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Defining the Design

By Civil Engineering

As the owner's engineer during the design and construction of Montreal's new Samuel De Champlain Bridge, the global engineering and consulting firm Arup ensured that the architectural aspirations for the project were mandated through contract documentation. In a first for the North American market, the approach required the use of a "definition design" within the public-private partnership (PPP) procurement process between the Government of Canada and Signature on the Saint Lawrence Group, the consortium that developed the project.

The definition design clarified the aesthetic intentions of the project, ensuring that all bidders would consider the technical and visual dimensions of the design when submitting their bids. To arrive at a definition design, Arup first had to generate a preliminary design for the bridge that was compatible with the architectural vision and all other project constraints. Then, critical dimensions and tolerance allowances were identified to form the definition design requirements, which mandated certain geometric elements. In this way, the definition design preserved the bridge's architectural integrity during design, procurement, and construction.

Given the prominence of the new bridge and the public interest it generated, this design was not developed in isolation but included a program of architectural reviews with an architectural quality review panel that consisted of representatives from the local engineering, architecture, urban planning, and heritage professional bodies as well as the City of Montreal. Animations and renderings of the bridge were produced in 3-D, which helped allay any concerns and explain how the project would improve the built environment in a sustainable way. This consultation process meant that the design was developed with the cooperation of local stakeholders, with the finalized architectural design received well by the public.

As the deteriorating condition of the existing bridge became increasingly apparent, the government of Canada acted fast and commissioned Arup to help prepare the technical requirements of the project agreement. The government and Arup's team worked together to develop strategies to accelerate the preliminary design and procurement process. To shorten the procurement preparation period, the firm refined the reference design, amending it to accommodate the outcomes from stakeholder consultations and also to incorporate Arup's own assessments of how to improve the lives of those who lived and worked close to the highway and bridge corridor. The reference design served to help define the project's technical requirements and thus inform the cost and schedule estimates. It was used to demonstrate that the design was technically viable and achievable within the proposed budget and time frame.

Arup produced the procurement documentation in eight months, enabling the PPP project to reach financial close in June 2015. The bridge was then constructed in a mere 48 months—two and a half years less than the original time frame-and remained within the government's original budget.


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