I recently had a conversation with six irrigation consultants to discuss the advantages of hiring a consultant to help with a pump station replacement. The consultants we talked with – Jim Barrett, Greg Baer, Erik Christiansen, Michael Krones, Bob Scott and Brian Vinchesi – are members of American Society of Irrigation Consultants and provide consulting services to golf courses across the country.

The group offered five reasons why you should consider hiring a qualified professional irrigation consultant to work with you on your pump station replacement project.

1. Due diligence.

Carol Colein

A comprehensive preliminary analysis is a critical step to ensuring that the best possible decisions are being made on behalf of the financial stakeholders. The preliminary analysis is a process of documentation and evaluation of all relevant factors that impact pump-station decisions. A consultant is highly skilled and experienced in providing this service and offers an independent and unbiased assessment of needs. Having a thorough documentation of your project needs can also ensure confidence in the project with the financial decision-makers, making the approval process easier.

The preliminary analysis is an important and robust process that ensures all steps and decisions have been thoroughly vetted and considered. A holistic overview of the entire irrigation system will be reviewed and presented, and assumptions may be alternately supported and challenged.

The preliminary analysis is arguably the most important step, but it is all too often short-circuited. The pump station you install today will need to meet the needs of the golf course for many years to come, and a comprehensive assessment is the first step to ensuring its long-term viability.

2. Establish an accurate budget estimate.

When youpropose the budget for your project, your credibility is on the line. Requesting funds based on a realistic number is much easier than requesting additional funds later. Presenting a solid and well-documented budget is often crucial to garnering the support, and ultimately project approval, from financial stakeholders.

Experienced consultants work on many projects like this, so they can provide accurate and recent pricing for the work required for yours. Their experience can be invaluable when developing, presenting and supporting a comprehensive budget to implement the project as envisioned.

An accurate budget is based on information gathered in the initial preliminary analysis, which identifies all pump station needs, factoring in both current and future load requirements. The analysis will address corollary needs such as pump station structure, electrical or water source modifications, and the budget estimate will include labor, shipping, delivery charges, taxes and fees. There should be no financial surprises once the project starts.

3. Obtain competitive bids.

Cost is a crucial factor, but irrigation consultants consider much more than money when analyzing bids. They understand and advocate for nuances in the bidders’ qualifications or quality, but they support a fair, and robust, bidding process. The key is to prepare comprehensive plans and specifications, then ask for bid proposals based on site-specific and clearly defined project requirements.

The plans and project specifications identify the materials, means and method of installation, as well as general conditions regarding insurance, safety and the payment process. Bidder pre-qualifications can be added to protect against “wildcard” bid proposals that can be disruptive and confusing. Accurate, clear and complete drawings and specifications protect both the owner and contractor from misunderstandings.

4. Expertise in construction observation.

Once bid proposals are reviewed, the consultant might offer a recommendation, and the plans and specifications used to solicit bids become the basis for a binding agreement between the owner and contractor.

A consultant’s work generally includes Construction Observation Services, which help to ensure the project is furnished and installed as specified. The contractor submits shop drawings and submittals of materials required for the project to the consultant, whose approval confirms that there is an understanding of what is to be furnished for the pump station prior to its manufacture or shipping.

Periodic visits during the installation ensures the work is progressing as expected and that materials and workmanship are consistent with the plans and specifications. On-site coordination meetings with the contractor can provide further details if needed. A change order is sometimes issued by the consultant to document any agreed- upon changes to the plans and specifications, at which time it becomes part of the project documentation.

The contractor will submit pay applications for work performed but not yet completed, as well as a final pay application. The consultant, acting as a third party, will review and approve any application requests before they’re paid, giving financial stakeholders an additional level of security and confidence.

Once installation is complete, the consultant will verify that the pump station is manufactured, installed and operating as specified. Many consultants can also offer post-construction services to help ensure the station continues functioning as intended.

5. Peace of mind.

A pump station replacement is a high-value project in both cost and importance. The financial stakeholders at your golf course rely on you to ensure they purchase a cost-effective, competitive and comprehensive solution that meets the pumping requirements. As a superintendent, you are the end user of the station and ultimately will benefit from wise choices made throughout the project. A project completed – without major incident, on time, on budget and supported by requisite backup documentation – is a win for you, the financial stakeholders and the contractor.

Any project that is well planned, designed and installed will provide the maximum useful life for the irrigation system and its components. Using the services of a consultant might prove to be a great long-term investment, too.