Integrated Project Delivery: A New Paradigm for Design & Construction, Part 2

December 09, 2015

By Kip Richardson

Part One of this blog described the first two paradigms in design and construction: the Master Builder and the Industrial Assembly Line. The industry is now shifting to a new paradigm-Integrated Project Delivery-that seeks to resolve the inherent conflicts and inefficiencies of the Industrial Assembly Line Model.

The primary goal of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is to turn the design team, the construction team, and the client into a single, high-performance enterprise focused on project success rather than each entity's individual success.

One way to achieve this is to change the contractual relationship between the parties. Instead of the traditional method of the owner having separate contracts with the design team and the contractor, which aim to protect each party from liability and minimize their risk, there is one agreement between all three players. An IPD three-party agreement makes everyone responsible for the entire scope of work and shifts the allocation of risk away from the courts to a no-fault sharing of cost overruns on a pre-determined basis. By collectivizing risk and reward, the IPD agreement provides an incentive for team members to work cooperatively in the interest of overall project success.

But what may be even more important than the contract is the team's attitude. Even teams that are not using an IPD agreement can assume the mindset of a high performing, collaborative team. The key is building trust, sharing responsibility for project success, and recognizing that design and construction are very different processes that require two very different approaches.

At its heart, design is an exploration of the unknown. It is a non-linear, iterative process that seeks to find the optimum design solution to meet the owner's needs while staying within the budget. This requires the design team to be comfortable with uncertainty for an extended period of time as it looks at different options for the project. Construction, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. It seeks to be as linear as possible and to eliminate any unknowns on the project. As a result, the cultures of design firms and construction companies tend to be very different. Discovering how contractors can contribute during the design process and how architects can communicate better with the people constructing the building is an important part of making both the process and the project more successful. As much as possible, each needs to understand the other's world.

One way this is done is through having everyone work together from the beginning of the project in "the big room." Co-location of the entire team at the outset is an opportunity to build trust and to learn how to work together. At its best, it mimics the Master Builder approach I described in part one of this blog, where the contractor can help the design team understand the cost and buildability of a design as it is developed, and the client can participate as a "co-creator" in the design process. New visualization tools and the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) also support this new level of collaboration between the client, contractor, and architect.

When BIM was first introduced, it was common for the architect to develop a three-dimensional Building Information Model, then have the engineers and the contractor either turn it back into two-dimensional drawings because they didn't have BIM capability or create their own Building Information Model because the systems weren't compatible. Today most of that inefficiency is being eliminated by having the entire team create one Building Information Model together. In fact, the team can "virtually" build the entire building, finding and resolving any areas where systems clash or the model is unresolved before any construction takes place. This can save the project significant time and money as it is much more expensive and time consuming to fix a problem in the field once the building is under construction than it is to simply fix the model.

BIM also enables the design team to model and understand many more factors early in the process that influence the design, including how the specific environment of the building's location impacts the building's performance and how users will experience the building.

This up-front modeling adds some additional time to the design process, but when done well it can decrease the construction time and overall project schedule because once the building is fully modeled the construction process can be much more linear than when fixing problems in the field. This idea of "going slow to go fast" (going slow in the design process in order to go fast during construction) requires a very different mindset than the old industrial paradigm but it can pay huge dividends in time, money, and building performance.

Finally, using BIM can also contribute to the post-occupancy phase of the project. In the Industrial Assembly Line Model, the design and construction team was rarely contracted to be involved in the project post-occupancy, leaving the building owner with the responsibility of making sure the building was operating as designed, something many owners were not trained or equipped to do, especially considering today's sophisticated building systems. The design team also rarely got to see how well the building worked for its users, feedback that can be invaluable for the designer.

With a few additions and revisions, the Building Information Model can become the Facilities Information Model (FIM), providing the owner with a tool to optimize the building's performance and reduce maintenance costs.

Turning BIM to FIM can provide huge potential savings for the building owner because of the relative size of operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. While every building is different, a rule of thumb is O&M costs over thirty years are often about equal to the initial cost of designing and building the building. Because of escalating energy costs and other variables, O&M costs might be double the first costs in as little as fifty years. BIM and the use of Life Cycle Cost Analysis-modeling the cost of O&M for the building over its expected life-enables O&M costs to be considered during design, where a small additional investment can provide significant long-term benefits.

Using post-occupancy surveys to understand how well the building is meeting its users' needs and monitoring the building's performance to understand if it is operating as designed can turn every project into a research effort, with the payback being an optimum building for the owner and a design team that can carry lessons learned forward to future projects. This may be one of the biggest benefits of the new paradigm as it will enable the industry to evolve and adapt to change at a much faster rate than the old paradigm.


Kip Richardson


Director of Marketing and Business Development