NSPE Gateway to Government Fall 2012
In This Issue of PEG e-News...

Successful Partnering Requires Commitment, Teamwork, Patience

The formal management process known as partnering is touted by the U.S. General Services Administration and many public sector stakeholders as a team-based approach to project development and problem resolution aimed at eliminating or mitigating conflicts, litigation, and claims. GSA and transportation agencies in Arizona, California, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, and other states cite further benefits of partnering: on-time completion, increased customer (public) satisfaction, better value for the taxpayer dollar, reduction of paperwork, enhanced communication, and improved relationships among all project parties—owner, design professional, contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers.

Not to be confused with joint ventures or public-private partnerships for managing and operating infrastructure, partnering is not a soft strategy for improving project oversight. On the contrary, this structured process requires considerable effort to initiate and diligence to maintain. All parties to a project must voluntarily agree at the outset to adopt a cooperative attitude and commit to the purpose of achieving specific objectives by maximizing the effectiveness of each participant and available resources. Additionally, emphasis must be placed on team building, clearly defining common goals and objectives, developing synchronized systems for resolving conflicts quickly, and conducting regular evaluative sessions regarding the progress and effectiveness of the program.

Although detailed partnering structures may vary from agency to agency, all programs generally begin with a facilitated team retreat involving all project stakeholders—anyone who can impact a project. At this initial workshop session, the partnering team establishes a mission charter and guidelines for effective communication, identifies criteria for evaluating progress and performance, and agrees on methods for resolving disputes and promoting cooperation. All team members sign a formal partnering agreement to ascertain their commitment to the program, and follow-up workshops are conducted periodically for the duration of the project as agreed upon by the participants.

It is important to emphasize that partnering does not replace the need for standard contract documents to define the relationship between project parties under legal parameters. Also, partnering principles are not legally binding unless participants stipulate such intent during the charter’s documentation. If the principles are to be non-binding, as is usually the case, then the language used throughout the partnering documentation must clearly reflect that intention to remove any doubt.

GSA notes that partnering participants in a majority of its public building projects report lower stress levels than in non-partnered projects because traditional adversarial attitudes lose favor and are replaced by a sense of mutual accountability and trust. Studies by other federal and state agencies show further that partnering fosters improved safety, reduced construction time, and greater value engineering savings because of the cooperative environment.

Partnering, of course, is not for everyone, but it is a value-added incentive for public agencies that wish to subscribe to quality, trust, and cooperation in project management. However, the process often requires high-level management commitment to be successful and, consequently, a small project may not always justify such level of management investment. The key for newer participants is to steer clear of an “instant gratification” mindset. Successful partnering is not a one- or two-day event; it takes time and dedicated effort and must be cultivated through shared challenges.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration points out that most industry professionals realize that teamwork will produce a better, more efficient, safer, and cost-effective project. Likewise, these professionals generally understand that most construction problems are caused by a lack of teamwork. “They would also rather work with than against the other players,” according to the NASA Partnering Desk Reference. “Partnering provides them the opportunity, the framework, and the process to do what they should do and want to do—work together.”

The NASA guide also cites surveys by the Construction Industry Institute and others indicating a strong desire for repeating the partnering experience. Equally notable, partnering has probably not realized its full potential yet. NASA says partnering veterans generally agree that the process improves with experience; the fifth partnered project is likely to have more benefits than the first. Moreover, partnering is not a panacea for all problems; it does nothing by magic, but it may salvage a disastrous project or make a mediocre one excellent.

Another recognized attraction of partnering is its versatility of arrangement: project-specific or strategic. The former simply applies for the duration of an individual project, whereas the latter is longer term for a specific period of time, usually addressing a number of projects. Strategic partnering can provide expanded opportunities for continued improvement in support of Total Quality Management initiatives or an enhanced quality control/quality assurance program. Engineers have an old saying: “If you can afford to do it twice, you can certainly afford to do it right the first time.” When effective, partnering exemplifies the TQM experience and can advance zero-defect goals if uniformly adopted by all project stakeholders.

Finally, in terms of measuring performance, the Illinois Department of Transportation, in its model partnering agreement, recommends the following objectives:

  • Construct project within the intent of plans and specifications;
  • Promote highest quality workmanship;
  • Utilize cost-reduction incentive proposals;
  • Handle necessary work changes expeditiously;
  • Meet environmental commitments;
  • Provide safe passage of the public through the project;
  • Promote positive public relations;
  • Provide a safe, enjoyable work environment;
  • Construct and administer the contract so that all parties are treated fairly;
  • Finish project on time, within budget, and with a fair profit for the contractor;
  • Complete the project without unresolved disputes; and
  • Issue final paperwork to representative parties within a specified number of days after completion of the project contract.


2012 PEGASUS Winner

Shannon R. LaRocque-Baas, P.E., is the 2012 Professional Engineer in Government Achievement and Service in the United States (PEGASUS) award winner. PEGASUS recognizes an engineer who has made the most outstanding contribution to the advancement and practice of engineering at the state, regional, county, special district, or municipal government level.

LaRocque is a veteran manager with over 24 years of public and private sector management experience, specializing in the successful execution of priority governmental initiatives and programs. She is an assistant county administrator with Palm Beach County. She is a member of the county administrator’s management team that assists in the oversight of the county’s $3.9 billion budget. In this role, she is responsible for the oversight of countywide economic and business development, housing and community development, and water utilities. As assistant administrator, Shannon is in charge of projects with special impact to the county, including the Scripps Research Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the development and operation of a 400-room convention center and hotel.  

Ms. LaRocque currently serves on the Boards of Directors of the Florida Engineers Management Corp., the Palm Beach Forum Club, and the Glades Utility Authority. She is a graduate of the Florida Engineering Leadership Institute and Leadership Palm Beach County. 

In 2011, she was recognized as the Government Engineer of the Year by the Palm Beach chapter of the Florida Engineering Society as well as by the Florida Professional Engineers in Government. Shannon served as the first female president of the Florida Engineering Society in 2003. She was recognized by the Society as the state’s Engineer of the Year in 2006. 

To apply for the PEGASUS Award, visit the PEG Web site. [ return to top ]

NSPE/PEG Federal Engineer of the Year Award

The Federal Engineer of the Year is selected by a panel of judges established by NSPE-PEG who consider engineering achievements, education, continuing education, professional/technical society activities, NSPE membership, awards, honors, and civic and humanitarian activities. Candidates are nominated by their employing federal agency. The agency must employ at least 50 engineers worldwide.

The winners will be honored at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in February 2013.

Go to the
NSPE Web site to download the Federal Engineer of the Year Award application. Nominations must first be submitted to your agency's point of contact/human resources department for approval. Deadline for submissions is October 31, 2012.

Check out the 2012 top 10 federal engineers and NSPE/PEG Federal Engineer of the Year Steven Arndt, Ph.D., P.E., U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, on the
NSPE Web site.

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Happenings on the Hill

Final Drilling Safety Rule Requires Extensive PE Oversight

NSPE achieved a victory when the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a final rule that makes permanent the additional safety measures authorized in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill. The rule requires professional engineers to be more involved in the design and certification of offshore oil wells. NSPE General Counsel Arthur Schwartz commented before the Chemical Safety Board in 2010 that professional engineers should supervise all engineering design, operations, and maintenance of offshore oil wells.
Specifically, the new rule stipulates that:

  • PEs must be involved in the well casing and cementing design process;
  • PEs must certify that well casings and cementing are appropriate for expected wellbore conditions;
  • PEs must certify well abandonment designs and procedures; and
  • PEs must certify that well designs include two independent barriers in the center wellbore and all annuli.

The rule also requires independent third parties to conduct blowout preventer inspections. These third parties must be licensed professional engineers, professional engineering firms, or technical classification societies. [ return to top ]

NSPE Webinars

This fall, NSPE brings a wide selection of new and live online education opportunities. Each session is sold per connection, allowing your colleagues to join you. These sessions offer outstanding value. So don't hesitate to earn your PDHs, sign up for one of our online sessions now!

Engineering Ethics: Technical Issues
October 24, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (EDT), 1 PDH

This session will examine a variety of issues including codes and standards, expert witness testimony, patents, preparation of technical proposals, use of technology, and other issues. Participants will have the opportunity to offer comments, pose questions, and participate in interactive polling surveys.

Ethics and Sustainable Development
October 30, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (EDT), 1 PDH

Sustainable development involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality, and social equity. In this webinar, Carlos Bertha will unpack what this means from a moral perspective. Is it possible for an engineering venture to remain profitable and still be environmentally and socially responsible? Is it ethical for such a venture not to expand its “bottom line” this way? Carlos will use a variety of examples to show that sometimes the problem isn’t as simple as it sounds. As a special case, he will discuss how his experiences as a resident engineer in Afghanistan shaped his perspective on sustainable development.

These are just some of the courses NSPE has to offer. For full course listings, visit our Web site. [ return to top ]

Register today for the CI Summit!

Join Justin Weisberg, P.E., M.ASCE, the incoming chair of the EJCDC Committee, as he and a team of experts present a workshop on EJCDC: Engineering the Terms and Conditions to Plan, Design and Construct Improvements for Infrastructure, the Environment and Industry. 

This program will provide the participant with a working understanding of front end documents and important contract terms for the design and construction of engineered projects. The program will provide an overview of the contract documents provided by EJCDC, the prominent partnership that provides forms specifically for engineered projects. The knowledge gained from this program should assist the participant in all aspects of design and construction, from negotiating a contract for engineering services with the owner to administering the construction contract.

Get your questions answered by experts and become an active participant in the workshop's  discussions, including a panel on disputes:  Payment, time and completion are probably the most likely factors to result in a dispute on the construction project. Due to the current economy and increased competition between contractors, disputes and the necessity to terminate contracts due to the inability of a contractor to perform have been occurring at an increased frequency. This panel will discuss cutting issues regarding change orders, delays, claims, disputes, completion, and termination.

The 2012 CI Summit / ASCE Texas Section Fall 2012 Conference is coming to beautiful downtown Fort Worth November 7-10, 2012. The Texas Section has partnered with the Construction Institute (CI) and the International Committee on Sustainable Design, Engineering and Construction (ICSDEC) to bring you three conferences in one.

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201213 PEG Executive Board Contact Information

Kirankumar Topudurti, Ph.D., P.E.

Scott Wolf, P.E., PLS


Immediate Past-Chair
David Alan Janover, P.E.

Northeastern Region Vice Chair
David N. Rackmales, P.E.

Southeastern Region Vice Chair
Bill Bowie, P.E.

Central Region Vice Chair
Dr. Scott Haraburda, P.E., Ph.D.

Southwest Region Vice Chair
Mark Dubbin, P.E.

Western & Pacific Region Vice Chair
Patrick M. Coullahan, P.E., PMP, CFM

North Central Region Vice Chair
Donald Neumann, P.E.

Young Engineer Representative
Josh Aldred, P.E.

HOD Representative
Sandra Knight, P.E., F.NSPE, F.ASCE

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