Methane Mitigation Construction & What to Know
Methane mitigation construction doesn’t always need to be complex. And in some cases, it doesn’t need to be so expensive either. In fact, on the rarest of occasions, it may not be necessary at all (depending on methane test results). Unfortunately, some methane mitigation contractors purposefully over-design methane mitigation plans, in order to turn a higher profit on the building contract. And with such contractors, one can also expect short-cuts, change orders, last-minute material swapping, and other hat tricks down the line. This article aims to inform consumers about methane zone construction projects, and what to look out for before hiring! Updated July 21, 2021.
This post aims to provide consumers with expert knowledge about the methane mitigation construction process. In order to provide professional geology services in good faith, Geo Forward does NOT provide methane barrier construction or mitigation system installation services, nor does it offer parts sales. Geo Forward only provides methane testing, mitigation design, and deputy inspection services. Furthermore, Geo Forward does NOT affiliate with any other methane mitigation construction company or part suppliers, for the same reasons. Geo Forward’s methane testing data and mitigation designs are in general conformance with LADBS standards. And no benefit nor loss occurs from any result of a methane test report and mitigation plan design.
What is Methane Methane Mitigation?
This article provides tips for consumers in need of methane mitigation construction services. But Geo Forward has published a separate page dedicated to the topic of Methane Mitigation. To learn more about methane mitigation plans and the construction process, please view the CH4 Mitigation page.
1) It’s Not a Good Idea to Hire the Same Company that Designs & Builds
Hiring a contractor to prepare a methane mitigation plan may not be the wisest option for consumers. It might sound like common sense… But for some reason, uninformed consumers still get into it. In fact, many developers may advise against hiring a design and build company, basing on their past experiences with methane mitigation construction.
Methane Mitigation Construction Companies Can Make Themselves More Work
When a construction company building a methane mitigation system, also designs it, there is a chance the contractors are plotting to make themselves more work. To illustrate, the methane test results and applicable building codes may call for a “comprehensive active mitigation system.” However, with clever optimization, an engineer or geologist without contractor affiliation might be able to make the project more affordable. For instance, the designer might be able to substitute some components with others, under code. Alternatively, the designer may reduce the number of components, under code, to better suit the building type. These extraordinary design efforts can make the system cheaper to build.
On the other hand, a contractor that’s preparing the methane mitigation plan has no incentive to design a system in this way. In fact, these extraordinary design efforts would take more of their time to engineer. And it reduces their overall profit in exchange for consumer savings. As a result, one typically sees a lack of substitutions and eliminations in design and build contracts. And this ultimately results in a higher price tag for the methane mitigation construction contract. Similarly, design and build contractors can specify products that only they have the authority to install under manufacturer warranty. By doing so, contacts secure themselves in the project over other lower bidding competitors.
Methane Mitigation Contractors Can Over-Design for Higher Cost, but Under-Build Later to Save Money
In an attempt to make fast money, some methane mitigation contractors may demonstrate unethical practices. In fact, this can happen in multiple ways when the same company building the methane mitigation system, also designs it. One example of how this can occur in methane mitigation construction is demonstrated by an unobvious difference between what is designed, versus what is actually built.
To illustrate, a methane mitigation contractor that also prepares the mitigation plan can over-engineer the design to convince all parties of a higher cost than necessary. Afterward, the methane mitigation contractor charges the consumer to build in accordance with the design of the mitigation plan. However, the builder implements scope-reducing modifications along the way, under the subtle approvals of the deputy inspector.
One frequent instance of this occurs with ventilation pipe frequency. An over-engineered mitigation system may comprise up to twice the ventilation piping than necessary per building code exemptions. And such plans are likely to still be approved by building departments. In this case, the Client might agree to pay the contractor for the work per this mitigation plan. Yet during actual construction, the methane mitigation contractor can then pursue the exemptions in order to reduce the ventilation frequency. Ultimately, this saves the methane mitigation contractor substantial amounts on materials, labor, and time. But the scope-cut and immense savings the contractor can go unknown to the Client, who remains to pay full-price per the original contract.
2) Contractors May Try to Swap Materials During Methane Mitigation Construction
Another trick contractors can implement to make a quick buck is the act of substituting materials during the job. This unethical method typically results in the use of cheaper overstock materials, in comparison to the plan specifications. And this process is often unknown to the Client during, and by the end of the project. As a result, the Client unknowingly pays a higher price for materials that are not actually part of their project.
For instance, a methane mitigation contractor who also designs spec out a particular brand and model methane barrier, in order to convince the Client and other bidders of a high coster in materials and labor. And the methane mitigation contractor may actually win the bid with a higher than necessary bid. But come the day of actual construction, the same contractor might now inform their Clients of the substitutions and reductions of certain materials and work scopes (in order to save themselves significant project expenses). Yet they may still charge their Clients the original full price. And methane deputy inspectors may authorize such deviations from the design, if legal and compliant with building codes. Thus, there is a strong recommendation to hire different designers than builders for this task. Otherwise, having a third-party independent consultant oversee the construction process and billing may be beneficial.
3) Beware of Change Orders
Contractors issue change orders when additional costs and services occur during the scope of methane mitigation construction. These are supplemental or additional to the original estimate at the start of the project. Theoretically, change orders must be for unforeseeable costs only. And any reasoning for it must occur during the scope of work. However, sometimes competitive contractors manipulate the bidding process by offering a low price up-front, in bad faith. And later, they rely on change orders to regain their profit. If consumers suspect any act of bidding manipulation and excessive change orders, best practices suggest contacting the State Contractor Licensing Board for a proper evaluation of the case.
4) The “Lowest Bidder” Up-Front Does NOT Usually Mean “Lowest Overall Cost”
It’s typical for the lowest bidder of a methane mitigation construction and design project to win the work. However, with contractors using the tactics above, there is no guarantee consumers are signing up for the lowest overall option. Bids aren’t supposed to be deceiving but sometimes are. Thus, it is best for consumers to thoroughly read contracts and follow the appropriate guidelines for hiring a contractor. Moreover, consumers can run their questions and concerns by the Federal Trade Commission and the State Department of Consumer Affairs for clarity.