Successful design and construction projects require multiple parties with specialized expertise to work effectively together for the duration of the project. Often, within the constraints of today’s traditional construction delivery methods, parties are not able to come together early enough in the process to realize the benefits of integrated design and construction. When contractors and subcontractors are at the table with the owner and the architect/engineer for all phases of the project, the ability for parties to collaborate effectively bringing value to the owner and achieving project success is measurably improved.
Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) removes the barriers traditionally inserted between the parties and binds these parties together from the outset of the project. The IPD contract establishes a risk/reward equation. All parties to the IPD contract are recognized as a single purposed entity; their success is jointly achieved and jointly rewarded. All parties to the contract win or lose together.
The benefits and value that IPD teams achieve on projects typically include: higher quality, schedule acceleration (overlapping design and construction phases), higher levels of document coordination, the flexibility to easily incorporate changes during construction and higher levels of innovation and collaboration.
IPD teams achieve these benefits by using key tools that drive efficiency and collaboration into the design and construction process. The most valuable of these tools being Building Information Modeling, Design Assist, Co-Location and Multi Trade Pre-Fabrication.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the three dimensional virtual representation of all of the elements of the building in an electronic form. It is a tool that is commonly used across the design industry today. It is also being used by many builders on the more complex projects to solve coordination conflicts between trades. This tool is a mandate for the multi-trade collaboration that is inherent in IPD. It is a foundational element in the Design Assist and Co-location aspects of IPD projects.
What BIM facilitates is the real time exchange of information between specialty trade contractors who are engaged in a Design Assist role alongside the architect/engineering design disciplines. The Design Assist model, which aligns the trade contractors in an open book financial model, results in monetary risk and reward tied to the overall project success. This “skin in the game” concept drives the sharing of design ideas that mutually benefit production, quality, schedule reduction and value to the client.
Combining BIM with the Design Assist contracting model is most beneficial when the team is able to “Co-Locate” in the same space during the development of the building model. It is in this environment where solutions are developed that create better outcomes for the client’s program. It is this co-located environment in which the design team, trade contractors, owner and builder share space and create efficiencies in the design and construction process.
Ultimately, with the assembly of a team of trade contractors working together in a design environment with the owner, builder and design team opportunities are created for Multi Trade Pre-fabrication of major components of the building. Frequently Multi Trade Pre Fabrication involves the building of exterior wall elements off site in a warehouse, or pre-assembling the mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems in frames in a controlled assembly setting, either on or off site, and then moving and installing the frames in their final on-site location. The benefit created is shorter on-site installation time, safer working conditions in controlled environments and fewer hours of inefficient on site labor. These opportunities are not generally available in the traditional contracting methodology that exists today when trade contractors are assembled only after the low cost contractor is selected during a bidding phase.
Is IPD for you? The answer for many is maybe. The design and construction industry is currently in transition. While many recognize the short-comings of some of the traditional delivery methods, IPD remains relatively untested and requires a significant up-front investment of talent, time and resources. IPD contracts and insurance products are not readily available in well tested legal form and for many the “unknown” is a difficult hurdle to overcome. Successful IPD projects stem from trusted relationships amongst the parties, a willingness to collaborate, embrace transparency, and step outside the comfort zone of business as usual. The general industry feedback from IPD teams is: “Try it you’ll like it” although few have had the opportunity to date.
The tools that are critical to designing and constructing a building in an IPD environment are gaining wider acceptance. BIM, Design Assist, Co-Location and multi trade Pre-Fabrication are here to stay, and offer huge benefits to projects even if not under a formal IPD agreement. These tools, although not fully leveraged for their complete value when used outside of the IPD environment still can drive design and construction teams toward a better level of communication and trust. On your next project, challenge your design and construction teams before you hire them, and ask how they plan to collaborate and what tools they are comfortable using. You may be surprised by their willingness to share in the success and risks of the project when a more collaborative environment is possible.