Optimizing Integrated Design / Construction Project Delivery
IPD requires considerable time and effort on the facility owner’s side, but this front-end planning will help in avoiding costly delays once construction gets under way.
Drivers for IPD
IPD was adapted from the lessons learned by the lean processes model. It helps the owner to optimize ROI over the entire life cycle of the project rather than subjecting all values to lowest cost and shortest delivery time.
The focus on process and life cycle also ensures better quality of design and components. Ghafari Associates and Ringland-Johnson, the construction manager, leveraged technology in the design and construction of Woodward Inc.’s new facility in Loves Park, Illinois. While the Woodward project implemented many principles of IPD and realized corresponding benefits, the team members were not joined by a formal IPD contract.
When stakeholders are integrated under IPD, everyone has a common goal of project success. Because that success is in their interest, they willingly contribute value-adding effort. Sometimes the most efficient approach may cause one department to do more work — such as revising a large set of drawings — so that the overall project can be completed efficiently. In the conventional format of separate silos, the affected group would insist on a change order. With IPD the spotlight is on the reduction of total effort, so it compensates the person or group spending more effort. In the same way, it reduces rework and time wasted when multiple teams carry out the same task.
The Woodward project succeeded because the project team leveraged the use of 3D BIM models to work out all conflicts and coordination before work was performed in the field. With IPD the overall schedule usually does not change. Rather, more time is invested on the front end so that when shovels do hit the ground, construction time is held to a minimum.
IPD is not a buzzword or a trendy label. It requires considerable effort on a facility owner’s side. What owners want to understand before committing to IPD is that they must be engaged enough throughout the duration of the project to make decisions in a timely fashion.
Because most of a project’s cost is in construction, the design is a small percentage of the total cost. Adding an extra 20 percent to the design phase might only add 2 percent to the overall project cost. The added cost is easily justified when it speeds up the schedule during its most expensive (construction) phase.
Integrated projects often require more meetings, and it is critical that meetings are run efficiently. Every meeting should have an agenda with a clear purpose. Not every person will leave the meeting with action items, but those who do should be assigned a date for completion, whether it is by the next meeting or by the end of the day. Action items are addressed at the next meeting; there should be no outstanding items.
If there are no items to discuss at the next scheduled meeting, cancel it! If there is just one item, resolve it, and conclude the call. Short meetings are good for morale, but it takes strong project management skills to head off distractions. The meeting rules used at the Woodward project were clear and effective. There was only one communicator; everyone was expected to listen and not engage in side conversations, and phones stayed in pockets. Face-to-face meetings occurred once a month, supplemented by weekly conference call meetings, which could run anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes.
Woodward had a process that was adopted at the very first meeting called “Collaborate to Cost” or CTC™. At first, one would think that CTC was just a fancy term for the dreaded Value Engineering (VE) — which is typically interpreted by the design industry as “reduce cost.” CTC’s main objective was to evaluate a suggestion, approach, or idea and determine its ROI. Sometimes CTC meant spending more, and sometimes it meant reducing cost by changing materials or systems. For example, because Woodward wanted to have jointless slab on grade — which allowed greater flexibility in process layout — the company was willing to spend the extra money required for that feature.
All parties shared information on a software platform built for BIM and used a cloud-based server system. Each discipline had instantaneous access to every other discipline’s model. For example, a structural engineer had all the other models at his disposal and could selectively switch those on or off to isolate a specific utility or feature.
Team members could engage in live collaboration without sitting together. Having all the disciplines under one area, and having all files linked simultaneously, created a streamlining advantage that shaved weeks off potential delays caused by waiting for milestone deliveries for coordination.
Team members also ran clash detection internally as part of their process. This feature is not required for all projects, but should be mandatory for projects with complicated systems or limited space. For example, on this project there were 24 deep beams that supported the second floor with openings in the webs to run smaller electrical and fire suppression lines within the beam space. This freed up valuable ceiling space and kept the second floor and overall building from being raised.
With IPD the spotlight is on the reduction of total effort, so it compensates the person or group spending more effort. In the same way, it reduces rework and time wasted when multiple teams carry out the same task.
Any time a project team can integrate with the owner, it will reduce issues. In the Woodward project, updating occurred in real time. The team could view the current version of the model online during meetings and not have to wait for a drawing to be produced. This kind of instantaneous updating may not always be necessary. When the team is not using live updating, the project manager gets updates at every milestone and the team then has to wait for feedback before the design can progress. If the team is not working in that type of environment, it can still adapt to new challenges and opportunities, but it won’t be able to adjust as quickly.
Expending Considerable Effort
IPD is not a buzzword or a trendy label. It requires considerable effort on a facility owner’s side. What owners want to understand before committing to IPD is that they must be engaged enough throughout the duration of the project to make decisions in a timely fashion. This commitment should be a well-defined and documented process. It works best when the owner assigns a key person to run the project and to present to the next level for signoff. That person needs to be in project meetings and ready with an immediate response when needed. Instead of the conventional pattern of assessing only at milestones, there needs to be live coordination between milestones. This reduces that likelihood of major conflicts popping up during milestone reviews.
How much should the team rely on models? There are several ascending levels of development available on a 3D BIM platform. The higher the number, the more detail will be in the model; but using a higher level of detail does not necessarily improve ROI. Whatever level is chosen, it should be determined early in the project. The level of detail should always reflect what the model will be used for.
The Woodward/Loves Park project required some phases to be scheduled — which did not strictly conform to IPD methodology — because there was a critical path to reach the desired milestone for construction completion. The steel frame design had to be provided before other systems were designed. By having all parties at the table, team members compiled the information they needed and were able to push the steel design out.
The team had to coordinate with ownership to determine the client’s future roof hanging needs. In addition to the owner’s input on roof hanging requirements, the team learned what was already hanging from the roof, or supported on the roof, from mechanical, electrical, and plumbing teams. It completed the truss design before the process was completed on the floor and before the mechanical system was completely designed. The designers were able to issue a steel package early in order to meet the construction schedule. Without the IPD methodology, they would almost surely have missed the deadline.
As the Woodward IPD experience has shown, planning before doing is the biggest key to reducing waste and maximizing ROI. Equally important, this can only happen with a fully integrated, collaborative team aimed and experienced at optimizing ROI for owners.
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