SUPERSLR - Stanford University's Project on Engineering Responses to Sea Level Rise

You are here: start » class_files:start » class_files:responses




Bob Bittner, Gerwick Inc., 3/5/08

Dear Martin,

Please excuse my slow response. We are currently working on two major projects: the pre-bid design for the New Panama Canal for Bechtel, and the pre-bid design of the Storm Surge Barrier for the City of New Orleans. The good news is that both of these projects are a good match for your project. We submitted our team’s proposal for New Orleans about a month ago, and we are expecting the award to be made within the next few days. I therefore will be in position to at least talk about that specific project and provide specific information, although New Orleans has significant weak compressible soils that dictate the type of structure needed there. The sites you mention very likely will not have the same problems. In response to a few of your questions:
The storm surge elevation seems reasonable. New Orleans is being designed for a storm surge of +24.0 MSL after settlement of 2 ft. Most of the barrier is out across a swamp area that has a current elevation of about +1 MSL. The total length of the barrier is about 15,000 L.F. and includes three gated structures where the barrier crosses channels designed for barge and ship traffic. The cost of 1.5 billion for 56,000 LF of barrier works out to $26,800 per ft. This number sounds reasonable and is in the ball park. Five years for construction also sounds reasonable. Location of the wall down the centerline of an existing breakwater could be a problem in that most breakwaters do not have a cut-off wall down the center, and it would be difficult from a construction standpoint to build one through the large rock typically found in breakwaters.

Regarding design adaptability, the major variable and the one that impacts cost the most is the ground conditions over which the structure must be built. In New Orleans, the weak soft compressible soils were the number one problem. You may have to adapt a design for 2 to 3 different soil conditions that could be expect at the 100 most significant ports. These weak soils are very common to major port areas in that most major ports are located on delta areas at the mouth of major rivers. Robert B. Bittner, P.E. President

BEN C. GERWICK, INC. Member of the COWI Group

20 California St., Suite 400 San Francisco, CA 94111

Direct Tel: 415-288-2731 Fax: 415-398-0433

Fred Reichlan, CalTech, 3/4/08

Hi Nathan,

I was finally able to sign on and read your document regarding coastal engineering questions. I think you fully understand the complexity of defining a wave environment at or inside a port in order to define the overtopping (or prevent overtopping) of a coastal structure. As you mentioned, any wave info that you obtain either from the NDBC buoys or from the USACE are extensive. I would probably go with the USACE data set, since it is hourly. And wave storm of importance will usually exist for many hours (24+) so one hour intervals are not too bad. It does mean going back for a number of years to be able to obtain a reasonable data set to be able to predict max waves for 100 year storm events or greater. To come up wth the 100 year storm requires enough years so that from a probablistic viewpoint the data can be extended to the desired storm event. (For southern California, I have a list of major offshore storm events going back to 1905 if that's of any assistance.)

As you've pointed out the problem is that these data are usually in deep water (deep as defined by wave characteristics) and then they must be brought into shallower water at the various ports. This means that bathymetry, wave periods, wave directions and wave heights must be known and then programs such as REFDIF (from U of Delaware) or those from USACE must be used to obtain the wave characteristics at the shore. In southern California the influence of the offshore islands is also important, since island sheltering may prevent waves from a certain direction arriving at a site of interest. Thus, you end up with a Coastal Engineering design problem for each port that you consider – a significant amount of work. In effect this is like a “consulting engineering” problem for each port.

Perhaps it's possible to use another apptroach. I came across the following URL yesterday that can give an estimate (at least the originators claim this) for overtopping volumes for a range of different designs:

(When I get a chance I'll try to check this against some laboratory results that I obtained for several different consulting projects.) It might be possible, by assuming nearshore wave heights and periods, to come up with the type of data you really want – which is the height and configuration of shore revetments for protection using this URL to give an idea of the best configuration.. The deep water characteristics at various ports might give you an idea of what the maximum waves inside might be.

These are some “off the cuff” thoughts, and I'd be happy to pursue them further with you.

Fred Raichlen

Kyle Johnson, GLDD, 2/16/08

Very interesting and ambitious! I think the parameters below make for an excellent case study. I would provide them in bullit point form with your questionnaire.

Great Lakes is a very large international dredging company (biggest in US), but I am not an expert on locks and dams. Do know plenty about large scale marine projects and equipment both here and abroad, so I think I can at least point you in the right direction.

As far as the budget, I really don't know. It certainly could be in the billion dollar range. Note that the entire US Army Corps of Engineers (they “own” the nations waterways) budget for 2007 was $4.7 billion. Of that, $2.3 million was for operations and maintenance. Their construction budget for 07 was only $1.5 billion. So our federal government is certainly not yet geared up for the large scale civil works that would be required for a 2m level sea rise. (They cant even budget the funds to properly dike New Orleans…) And your case study is only one port! Multiply by at least 10 major ports in the US? Wow!!

The type of project you are studying would probably be multi-contract and would definitely involve multi-disciplined joint ventures. Many companies will have expertise and capabilities in one or more parts of the construction (i.e. dredging, stone works, lock works, etc.), but I don't know of any that would have expertise in the whole works. So again, I think your best sources of information will be large scale owners like the Corps and the Port of LA, plus maybe the very big civil general contractors like Washington Group (now merged with URS) or maybe Granite. I can provide contacts at each if you like. I am attending a meeting with the head of the Corps, General Riley, next week and can ask where in the Corps such expertise could be found.

Anyway, I am pleased to discuss via telecon with you and the students. Monday afternoon would be best as I am traveling on Tuesday. Else, I am back in the office on Friday.


Pete Richen, Bechtel Lead Estimator

Special Guest Speaker - Class Notes 12/02/08
  • Estimating resources:

o Published location factors to adjust cost of a project from one site to another

        o Example: Richardson (*seems to be mostly for process industry) or Ard books (sp?)
        o Cost indexes
  * Marieta's estimate: 100-man crew is pretty small, probably should be about 500-men
        o after a crew has worked on a project for a while (e.g., a > 2mile long wall), some cost improvements can be achieved
        o RS Means, etc. are generally optimistic rates
        o overall, the net effect is that the RS Means cost is generally low
  * Design time for this type of coastal engineering?
        o FEE - front-end engineering design
  * Pete
        o Chemical engineer - process plant design (e.g. radioactive residues water treatment plant)
        o also worked on light rail, airports, Panama Canal
  * Bechtel - largest engineering firm in the world by revenue
  * Vertical jobs - cost per foot
  * Heavy civil - material unit costs, then design crews and costs per crew
        o equipment operators, construction equipment fleet management
  * Climate change?
        o Power business
        o Nothing that Bechtel is directly involved with
        o Currently bidding on Panama Canal locks
        o Not a marine contractor per se
        o Mostly ports in connection with mining business
  * Who are the biggest marine contractors?
        o Halcrow
        o Orion
  * Is our project realistic?
        o ENR declined to participate with us
        o Commodity spikes since 2003 have attracted huge amounts of investment, e.g., tar sands work in Alberta, Canada
  * Panama Canal - one project on each side
        o 2.1M m^3 of concrete per project, about 2 years each, 15 million man-years per project
        o design for an average crew size, with a +20% peak in the middle
        o ~1000 men per project
        o $1.5B per side
Special Guest Speaker - Class Notes 1/22/09

Bechtel – Privately Owned Company

              6 Market Sectors
                              Oil Gas & Chem - Houston
                              Power Group - Fredrick
                              Communications -Fredick
                              Government - Fredrick
                              Mining and Metals – Brisbane and Montreal
                              Heavy Civil – London
                              Corporate Group – shares resources
                              Project Controls organization - He is a part of this group, manage schedules, and costs
                              Procurement, Traffic and Logistics

Leader of company is 4th generation Bechtel

Many connections with the Bechtel family in the Bay Area

Employed pop = 40,000

2007 - $34B won projects and worked on $27B

Pete Richen

              Chemical Engineering Grad from Oregon State
              Worked 6 Years in Washington – PE
              MBA Uni Wash – Seattle
              Worked with Bechtel in 1972 – started as a cost engineer
              Worked in Oil Gas and Chem
                              Worked in Houston
                              Worked in Saudi Arabia
                              Worked on North Slope Projects – 1.5 yr
              Did work in the Power group in Fredrick
                              1990 worked in SF
              Went into Gov. Business Line
                              Hanford cleanup site WWII Plutonium facilities
                              Chemical Weapons destruction facilities in N Kent
              Moved into Corporate estimating staff 04-2005?

Cost Estimating – Combination of Analysis and Judgments

              What are they used for?
                              Evaluating a job
                              Basis of an offer to build work
                              Estimates to Evaluate Alternatives
                              Change Orders
                              Evaluating Offers from other parties
              Owner Perspective – develop the project from the beginning to the end, establish broad parameters
              Contractors – develop more information in the area of quantities and man-hours to plan the work
              Worry about how to get the work done

Estimate Classifications

Ex. American Society of Cost Estimators, ASCE has a subgroup as well, Project Management Institute, Construction Industry Institute

              AACE – Classes 1-5 (Bechtel uses model 1, widely used in industry)

                              Class 1 fairly details, tons of analysis not too much judgment
                              Class 5: adjust a cost to a recently completed project that is similar
                              Cost capacity curves – not so much for heavy civil, for heavy equipment jobs

Constructed cost of a facility / production output

For highway, identify right of way, then get costs per lineal foot

Class 1-3: Price times quantity, measuring quantities, material costs, estimate man-hours,

“crewing up the work” – specifying the labor and equipment, price the daily crew cost, estimate the number of days it would take

Capital vs Labor Intensive Jobs

General do last, electrical and control systems

Cost estimate civil work, and parametrically determining the electrical and control work

Towards completion the method changes from price X quantity to how much have we spent and what do we have left?

Fast track jobs – Design-build

                              Owner and contractor agree on schematic design
                              Save a substantial amount of time, puts burden on owner to control costs

Estimating Tools

              Cost Works – RSmeans application
                              Cost/SF models – low level of detail
                              Assemblies models – Uniformat, high level of detail

RSmeans format – most detailed commodities and sizes, can use crew-up approach, still have to estimate the cost of buying materials…

How do you incorporate the cost of material into estimate? Based on local costs of steel?

              Procurement dept will get price information – company takes financial risk


What varies more – material or labor costs?


Cost factors for overhead, housing, etc?

              Depends on the type of work, and where?

Overseas jobs are quite different – Cost of labor in panama is $5-$6/hr, in America - $60-$70, in the South with open shop its $30-$40/hr

Logistics costs in Panama is higher

Indirect costs – temp water, housing, material, staging, barriers, misc services, maintenance, security, equipment, tools, consumables, ST&S, overhead, office equip and supplies

Expended at the job site, but when the work is done, they’re no longer needed

                                              Direct costs - material and labor

Construction Data

Pricing information from Public Utilities, Caltrans, etc

                              Companies offer data through subscriptions

Market report for all major metropolitan areas in Northern California, all public agencies have plan rooms,

If you are a contractor you can go to a plan room if you are looking for work, must have bonds to back up the financial risk

Plan rooms send to Market Reports – will get a copy later

Are you creating an estimate that incorporates climate change for Panama Canal?

              Customer is considering climate change, not adaptation strategy due to Sea Level Rise
              Owner’s engineer is CH2MHill

Historical Cost Report for Portland LTR

              Final cost detail
              Final weekly labor report

Parametric Data

                              UNIT COST

How to deal with uncertainty in pricing for long-term jobs?

Global Insight, commodity pricing escalation prediction firm that Bechtel contracts with Survey vendors annually High-level collaboration amongst civil firms (e.g., on productivity), but would never share company knowledge in terms of detailed cost and estimation information They hedge currencies often (up to 15 months)

BLS website (wpi and ppi) projects out 10 years: ENR 4th quarter reports Track global supply trends

Sustainability discipline in Bechtel Work with LEED High priority on safety in construction Owners specify what is to be done with excess material