At HydroSense, we believe the preparation of irrigation system plans and specifications, the observation of the installation process and construction methods, and solutions for efficient use of water and irrigation management are best performed through an independent consultant. An unbiased perspective is necessary to maintain the focus of the project and keep the overall intent of the owner or client at the forefront of importance. There are several reasons to consider an irrigation consultant for any given project.
By definition, design-build is a construction project delivery system where the design and construction aspects of a project are contracted for with a single entity known as the design-builder or design-build contractor. Design-build is widely used for small- to mid-size construction projects because of the system's many advantages; including apparent cost savings, enhanced communication and faster turnaround time among the biggest reasons to employ the design-build method. The problem with design-build irrigation projects as a general concept, is that the system heavily favours the installer. Naturally, the contractor does not see this as a problem. But the buyer or owner should.
During the design-build procedure, the contractor is deciding on design issues as well as issues related to cost and profits. Where the traditional method of construction procurement dissociates the designers and consultants from the contractors’ interests, the design–build delivery method does not. On this ground it is believed that the design-build procedure is poorly adapted to irrigation projects which generally require a sound knowledge of design theories and hydraulic principles, a wide variety of material selections, adequate training and safety standards and various application methods.
Furthermore, it is almost impossible to make any genuine assessment or comparison of prices between irrigation contractors where their designs differ. When a design-build irrigation installation goes out to tender with the owner’s performance specifications, the result inevitably is a competitive exercise in under-design and cost cutting, with the important considerations of water efficiency and conservation, long-term cost-effectiveness, quality and simplicity of maintenance being sacrificed to offering an attractive immediate price, also known as the lowest bid.
While it’s true that many irrigation projects utilize irrigation consultants, the majority of irrigation installations still do not. Water conservation continues to grow in importance, yet water-conserving technology is still rarely found in a majority of irrigation systems installed today. Budget limitations quite often encourage the use of design-build irrigation installers but the end result for the owner or buyer is seldom what is anticipated. In Ontario, building codes and safety standards generally do not extend to landscape irrigation installation. The decision to install a sound, efficient and quality irrigation system is completely voluntary.
In today’s economy, the fierce competition for work encourages irrigation installers to cut corners in an effort to save money to win a project over another bidder. Even the competent and qualified contractors are tempted to lower their standards in a tough economy to stay in business.
Visit the Irrigation Association’s website and you’ll find hundreds of Certified Irrigation Designers. But the reality is the role of an independent consultant goes beyond that of the designer with the most certification designations. While a competent irrigation designer can establish an efficient irrigation design and specification, consultants offer additional services that may include master planning, GIS/GPS services, water auditing, water use and supply evaluation, LEED™ calculations, Toronto Green Standard design briefs, pump station design, rain water harvesting solutions, contract administration and installation assurance confirming the use of the specified materials, approved installation procedures and all close-out requirements to conclude a project. Irrigation consultants are impartial to every project and are not tied to a loyalty program. Materials are selected on the basis of performance and application to each individual project, not with an assembly line mentality.
An irrigation consultant remains educated and current on the new technologies in the industry that actually saves water. While an intuitive irrigation system prepared by an irrigation consultant may be more costly to install initially, the water savings and the lower cost of maintenance of a quality system over its useful life more than returns to the owner... every time.