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Environmental Risk and Delay Analysis: Lessons Learned from the California High Speed Rail Project


A Design Build project is a type of project delivery mechanism contracted via a single-source with specified construction timeframe and cost. Environmental delay during construction is one of the major reasons why Design Build projects are running behind schedule and over budget. My dissertation assess the environmental delays within the Design Build process carried out by the California High Speed Rail Authority, construction management firms, and Design Build contractors.

Currently, the California High Speed Rail Authority has procured three separate Construction Packages comprising of over 120 miles of active rail construction. The Design Build procurement process require evaluation of the individual environmental uncertainties brought upon by the change orders for each of these Construction Packages. Despite the differences in project characteristics, design variations triggered majority of these change orders following the certification of the environmental impact assessment. The change orders can lead to more delays and additional work outside of the approved environmental footprint, subsequent environmental surveys and re-exams, additional land access, Third Party issues, and late planning and poor coordination. To assess the environmental delays caused by the change orders, I propose a mechanism to rank the delay factors which involves development of a typology, assigning delays with a delay score, and preparing a risk register to track all current and emerging change orders by the associated delay scores. The identified environmental delays are then matched to various case scenarios with characteristics that reflect the actual change orders from the Construction Packages.

My iterative delay assessments from the Construction Package 4 result in a series of implementation steps for future project delivery. I have synthesized the lessons learned from managing the environmental delays into organizational and project delivery working protocols. I propose to capture these working protocols to reflect the impacts of the proposed recommendations from the current practice. The recommendation can be extrapolated to guide and streamline the environmental assessment and permitting process for future construction and design projects.

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