Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

The story of the Lion’s Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant proves that input and iterative collaboration between multi-disciplinary experts can allow teams to find synergies that an individual would not discover by himself. When Metro Vancouver was required to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant to a secondary facility—one with much more advanced filtration requirements, necessitating an entire new facility to be built at a different location—the agency wanted to do so in a way that advanced its sustainability objectives of reducing energy costs, carbon footprint, potable water use, and environmental impact.

In pursuing an integrative design approach from the outset, the team produced a design that accommodates sewage heat recovery, and biogas generation, and reclaims water and nutrients—the result of a systems approach to water, energy, and nutrients ensuring that this plant will generate new resources from what is typically treated as waste. It’s an exemplary model of how integrated teams driven by values can achieve higher levels of sustainability than a typical team can.

The agency had been watching the development of another wastewater plant, the Brightwater Treatment System in the Seattle area, which had also pursued an integrative process, and so Lion’s Gate selected John Spencer, of CH2M Hill, who had been the project manager on the Seattle project, to serve as engineer. It also hired Bill Reed and John Boecker to facilitate the integrative process that had been described in the 2012 Integrative Process (IP)–ANSI Consensus National Standard Guide (Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability 2012).

Their experience helped the team overcome some of the initial learning curve, and has kept the project on track in terms of cost; one good indication being that, to-date, Lion’s Gate has had a total of just three contract amendments, while the Brightwater project amassed 42 within the first two years. Even so, the architecture and engineering teams still had some trouble communicating initially. The engineering team, especially, was eager to begin designing and had difficulty understanding why the specifics of a project were not being discussed even after three team workshops.

The project broke through that resistance when the architects realized that the engineers did not intend to use the whole site for the mechanical systems. They had been working hard to make the most efficient use of the space in order to give the architects more to work with. Similarly, the engineers were surprised to learn that the architects were willing to work within certain constraints and were not expecting the engineers to bury all the tanks or hide them away for purely aesthetic reasons. The key, according to the owner, was that the team had the discipline to push through the full alignment process and did not try to get rid of the facilitators after the first workshop. By trusting the process—and trusting itself—the team succeeded in reaching a deeper level of engagement itself, and greater potential for the facility.

The owner now plans to go forward with a design-build delivery model, using the schematic design that it says could not have been conceived otherwise and that has received wide acceptance with its operations and maintenance staff.

Key integrated design and delivery strategies emphasized by the project team:

  • Gaining internal buy-in from management or board
  • Using an alignment workshop to tap into common values for the owner and team
  • Using a jointly developed process roadmap
  • Participation and training of operations and maintenance personnel