, or near wetlands, and have acres of impervious surfaces and other ground disturbances creating more rigorous permitting guidelines than other types of projects. Additionally, mission-critical facility or data center projects are time sensitive and may experience major schedule delays or extra expenses if the permitting and construction teams have not maintained clear communication.
If it is not feasible to utilize an integrated engineer-procure-construct (EPC) team for seamless project execution, following these recommended four steps can help overcome potential costly delays and complications to deliver a successful project.
Addressing complex environmental challenges takes a well-planned, transparent approach to overcome them safely and cost-effectively. Our professionals can guide you to your desired project results.