Jan 17th 2018 | Posted in Mary Scott Nabers' Insights by Mary Scott Nabers

Major disasters became almost commonplace in 2017.  Regions within the U.S. suffered more than $300 billion in damages and many cities and counties were decimated. Wise people know that when the pain is great enough, change usually occurs…that is definitely happening now.

That change is focused currently on rebuilding efforts – and it relates primarily to construction projects. Public officials are looking for ways to “future proof” their assets. Said another way, they want to endorse construction projects that are sustainable and they want to see resiliency built into the basic structures of every project.

The devastation that occurred did not escape the attention of all public officials throughout the country.  Even regions that escaped a disaster are reportedly re-evaluating capital improvement plans and vulnerabilities that may exist.

There were 16 natural disasters in 2017 where damages exceeded $1 billion. City and county leaders are in rebuilding mode and they do not need federal directives or any kind of encouragement to focus them on infrastructure resilience. The most recent disasters unleashed a tsunami of change.

construction 1 1024x683 Government construction projects may never be the sameMany cities are still working on rebuilding efforts related to disasters that occurred years ago.  Others are involved in recovering from damages caused just this past year. Miami Beach, for instance, is currently involved in a $100 million initiative to raise roads and install water pumps to prevent future flooding. Houston is still trying to get housing lined up for people whose homes flooded just five months ago.

A number of visionary leaders are moving quickly and they are likely to become the acknowledged trendsetters. Boston is planning a new $10 billion seawall.  After a snowstorm met high tide and swept water through downtown Boston, the city began searching for ways to avoid more of the same in the future. One effort being considered is construction of a barrier that would run from Logan International Airport to South Boston.  The project might be modeled after a barrier that was constructed in the Netherlands. Best practices are being shared and public officials are collaborating and offering advice and good counsel.

The city of Miami has issued a $200 million bond to stormproof the city. Officials have promised to spend $192 million on storm drain upgrades, flood pumps and sea walls. Other projects on the drawing board in Miami include road improvements and public safety enhancements.

On a smaller scale, the town of Fairfield, Connecticut, has moved forward on a plan to reinforce its wastewater treatment plant by constructing a flood-control structure around the entire facility.  Another initiative with broad support is the planned construction of a micro grid that will be designed to provide continuous power from multiple energy sources during a power outage. This particular project, still in the design phase, is on track to be put out for bid later this year.

San Diego hopes to soon have a new seaport with an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. It is being designed to adapt to rising sea levels and seismic activity. The project will have unparalleled resilient features and will be a major destination in the city. The seaport will be home to a school, numerous retail establishments, an aquarium and a 500-foot observation tower.

The city of Milford, Connecticut, has several resiliency projects planned. These include the raising of a roadway, installing a perimeter barrier wall around a wastewater treatment plant and replenishing sand to prop up sand dunes.

Storm Lake, in Iowa, is planning its eighth resiliency-focused project and has stated that solicitation documents will be issued within the next few weeks for review by interested contractors.  The $1.6 million project will enhance portions of the city’s storm water infrastructure where high floods often occur.

Construction firms interested in new business opportunities need only to look at where the disasters occurred in 2017.  But successful bidders will be companies that understand the importance of offering construction services with built-in resiliency. That’s the value proposition public officials are seeking in today’s marketplace.

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Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.