Environmental Analyses and Your Project Budget, Part Two

Updated: Feb 23, 2020

As we discussed in Part One of this two-part series of articles, managing the budget is an important aspect of any project, and with Performance Based Contracts (PBCs), it is critical. In Part One, we discussed streamlining analytical parameters and what to consider when determining when and how to do so. In a previous article, we discussed what your laboratory needs to know to provide you with the most accurate pricing for your project. In this article, we focus on questions about how your analyses will be used and how the answers can further help manage your budget and schedule.

What decisions hinge upon your analytical results? Will you have dig-sites that must be left open as you await the results? Will discharge operations stall while you wait?

In any project where stand-by time is accrued prior to receipt of analytical results, compare stand-by costs to mark-ups for expedited turn-around-times (TATs) for analytical results. Ideally, this comparison is performed while generating your estimate; however, it can also occur during project planning. In almost all cases, the costs for stand-by labor-hours exceed the mark-ups for expedited TATs for results, even at 100% and 200% mark-ups for the expedited TATs. It’s important to confirm that your laboratory can meet your TAT needs and identify any methodological limitations to meeting those TATs (some methods can be performed within 24 hours while some cannot). Sometimes, clients will permit action with preliminary or partial results after an initial wave of full results if results can reasonably be anticipated to be similar for each event. Our article on establishing a relationship with your laboratory and Part One of this article provide some guidance for communicating with laboratories and clients.

Does your laboratory offer sample pick-up? Can you deliver samples? Does the laboratory offer on-site packing services?

If you subcontract with a laboratory that offers pick-up at your location, compare costs of this service to costs of shipping. Alternately, a local laboratory may make it possible for your field personnel to drop off samples at the end of the day, which can also save shipping costs. Some laboratories also offer sample packing at field sites. It may be worth considering the costs of this service vs. the possibility of burn-out for field staff if you have limited personnel who will otherwise be packing samples after a long day in the field. The potential for mistakes in sample labelling, packing, and Chain-of-Custody procedures increases at the end of a long work day, and such errors can lead to the need to reanalyze or even re-collect samples, thus increasing costs. Personnel turn-over resulting from burn-out can also be costly. While these concerns do not apply to every project, it is worth a forthright, proactive assessment of whether it applies to yours to mitigate the need to solve problems that could have been prevented.

What level of data validation is needed? Is it imperative to wait for final validation or can actions move forward based on preliminary results?

Depending upon the nature and sensitivity of your project, your client may permit action based on preliminary data verification prior to validation, may approved limited validation, or may – if your laboratory and data validation group remain consistent – approve actions based on preliminary data and data verification following one or more rounds of full validation.

It is important to consult with your client and ensure all actions are ethical and support achievement of project objectives prior to taking these actions. In our article about data validation, we discuss how environmental data validation can mitigate risk, including budgetary risk, for projects. We also provide insight on when it is appropriate to perform reduced validation and when validation may not be required at all. Once you have ensured you are performing the proper level of validation, streamlining your analytical parameters as discussed in Part One will result in streamlined validation, further supporting budget and schedule management.

Actions that reduce stand-by time or streamline work by limiting the focus to relevant details will have a positive impact on schedule and budget. Assessing project types for determining when it is ethical and technically sound to approach your client with these questions is beyond the scope of this article. I

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