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A Look at Integrated Project Delivery From the Inside Out

A culture of teamwork and collaboration paves the way for the execution of integrated project delivery, which helps to cut costs and time while offering other advantages.

Q3 2022
Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a project delivery strategy that focuses on transparency and collaboration, forming a cohesive team, and implementing methods to enhance efficiency and generate desired project outcomes. This isn’t just about a new contract relationship between design and construct — the owner is a key stakeholder.

The culture of collaboration in IPD makes the most of all the project participants’ experience and insights and optimizes effective communication to mitigate risk and reduce changes late in the game. This approach saves time and money, reduces waste, and incentivizes participation through shared goals that unite the team. Here are insights:

The advantages of using IPD for new projects are found in a few key areas. Cost savings is one, and agility in planning and execution is another. The objective is to get all the members of the project team and adjacent players to work together before and during the design phase to ensure all parties are on the same page, thus ensuring fewer changes due to miscommunication later.

Technology is an enabler with IPD as it increases flexibility and efficiency. The team relies on BIM or the 3D environment and the ability to quickly adapt as the project develops through stages in the virtual world. By contrast, in non-IPD projects, contractors will model the design just to coordinate for construction assurance, essentially performing BIM twice. They may even do their own laser scanning if the design team did not capture the most up-to-date view of existing conditions in the case of a brownfield example for constructability review. Experienced teams frontload BIM execution planning for BIM and other model uses like laser scanning so it is available to all parties early, thereby eliminating the rework that would be necessary if the team waited to validate conditions downstream.

Continuous cost estimating is another aspect of IPD that increases efficiency. Accurate cost estimating strengthens the predictability of the schedule and reduces the likelihood of cost overruns. Fewer surprises mean fewer delays and change orders. Greater predictability of cost and accuracy of other measures reduces risk as well, resulting in tighter project execution. Due diligence in research during the planning phase results in a reliable cost estimate.

Technology is an enabler with IPD as it increases flexibility and efficiency. Cost estimators are better at forecasting the “what” of a design than the “how,” so even their generally accurate predictions benefit significantly from the added insight of the technology and data made available by IPD. The forecasting of IPD allows teams to compress fabrication and installation by assigning more accurate timelines to these tasks, making more time available for the design phase.

In today’s competitive market, owners expect each new project to cost less and have more features. Added to this hefty challenge is an increasing scarcity of skilled labor in the construction industry as improvements in safety and compensation have driven less credentialed job-seekers into manufacturing. Design teams are asked to do more with less and have had to get creative about the way they work, streamlining the process wherever they can. Innovation with project technology becomes vital to existing as well as new business.

Key Considerations
Before transitioning to an IPD project delivery model, project teams and stakeholders can consider several key issues to optimize success. All parties — owner, design firm, and construction contractor — must make a formal commitment to be closely involved in planning the project and sharing risks associate with cost, schedule, constructability, usability, and maintainability. Most often this is with an IPD or IFOA (Integrated Form of Agreement) contract to solidify the arrangement. The challenge we see in the marketplace is working with owners who are used to Design Bid Build or Design Build delivery methods to make a procurement shift.

These are all issues the project team must address early in the process and solve as a group, owners included. The biggest source of cost overruns and delays in a construction project is when new input arrives very late in the design phase or even after the design is complete. A team that is committed to prioritizing effective communication and collaborative effort can avoid costly late-stage changes.

When communication is good, teams can run multiple processes in tandem, replacing sequential delivery phases with concurrent processes. In a sequential process, like early auto assembly lines, the product begins from reels of aluminum and a single component and arrives at its eventual finished state, one step at a time, as it moves along the line. With the advent of modern technologies and delivery methods, this approach can branch out.

Today’s construction model looks more like a modern manufacturing approach, where subassemblies are made at the same time and pieced together into a final assembly. The key to success in this process is the sophisticated logistical considerations and fully integrated supply chain. The lessons learned in manufacturing can be translated into a construction environment where they are just as effective.

A collaborative culture is a big part of the IPD model. With a larger group and more active participation, leaders running the process must be willing to facilitate a larger team. Additionally, the team must understand the requirements for participation in this type of effort.

A team that is committed to prioritizing effective communication and collaborative effort can avoid costly late-stage changes. Because of the extra billable hours team members spend participating in design meetings, IPD appears at first to have a higher cost of implementation than other approaches. In the past, fee structures did not cover such costs, however, this upfront investment creates a motivation for the client to participate early, with the promise of reward downstream.

All parties are compensated for their raw cost to participate, costs are tracked, and the budget is adjusted accordingly. By being proactive with early collaboration, the team avoids unnecessary costs downstream. The owner’s engagement is more robust, and, as a result, they are more familiar with the project and can provide more useful input throughout the project. Their input is richer, more detailed, and less likely to change during construction.

Because scope is an area where many projects run into issues, the more effective IPD approach requires that the team examine scope factors thoroughly before a design is released. The team needs enough information to effectively hand off the design to the construction team.

The hope is to avoid early commitment to an unrealistic schedule simply to check a box and move the process forward. IPD allows the project team to better adapt to the reality that owners don’t always have an adequately detailed scope when they launch the project. The scope then changes as the owner’s process requirements become more firmly established, creating challenges for the team in accommodating the shifting scope. True IPD practice allows the team to adapt to scope changes with minimal conflict than typically arises with the negotiation of change orders midstream.

One of the new elements that is causing some growing pains for project execution in construction is the advent of prefabricated and modular options. These offer huge advantages in terms of cost, safety, and less time spent in the field, but incorporating them into the project plan can be somewhat challenging when teams don’t have much experience with these methods.

A hybrid IPD serves where project stakeholders are not inclined to offer full transparency or desire cost constraints from the start of the project. Time saved with prefabricated/modular designs, however, can make up for schedule shortcomings elsewhere. Prefabrication has improved the efficiency of construction sequencing, with sequential steps that can be performed in parallel for each individual module. For projects that have more time-consuming overhead work, much of that can be performed at benchtop level in the shop, rather than in the field, where access is more difficult and dangerous. As these methods become more commonplace, they will enhance the speed of construction and the quality of the final product, with many established precedents for their use in IPD projects.

Hybrid IPD as a Bridge Solution
For teams and stakeholders that are learning how to incorporate some IPD elements in their projects but haven’t fully made the transition, a hybrid IPD project may be an appropriate bridge solution. A hybrid IPD serves where project stakeholders are not inclined to offer full transparency or desire cost constraints from the start of the project. Lean principles are a driver for this hybrid IPD, and savvy design teams see this as Lean Project Delivery — essentially various levels of IPD typically not including a formalized contractual relationship between owner, designer, and constructor.

Later, in the midstream project phases, the early-phase cost can be rolled into the total project cost. Incentives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are then based on coming in below that number for the final project budget. Other incentives can be developed for beating the defined schedule. Shared incentives and aligned goals inherently foster a culture of teamwork and collaboration that paves the way for full IPD project execution in the future, allowing teams and clients to reap the full benefit of this integrated, streamlined project delivery approach.

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