Collaboration Counts

I’ve often considered myself a problem solver. As a student of architectural engineering at Penn State, I was constantly searching for shortcuts to solutions. I found that with a large course load I needed to develop tools and tactics that gave me the greatest chance for success.

I began studying project delivery and was enthralled with reports that the construction industry has suffered from a productivity decline since the 1960s. Findings included multiple accounts of buildings behind schedule and over budget, as well as adverse relations among the owner, general contractor and architect.

I became passionate about emerging trends and technologies in collaborative, integrative and team-based solutions. While Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a relatively new method for construction, a review of some recent successful partnerships yields some interesting lessons.

IPD is a method of project delivery distinguished by an arrangement among a minimum of owner, constructor and design professional that aligns business interests of all parties. It drives efficiency throughout the planning, design, construction and delivery of a new space, while supporting the philosophy of teamwork amongst employees and partners.

IPD motivates collaboration and drives innovation throughout the design and construction process, tying stakeholder success to project success, and embodies contractual and behavioral principles.

Principles of IPD

A study from the AIA California Council Integrated Project Delivery Steering Committee and AIA National Integrated Practice Discussion Group shows that successful IPD projects showcase early involvement of key participants, shared risk and reward, multi party contract, collaborative decision-making and control, liability waivers among key participants and jointly developed and validated project goals.

Behavioral principles of integrated project delivery include mutual respect and trust, willingness to collaborate, open communication and the ability to challenge traditional thinking to drive waste from basic process steps.

The key ingredient of IPD is bringing together owners, designers and contractors at the initial stages of project development to collectively share expertise and decision-making. For contractors, this means helping identify and resolve design issues, providing more strategic cost estimating services, influencing construction sequencing, streamlining materials procurement and eliminating the need for change orders.

Collaboration in Action

Balfour Beatty Construction chose IPD for the recent relocation of their north region headquarters to new space in Fairfax, Va. The company formed a team of trusted partners who would put the project first – FOX Architects and Engineered Systems Alliance (ESA), a design/build MEP provider. Aware of the reality that an accountable owner can establish a healthy project environment from the outset, Balfour Beatty adapted IPD principles to suit the mission.

A shortlist of possible like-minded candidates was vetted while interview discussions were held to gauge fit and working relationships. Topics centered less on past experience, budget control or schedule, but steered more directly to process waste reduction, innovative thinking and working digitally amongst a fast moving, highly dynamic team. In the end, Balfour Beatty matched their belief of design/build partnerships with a creative team of thinkers willing to step outside the bounds of tradition.

Confident with core group members from FOX and ESA, the team brought respective interest and confidence in applying the benefits of team-based project delivery and demonstrated the right attitude and behaviors for learning together throughout the IPD process. The three firms were joined by a tri-party contract that shared risks and rewards. Team members embraced this learning lab experience on the project and share the story of the experience.

Immediately the team co-located in a variety of ways to study process and honestly reflect on the cultural challenges of moving a firm from a closed office environment to one of the most advanced workplace solutions of the future.

Led by FOX, the team distilled the mission at hand into six space testaments. Doing so rounded out the early partner involvement, set the tone for the project and crystallized the meaning of the project for the key parties. From the start, the team used early process mapping, established project goals and identified maximum allowable budgets in key areas.

At design commencement, the IPD team agreed to use this project to pilot new tools and processes – leveraging models to analyze, communicate and manage issues pertaining to LEED credits, energy performance criteria and how partition heights affect day lighting.

The architecture firm HOK implemented IPD in the design of Autodesk offices in San Francisco and its own office in New York. The projects were highly successful and enabled HOK to use its virtual design construction and operation platform buildingSMART. The business platform assembles customized, commercially available applications by integrating conceptualization, design, estimating, documentation, coordination, procurement, fabrication, assembly and operations of buildings.

“The fact that IPD has not been instantly embraced by clients should not be regarded as a failure of the concept,” HOK Senior Principal Carl Galioto says. “It is part of an evolutionary process towards a more collaborative, effective and profitable AEC industry.”

Lessons Learned

A case study conducted on a project by Sutter Health Fairfield Medical Office Building and recounted in a recent American Institute of Architects report entitled “Integrated Project Delivery: Case Studies” demonstrated the above-mentioned characteristics to complete a three-story, 70,000-square-foot medical office building. The building housed primary care medical practices and laboratories, with pediatric, oncology, rheumatology, cardiology departments and administrative offices. Sutter was very pleased with the building and the process, and the project was completed under budget and on schedule.

The AIA study also reviewed The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, which used the IPD method to build its innovative six-story, 230,000 square foot project that consists of academic classrooms and offices, university-operated public television station and various labs, media-intensive classrooms and highly technical support spaces.

One of the most important lessons I learned from all these projects is that the more integrated the delivery, the more active and engaged the owner must be. Combined, these make for a winning formula.

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