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At the heart of it all: Executing a pump station renovation

By |  October 15, 2015 0 Comments

By Bob Scott, ASIC, CID, CLIA and Anthony Williams, CGCS, CGM

Renovation projects are a part of any golf facility’s long-term planning and success. Some renovations are simple, some complex, and all are as diverse as golf courses themselves.

When it comes to planning and executing a pump station renovation, the costs and projected life of this critical equipment mandate an unparalleled commitment to planning, execution and operation. Whether you are just putting together a request for a pump station renovation or are about to start the actual site work, you must address a number of items to succeed.

Putting first things first

The pump station is the heart of an irrigation system, literally pumping water resources throughout the property. Few capital items carry this much importance and the expectation of a decades-long lifespan. The decisions made in planning a pump house often dictate its success or failure.

What’s the first question to ask? It’s “Do I really need a pump station renovation/replacement?” The only reasons that point to the need for such a renovation are that the existing pump station is damaged (see photo to the right), or the existing pump station cannot meet current or projected demand or expectations. While the details of a pump house renovation may be complex, the initial reasons for the project usually are clear.

Gathering the pre-project information and specifying the scope of work for a pump station project requires assembling a specialized team of qualified experts. As superintendent, you serve as project coordinator. However, depending on the complexity of your project, you will need other accomplished experts to ensure success. These experts include but are not limited to an irrigation/pump station design consultant (the person actually creating the pump station scope of work documents), a civil engineer (water flow and permitting), an irrigation contractor and subcontractor (responsible for completing the scope of work), an erosion control specialist, a boring or specialty contractor, an electrician, various inspectors, a safety coordinator, a general construction expert (building, concrete etc.), an arborist (if tree removal is required) and an environmental consultant if wetlands or other environmental issues are affected. Assembling a great team that works together for the duration of the project makes the entire process easier and more effective.

Securing funding and support

So you now have general support for the project and have gathered your team of experts to formalize the scope of work. You next embark on the tedious task of securing the funding and stakeholder support for the project.

You already have the investment of your time and planning fees, but the next crucial step is to create an accurate budget projection presentation. This includes a detailed ROI (return on investment) and a step-by-step cost breakdown and preliminary construction calendar. Spend time on these items at this stage to earn the full support of your property’s stakeholders. Include a set of pictures documenting site features and goals to show clarity of purpose.

Your primary roles at this stage are project manager (an expert in the field) and salesman (selling the value of the project, even to detractors). Be cooperative and flexible at this point, never waiver from the core issues, and communicate, communicate, communicate. This means using face-to-face meetings, phone calls, text messages, e-mails and video conferencing, etc. Multiple communication methods ensure efficiency and document the flow of information through this critical stage of the project. It also gives every stakeholder a confirmed voice in the approval process, which pays dividends during the entire project.

Permits, inspections and 
the scope of work

The irrigation consultant is critical in identifying the necessary scope of work, including any change orders required over the course of the project.

At our recent project at Stone Mountain (Ga.) Golf Course, for example, the initial site condition character identification was to have a floating pumping system in Stone Mountain Lake. However, a 500-year flood event created the need to move the pumping system to an offshore configuration with a 120-foot intake pipe under/in the historical and environmentally protected lake/shoreline. This is when federal and state waterways permitting approval became necessary.

We retained a highly skilled civil engineer to handle the extensive permitting to match our construction plan details. Construction in the lake and shoreline buffer was prohibited during the permitting process. This led to boring the 21-inch intake line from outside the buffer to a designated intake site in order to protect the shoreline buffer and give a gravity flow back to the pumping system. A geologist was commissioned to take core samples of the intake piping routing to identify soils and rock conditions. Fortunately, the geologist’s finding was not solid granite, but more of a pose rock formation that could be bored through effectively.

After permit acceptance, final bid documents, including plans and specifications, were completed. These documents were approved by county, state and federal inspection agencies. These inspectors were periodically on site throughout the project.

These adjustments were critical to the project’s success, but were only revealed as the processes were diligently researched. As we say, “An ounce of preplanning/permitting is worth a pound of change orders.”

Bidding

With all your permits in place, the contractor bid process begins. This starts with the qualification of contractors/bidders and usually requires that each bidder document completion of at least three projects of similar type and size in the last five years. You then select a contractor in a competitive bid process.

Once you award the contract, you post the construction schedule. This includes pre-construction meetings, material submittal acceptance and an installation progress chart showing agreed upon completion goals.

The pumping unit usually is prefabricated from a one-source manufacture, which gives the client a warranty of a complete pumping unit. It takes roughly six weeks for manufacturing and delivery.

During this time you mobilize the contractors and prep the site for pump unit delivery. This includes erosion control, grading, intake bore and wet well and the installation of the building concrete pad. Other items in the installation contract include installing new irrigation piping and isolation valves to connect the new pumping system to the existing irrigation system. The Stone Mountain project had a typical 10-week construction schedule with weekly compliance inspections. Pump station projects are most effective when synergy between the stakeholders connects the project from planning to permitting, from compliance to construction, culminating with the operation of the system.

Pumping system commission and maximizing the new asset

When involved with sophisticated pumping equipment during closeout of the contract, we recommend factory commissioning. This includes startup calibrations and testing all components during a high-stress operational evaluation.

This “working out the bugs” process ensures that any problems or failures happen during commissioning. Conduct piping pressure tests after the unit is commissioned to access complete installation acceptance. At this time, complete the closeout documentation of as-builds, factory commission and spare parts with warranty agreements, including owner’s operation and maintenance manual submittals.

Also important early in the first season of new system operation is completing the interfacing of the golf course central irrigation or other controls. This takes full advantage of any performance features in the pumping system, including flow management to irrigate at maximum flow (helping to shorten watering windows) and maximizing run times to water the turfgrass at the peak time of moisture uptake, thus using less water to achieve optimum turf health.

Daunting but rewarding

Renovating a pump station may seem like a daunting task, but a focused effort and attention to detail ensures that the process will be successful and rewarding. You are the conductor of the renovation orchestra at your property, and while you must know all the parts, you do not have to play every instrument yourself.

Secure the services of reputable and proven experts to keep your project compliant and on schedule, from approval of the project to signing off on the final punch list items. Keep accurate records.

Above all, plan the work and work the plan. Focus your efforts on solving the problems that led up to the renovation with a constant eye on the scope of work and approved budgets and deadlines. The results will be decades of valuable pump station service to the property and to the people who saw this asset to completion.

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