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Waikato R2R - Achieving Resilience Outcomes Through Collaboration

May 11, 2022 | 21 min read time by R Burchell S Harlos M Stanford


The Waikato R2R (River to Reservoir) Programme, including the first phase of the Waikato A Water Treatment Plant and a Boost Pump Station, provides Auckland with an additional 50 million litres (ML) of water per day from the Waikato River to the Redoubt Road Reservoir. The new treatment plant is the largest in a series of new water sources to be brought into service following Auckland’s recordbreaking drought in 2020. The $145 million programme delivered a resilient solution for drought and growth within a 12-month period (25% of the normal duration) and was delivered by a collaborative and agile partnership through Auckland’s water utility, Watercare Services Limited’s Enterprise Model (WEM). The WEM vision of 40% reduction inbuilt carbon, 20% reduction in capital cost and a 20% improvement in wellbeing, health & safety outcomes (40:20:20) was a core focus in the delivery of the project.


The following three factors were integral to the success of Waikato R2R:
  • Establishing and communicating the key project outcomes can drive the right culture to innovate by utilising proven supply chain and subject matter experts
  • A mindset for true collaboration and partnering is the basis for achieving the impossible – delivering cost-efficient, sustainable, and safe programme outcomes through trust, co-location and agile delivery
  • Digital engineering approaches can facilitate outcomes and provide long term value. Digital engineering created the space for collaboration and innovation and enabled early and effective decision making, as well as providing the platform for extracting long term operation and maintenance value

The partnering approach with agile delivery resulted in a delivery of the key project outcomes in 12 months. For a delivery across multiple sites which included consenting, design, procurement, construction, commissioning, and hand-over, this represented a 75% saving in delivery time, and significant cost savings, when compared to standard practice and traditional contracting models.


Communication and Outcome Focus

Shared Vision

A shared vision and focus on the early defined programme outcome goals were central to achieving best for the programme outcomes and building trust. Watercare set the tone from the top, relished the different thinking and created the culture of ‘no-blame’ which enabled bold decision making and realignment of productivity and accountability to accelerate the teams’ efforts.

Getting the right people from the wider WEM partnership together who possessed the experience, expertise, and openness to embrace a truly collaborative partnership was the critical factor to establishing a pathway of informed decision-making and programme success.

The team nurtured the potential to achieve the outcome, and all decisions were tested against meeting the outcome. The leadership was passionate in championing the outcomes– supporting free-flowing performance coordinated by Agile approaches, less about hierarchy or which partner organisation the team member was from.

On the Waikato R2R Programme, a cost reimbursable contract format was agreed for accelerated delivery which allowed total transparency of risk on the Programme. The risks were then priced and Watercare held the ‘risk allocation’. This allowed the project team to manage the risks collectively, focusing on the mitigations without being burdened by the commercial discussion on ownership of the risk and the associated cost.

The key to success was the frequent and collaborative risk reviews that took place throughout the programme delivery to ensure that risks were being mitigated as far as possible. The risks were identified collectively with the constructors, suppliers, designers, and Watercare and there was a dedicated risk manager assigned to the project which provided added focus and rigor to the process. Ultimately, the benefit of this approach was that it allowed everyone to be focused on project delivery, safety and on programme rather than spending time managing commercial pressures typically seen in lump sum contracting. The next step for the Enterprise Model is to apply the principles of risk transparency under the wider programme of works which will generally be delivered under lump-sum contracts.

Proven Supply Chain and Trust in SMEs

Watercare’s selection of the filtration technology and componentry at the commencement of the Waikato R2R Programme (and designing to this) was an effective way to manage programme/delay risks to global supply chains and delivery lead times due to COVID-19. A bold decision and well informed.

Developing the phased consents was a collaborative effort between Watercare, Beca, Fletcher Construction, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and Waikato Regional Council. With design and methodology still being developed at time of lodgment, consents had to be sought with flexibility to enable the final design/construction approach, whilst complying with the relevant legislation. Despite the urgency of the programme, no compromises to the environment or lapses in controls were permitted; and this was demonstrated through construction and commissioning with no significant environmental incidents recorded.

Collaboration and Partnering Mindset


There is no single “master move” that provides leadership in such a bold venture!

Waikato R2R benefitted from a combination of evolving actions that brought the entire team on the journey and where all the members of team were empowered by Watercare. Watercare set the tone from the top, encouraged and relished different thinking, and created a culture of ‘no-blame’ which enabled bold decision making and the alignment of productivity and accountability to accelerate the teams’ efforts. The potential to achieve the outcome was nurtured within the team and all decisions were tested against meeting the projects outcomes.

Several leaders emerged who were aligned across the various work streams and partner organisations. This allowed the Leadership to continue to learn, listen and focus on the bigger picture outcome and was a key factor in mitigating any resistance to working in this non-traditional manner.

On such a time-pressured project, the co-located team embraced an agile approach connected across several offices of designers, field staff and suppliers collaborating in a common digital environment. Many decisions were made as part of this organic approach to delivery, with 15 two-week sprints instead of typically long planning meetings. Thirty minute daily stand-up meetings drove alignment across all partners and key suppliers. The team also procured ‘at speed’ – requests went out to suppliers in advance of design completion. Given the global supply chain issues in 2020, which were compounded by the pandemic and associated lockdowns, the risk was mitigated by early selection of suppliers and shared procurement by Watercare, Fletcher and Fulton Hogan.


One of the greatest differences on the Waikato R2R delivery was having the integrated team of over 150 planners, designers, constructors, and suppliers co-located at Beca’s offices with digital support facilitating overseas participation. Later during the construction phase, the team moved to site to support timely resolution of issues, collaborating earlier and for longer to deliver pragmatic, constructable solutions. This approach also ensured the programme leadership had access to all the information needed to make bold and timely decisions without unnecessary risk and to keep the programme moving at pace.

Outcome Focused Design Delivery

The integrated team managed to prioritise design work packages for just in time delivery and just enough to get commence procurement and then get construction started. It is important to highlight that this required trust across the team, a non-blame culture, and the ability to deliver missing detail with the integrated team on site; all without the contractual barriers often experienced in normal lump sum contracts. The non-sequential programme focused on the delivery of work, with the combined team having aligned themselves to the project outcomes. This achieved not only a condensed programme across the design and construction interphase, but also the construction and commissioning interphase.

ECI Value +

Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) is where the Contractor is engaged to provide early advice in the feasibility and constructability of design from a construction perspective. The Waikato R2R approach built on the collaboration and partnering foundations established at the commencement of the design and leveraged the ongoing engagement under a new approach called ECI Value+. Commencing at the traditional basis of design phase the collective team was challenged to identify and eliminate low or non-value design efforts that would have been traditionally delivered to meet a tendering process. This enabled the designers and contractors to collaborate to reduce the requirement for drawings or design content, which served the purposes of accelerating the design activities and reducing overall design costs. As a counterpart to the accelerated approaches, Longer Designer Engagement (LDE) facilitated the acceleration of construction with a mobilisation of key designers to the contractors’ field offices, providing continuity of decisions and outcomes and provision of guidance and oversight. These efforts combined, allowed for pragmatic design solutions to be delivered at pace. Any issues with the design that were identified subsequently were then addressed on-site through the same collaborative approach and resolved quickly.

Operations Partnering Guarantees Programme Outcome Success

Operating the existing Waikato WTP, the largest in the country at 175 MLD, and integrating another 50 MLD from the new treatment plant on the same site, presented challenges around the continuity of supply of potable water to Auckland and the safe commissioning of the new WTP. Integrating Operations staff into the team early allowed for open and honest conversations and added valuable experience through to completion of commissioning. Operation engagement reinforced the culture of collaboration amongst the team and partner organisations. As the facility was entered into service to supply water to Auckland customers, the Operations team took the leading role in ensuring compliance with drinking water standards and protecting the environment (including the Waikato River).

Digital Journey - Delivering Ongoing Value

The team recognized from the onset the criticality of implementing effective digital engineering processes to achieve the project outcomes, specifically the Programme. These processes were a key enabler that facilitated collaboration that supported planning, decision-making, design and

construction alignment and allowing the Programme to progress during lockdown restrictions. These
processes including

  • An automated process to coordinate more than 80 design models in a geospatial system that enabled daily collaboration across design and construction for the duration of design and construction delivery.
  • Integrating temporary works design within final design to verify effective and safe delivery
  • Automated drawing verification, which significantly reduced the total number of required drawings
  • Accelerated construction ‘drawings’ through shared digital files extracted directly from models. Including the comprehensive detailing of verified status
  • Creation of digital asset information via automatic data capturing resulted in all captured metadata and asset information categorised and mapped into Watercare’s asset management system, fully supporting a digital twin of the new plant

Figure 1 demonstrates the high level of detail available to the team in the design phase to coordinate all design disciplines and the construction through the automated processes.

Figure 1: Booster Pump Station 3D design

At the start of the programme, a new digital delivery method developed to support digital delivery implementation across design, construction and operation phases. This method was created based on four main steps and objectives:

  1. Creating a Unique Geospatial System and Automate Daily Digital Collaboration
  2. Digital Collaboration to Improve Construction Accuracy and Productivity
  3. Improving Sustainability Through Maximising Transparency
  4. Innovating an Ecosystem to Capture and Populate Asset Information Digitally

Creating a Unique Geospatial System and Automate Daily Digital Collaboration

The innovation came through the process of sharing the verified and coordinated digital information in a collaborative and dynamic way. A unique geospatial system created for the programme enabled flawless programmed daily collaboration between different models developed via a diverse range of tools, such as Revit, Plant3D, Civil3D, 12D, E3D, Navisworks and Recap Pro. Figure 2 (overleaf) highlights the programme overall workflow that supported creation of a single source of truth for coordination.

rbf2Figure 2: Programme Overall Workflow

Design information which developed in more than 80 different models by different designers across Aotearoa and overseas, was automatically federated and shared with all users. This process was programmed to operate automatically between 10pm and 6am every day during 12 months of design and construction works.

The new process helped Watercare, Beca, Fletcher Construction and Fulton Hogan to coordinate seamlessly. This new collaboration method in the digital space enabled the construction teams to provide rapid and efficient feedback on the practicality and constructability of the design information on a daily basis during the design phase. Thanks to this new workflow, end users had open access to all digital asset information and monitor progress of design and construction planning.

Design models shared via this platform were also updated on daily basis during construction stages. Figure 3 is snapshot of a station set up at construction site which utilised to share and coordinate design information with the construction teams.

rbf3Figure 3: Collaboration Station Set Up at Construction Site

Digital Collaboration to Improve Construction Accuracy and Productivity

Through the digital collaboration tools, the construction teams were empowered to provide rapid and efficient feedback on the constructability of the design being developed. This resulted in an efficient ECI design process which produced a robust buildable design, ultimately reducing the number of design iterations and issues experienced in the field during the construction phase.

Digital engineering helped the design and construction teams to coordinate work as design and construction progressed in parallel. Collaboration in the digital space allowed the construction teams to plan and program works while the design was still being developed and drawings were unavailable.

Construction progressed without Issued for Construction (IFC) drawings being available and this was enabled by sharing digital files extracted directly from the federated model. Identifying and confirming the IFC status of the digital model elements was critical to ensuring the data being extracted from the model was ready for construction. This information could be easily verified in the model space by adding design status metadata stamps to the model elements.

Without the ability to construct in this manner, the construction program would not have been achieved. Figure 4 highlights how design elements simply verified in digital environment and verification status shared with construction teams through a simple colour coding system. Via this process, all Green 3D elements recognized as verified, Orange coordinated as work in progress and Red highlighted as on hold items.

rbf4Figure 4: Programme Model Verification Process

The constructor's temporary works design required for the construction of the asset can have a significant impact on how the permanent design should be developed. Through digital collaboration, the constructor and the designer could share temporary and permanent works to coordinate and verify a design solution that was effective and efficient. For the Waikato R2R programme, the temporary works design of the bulk earthworks surfaces drove the overall site layout and influenced the finished ground level design. The collaborative approach to this design minimised earthwork volumes and provided significant program gains.

Collaboratively developing a verified earthworks design made taking the step to machine-controlled excavation an easy choice. Machine controlled excavation enabled the constructor to accelerate the earthworks and reduce overall fuel consumption and environmental impacts of works. The exceptional accuracy and efficiency of the works resulted in significant program savings and provided the foundation's teams early access to a well-formed working platform. Figure 5 is a snapshot of machine controls utilised for the programme with a comparison of what designed in 3D environment against quality of final earthwork constructed on site reducing waste and our collective carbon footprint in construction.


Figure 5: Earthworks Accuracy via Machine Control

Improving Sustainability through Maximising Transparency

Digital processes improved transparency of the design process. Design members, construction and maintenance teams had access to graphical and non-graphical data that updated daily. This capability enables all parties to receive information on what equipment, products and materials proposed by design teams, how they would be constructed or fabricated off site, and what will be energy consumption of these facilities. The high level of transparency enabled contractors, engineers and venders to provide feedback on sustainability aspects of design information. This approach resulted on selection of materials and equipment that were environmentally friendly and meet the programme sustainability objectives. Team members also had the opportunity to review, study, simulate and enhance the design content at every step. Minimising the programme time frame, improving efficiency, enhancing design information, reducing reworks on-site, and providing data that can be utilised during the lifetime of assets had significant impacts to meet sustainability objectives of the Waikato R2R programme.

Innovating an Ecosystem to Capture and Populate Asset Information Digitally

Developed digital data during the design phase and captured information during the construction stage created a high level of control through construction completion and commissioning/asset operation and maintenance. At the early stages of project development, a specific asset data schema was developed for all facilities. The schema identified all assets and highlighted the data that was required for operation and maintenance of these assets. It also covered what data needed to be captured for Operations, and which party was responsible to provide the required information. At the end of commissioning and handover phase, all digital information was shared with the client via a digital twin platform which had direct impact on sustainability.


The Waikato R2R Programme has demonstrated that partnering based on outcome-focused mindsets, combined with behaviours of collaboration, can provide the foundation for innovation and bold thinking. This foundation can be applied across any aspect of the construction sector. Additionally, the scalable delivery methods of value extraction used on Waikato R2R (such as Agile, Co-location of enabled/engaged decision makers and Digital Engineering) can be integral to solving any construction/infrastructure delivery constraint. Figure 6 shows the overall site 9 months after design, consenting and procurement commenced.


Figure 6: Construction of Water Treatment Plant Construction

The greatest post-learning realised in the approaches used to deliver Waikato R2R, has to be the return on investment in our collective human capital. There were over 2500 engineering and construction professionals engaged on this ground-breaking approach to deliver value in the construction sector. Each one of these individuals has been exposed to new ways of working and involved in the application of new processes and ideas from partner organisations. These learnings and experiences are totally transferable across the construction sector – providing surety of outcomes in the wider Construction Industry.

To be able to reduce three to four years’ worth of effort to a 12-month time frame, the team needed to collaborate and operate differently. There were over 80 design models produced by a team of more than 70 designers that needed to be automatically collaborated every day to minimise the design duration of five facilities to a four-month programme. A unique geospatial system needed to be created to support interoperability challenges between more than seven design authoring tools platforms. Some of the design information needed to be verified in digital format to enable digital construction. All design models were required to be upgraded to as built level for the operation phase. All design and construction data needed to be classified at both asset and element levels automatically to support the Watercare facility management requirements. The digital method implemented for the programme supported the project stakeholders to collaborate efficiently regardless of their locations or time zones. Figure 7 shows the overall site in operation 13 months after design, consenting and procurement commenced.


Figure 7: Water Treatment Plant in Operation

This programme approach validated the Watercare Enterprise Model principles and delivered on the vision of 40:20:20 with an estimated 5900 tCO2e infrastructure carbon savings, and an estimated
$35M cost reduction, all delivered with a TRIFR rating of 2.57 which is both below industry average and our initial programme targets.