Big Ship, Big Blades

One look at the huge ship (612 feet long) and you knew it was something special.  It was backed up to the middle bridge of the Piscataqua River and loomed over the roadway.  How to handle the ship and its cargo is a project.  The Port Director at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, considered the project as a new opportunity, and we considered it as spawned from a Green by Definition (GbD) project.  First a little about the GbD project.  Granite Reliable Power Park is a wind farm project in northern New Hampshire.  It consists of 33 Vesta V90 3 Mw wind turbines, only the second U.S. wind project to deploy these turbines.  It will generate 330,000 MWH, enough to power 40,000 homes and offset 332 million pounds of carbon dioxide.  In addition, the project will generate more that 200 jobs.

The port project itself; offload the cargo to be used for the wind farm from the Salmaagracht, a Swedish registered massive vessel docked at the State Pier in Portsmouth.  The cargo:

  • 22 nacelles (gear housing) measuring 32 feet long and weighing 81 tons each, about the weight of two humpback whales.
  • 69 fixed blades, each measuring 149 feet long or about the length of 4 school buses and weighing 17 tons.
  • 22 hubs (part of the rotor assembly) and 22 spinners

What makes the ship special are the 3 huge cranes that can lift up to 120 tons.   Further logistics for the project included one tractor trailer for each blade, 80 workers, and 45 minutes to unload each blade.  It was a pretty amazing project that had never been done before in Portsmouth Harbor, unique, one time effort, consumes limited resources, has a fixed start and end date, you know, a project.  What we didn’t see is the greenality of the port project itself.  Yes, it was related to a GbD project, and we bet that by now, you know the questions to ask to evaluate the greenality of the project itself.  So here is the challenge.  Tell us the questions you might ask by commenting on the post.  We’ll start you out with one.  What kind of lighting do they have at the State Pier?

Through a Sustainability Lens

Often times we talk about the Green Spectrum, particularly with respect to projects that are green in general, or appear to have no sustainability aspect, when, in actuality, all projects have a sustainability element.  This time, we’ll look at a project that is Green by Definition, but is scrutinized through a sustainability lens.  And, it is a very,very interesting concept.

As part of the “Smart from the Start” (that sounds like a good phrase for sustainability in projects, too) initiative by Secretary of Interior Salazar, there is a proposal for a 200 mile-wide wind energy corridor stretching from Canada to the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

While we don’t know yet about the other sustainable aspects being considered, we do know, at this point, that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will write an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  “Wind energy is crucial to our nation’s future economic and environmental security. We will do our part to facilitate development of wind energy resources, while ensuring that they are sited and designed in ways that minimize and avoid negative impacts to fish and wildlife,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “This EIS process gives us an opportunity to evaluate impacts to dozens of imperiled species at a landscape level to ensure that wind energy development occurs in the right places in the right way.”

The reasoning behind the EIS is that in order to accomplish the project, an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) needs to be granted.  Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act and its implementing regulations “prohibit the take of animal species listed as endangered or threatened.”  It doesn’t allow the harassment, harm, pursuit, hunting, shooting, wounding, trapping, capturing, or collecting or, an attempt to engage in those practices when it comes to endangered or threatened species.  However, Under Section 10 of the Act, it allows for people to obtain an ITP as long as they are pursuing otherwise legal activities.  The permittee is then provided “incidental take” authorization.

The applicant must submit a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) containing the measures that it will take to minimize, avoid, or mitigate incidental take.  The Service will then review the HCP and issue an EIS that considers the impacts.  The Service will also identify “potentially significant impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, water resources, economics, and other environmental/historical resources that may occur directly or indirectly as a result of implementing the proposed action or any of the alternatives. Various strategies for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the impacts of incidental take will also be considered.  Sounds like risk management to me!

“The proposed Permit Area is defined as a 200-mile wide corridor determined by defining the center line of the whooping crane migration based on the database of confirmed whooping crane observations from the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Program and buffering that line by 100 miles on either side. This corridor spans the Gulf Coast of Texas north to the Canadian border and encompasses such cities as Houston, TX; Oklahoma City, OK; Wichita, KS; Bismarck, ND; Grand Island, NE; and Aberdeen, SD. In addition, the permit area includes the current and a large part of the historic range of the lesser prairie-chicken which extends the covered area beyond the 200-mile wide whooping crane migration corridor to include parts of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.”

“Species currently considered for inclusion under the permit include the following: the endangered whooping crane (Grus americana); endangered interior least tern (Sterna antillarum athalassos); endangered piping plover (Charadrius melodus); and lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a candidate species.”

There are two important points here for a project manager.  The first is that this will be one heck of a program, involving a huge amount of projects, wind energy projects including; the wind power generators themselves, transmission, distribution, support facilities, etc.  Secondly, it involves looking at the project through a sustainability lens.  In above case, a very narrow view because of regulatory issues (specifically the Endangered Species Act) one of the “drivers” in our book.  There will be more and more of these opportunities for the project manager who is not only aware of sustainability issues, vocabulary, and problems and drivers, but also uses that knowledge and considers greenality* when approaching any project.

* The degree to which an organization (project manager) has considered environmental (sustainable) factors that affect its projects during the entire project life cycle and beyond.

Bridge to Nowhere – Bridge to Somewhere

Bridge to Nowhere, Bridge to Somewhere

Our local project is certainly not a bridge to nowhere.  Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the seacoast area are popular commuter destinations.  However, Portsmouth is a very expensive area to live.  As a result, most commuters live to the west of Portsmouth.  Between the town and the suburbs is a major river and an estuary.  There is an old, narrow, four-lane bridge located about at the junction of the estuary, Little Bay, and the river, the Piscataqua, although it is really on the upstream side of the drainage from Little Bay.  The bridge has out lived its usefulness.

The bridge to the left is the old bridge.  The bridge to the right is the old, old bridge.  This is an extremely environmentally sensitive area.  To the right is Little Bay and if you travel far enough up the channel in Little Bay, you reach Great Bay  There are also 7 major rivers that feed Great Bay, Lamprey, Squamscott, Cocheco, Bellamy, Salmon Falls, Oyster, and Winnicut Rivers.  It is a significant drainage area.  American Shad and Alewives head up those rivers to spawn.  Striped bass, bluefish and others transit through these bridges on their way into Great Bay.  All that said, let’s look at the bridges.

Ultimately, the new bridge combined with the rehab of the old bridge will carry 8 lanes of traffic (4 and 4).  So a new 4 lane bridge will be constructed between the old bridge and the old, old bridge.  The old bridge will be rehab to provide the added four lanes, and the old, old bridge will be rehabbed for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.  Whew that is a mouthful!

This is a rendering of the new and rehabbed bridges all together.  So what does that mean to sustainable project management?  We are not part of the management team for this bridge,  so we don’t know if the project will be management in a sustainable way, but we can hope.  What we can tell you from our research is that we applaud the efforts for a sustainable product of the project.  How can we tell, you might ask?  Well, by rehabbing the old and the old, old bridge, the thinking to us is life cycle assessment.  What will we do with the product of the project once it has outlived its usefulness?  In this case it is redesign, reuse, and recycle.

Again, we don’t know how the project manager will run his or her team, for instance will they minimize the use of paper, will the team be efficient with their energy use, cloud computing, laptops, etc.  But we can see that they are conducting environmental risk assessment in a reasonable way, “many design alternatives were evaluated to achieve the transportation purpose and need of the project.  The environmental impacts for those alternatives were evaluated to balance the transportation needs and the impacts to the environmental resources.”  As we’ve said many times, you may not necessarily go with the most environmentally friendly solution, but those solutions should at the least be evaluated.  There was wetland mitigation, stream restoration, and methods to reduce vehicle idling time, hard acceleration, and stopping time.  Also, consideration was given to the reduction of the overall footprint of the roadway crossing.  Additionally, there was lots of consideration of the human aspect of the effects of the project, keeping one bridge open while the other is constructed, shifting to the newly constructed bridge, a “Traffic and Incident Management Plan.”  I would have liked to see the “incident management plan” for BP, wouldn’t you?

So what are we missing?  A few of the questions we would ask is, how green is your project being run, for one?  The next questions would be about the product of the project like; what kind of surface material are you using? Is it from recycled material?  Is it designed to provide a minimum of drag on vehicle tires?  Is there a mitigation plan for the runoff from cars that are leaking fluids?  You can probably think of another hundred questions about the sustainability of the product of the project, but you get the gist!  I am sure that a lot of our questions could be answered by New Hampshire DOT and the Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc.’s Design Team. What we assert is that there is a lot to sustainable management including the product of the project and the process and that the project management team considers the breath of sustainability.


BP Oil Spill – One Year Later

There are lots of things we could talk about one year later, but for this post we’d like to focus on the suit filed today by BP against Transocean, the rig’s owners, and Cameron International, the supplier of the  blow-out preventer, for $40 billion.  From AP (article),,  “The Deepwater Horizon BOP was unreasonably dangerous, and has caused and continues to cause harm, loss, injuries, and damages to BP (and others) stemming from the blowout of Macondo well, the resulting explosion and fire onboard the Deepwater Horizon, the efforts to regain control of the Macondo well, and the oil spill that ensued before control of the Macondo well could be regained,” BP said in the lawsuit against Cameron.  BP is also suing Halliburton, the company responsible for pouring the cement.

The reason we are focusing on this aspect is because, when we look at the benefits of Green Project Management, we see that green thinking should be a part of all the project’s processes, including the procurement process (just one of the processes outlined in our book).  In this case, if the questions were not asked, we would have asked about the greenality of BP’s “vendors”.  There would have been questions like:  What did Transocean consider for their environmental impact?  What safe guards were in place in case of an issue like a spill or blowout preventer failure?  Were those scenarios even considered?  Driving back into their processes, we could have asked to see the invitation to bid, to examine whether Transocean considered the greenality of their vendors.  This is just a sampling of questions to ask.  On a project this large like this, with the potential for devastation it has, the questioning would have been extensive and rigorous.

We advocate a “greenality clauses”.  We believe that if we choose a company, considering their green efforts as part of the decision making process, that they should be held accountable for those green efforts, as well as capturing that criteria in the contract.   Again, we like to give the obligatory caveat that we were not in the room when the decision was made by BP to go ahead and lease the rig from Transocean, so we don’t know exactly what went on.  But from our point of view, the project did not consider all of the green aspects it should have and that green project management would have helped in that process.

Do Our Green Projects Hurt the World’s Poor?

This is an interesting question we’ve paraphrased from a great article by Peter Singer in a recent Wall Street Journal.  Peter considers that we will not hurt the world’s poor as long as industrialized nations are willing to make sacrifices.  Bjørn Lomborg answers that we will harm the poor if we listen to the “green extremists”.  Who has the best argument?

This, to us, is a potential conflict with one of The Natural Step’s sustainability principles.  Principal Four states “eliminate our contribution to conditions that undermine people’s capacity to meet their basic needs.”  While “eliminating our contributions to progressive buildup of substances extracted, and chemicals produced, and physical degradation” are we depressing people’s ability to make a living?  That is the dilemma.  Can we stimulate those economies while trying to green the world?

The answer may truly lie with our ability to do both, and that we must.  It will be a vicious cycle if we don’t do both.  According to the article, industrialized nations must make sacrifices to lift the world’s poor.  If they don’t, then all of the issues that make things worse for the environment will continue.  The premise is that the poorer nations are the ones that have the most significant population growth, which put more pressure on the environment.  We pointed that out in our book as one of the “problem drivers and indicators” of the green wave, along with rapidly developing nations and resource degradation and loss of biodiversity.  These are all related.  Rapidly developing countries are where the poorer people are, and the pressure to harvest rain forests, for instance, to provide firewood, income, and farmland, is felt the most.  SO according to Peter, the easy answer is to reduce poverty.  The difficult question is how.

If we stimulate growth and we stimulate employment, we create projects that may be in conflict with environmental concerns.  If we build schools and housing, we take away land; maybe wetlands, old growth forests, and critical habitat.  If we stimulate farming to help people feed themselves, again, we potentially can destroy entire ecosystems.  Peter points out that “…there is no single currency by which we can measure the benefit of saving human lives against the cost of destroying forests that provide the last remaining refuges for free-living chimpanzees, orangutans, and Sumatran tigers.”

We can see that here is a bitter pill, here, to be swallowed universally, wherever you are on what we like to call the “Hugger-Hummer” spectrum.  Less is what we need to strive for, “less energy from fossil fuels, use less air conditioning and less heat, fly and drive less, and eat less meat.”  When we say universally, we mean the developing countries may need to compromise on what they are striving to do, too.  It is a global issue and needs to be dealt with, globally.  Green projects, or greening of projects if you will, go a long way to helping.  By leading the efforts to increase a project’s greenality, green project managers will increase efficiencies and reduce the use of those scarce resources we talk about in our book.  Remember, it is not just projects that are green by definition, developing alternate energy sources, as an example, all projects can benefit by viewing it through the green project manager’s environmental lens.

More about Bjørn Lomborg response in a future post.