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Integrated Project Delivery Method

What is Integrated Project Delivery?

To understand what integrated project delivery (IPD) is, we must first understand how a typical project is designed and then contrast that with the integrated project delivery method. Typically, a project will be led by an architecture firm using the design-bid-build method. This means an architect designs the building with the client’s involvement and brings in other professionals later in the process.

In the beginning of a project, during the schematic design phase, only the owner or development team, the Architect, and he Civil Engineer are involved and make all the major decisions. In the next phase, Design Development, it is customary to integrate the Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (M.E.P.) engineers into the project. Their input is limited by the decisions and design that have already been completed. In the last phase, Construction Documents, the M.E.P. engineers continue their work, and the structural engineering and detailing of the building take final shape. Again, their input is minimal since most of the decisions have already been cemented (pun intended). After all of this design work, the project goes out for bid.

In an integrated project delivery method, the entire team is gathered and their input is sought from the very beginning. This means the kick-off meeting will include:

  • The ownership team
  • Their representative (more on this later)
  • The architect and structural engineer
  • The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (M.E.P.) engineers
  • The civil engineer
  • The landscape architect
  • The contractor

This delivery method leverages the expertise of the group from the beginning instead of staggering in professionals along the way. They attend meetings, provide input, and develop their drawings concurrently through the typical three phases: Schematic Design, Design Development, and Construction Documents.

By involving all key stakeholders from the start, IPD fosters a collaborative environment that encourages innovative solutions and holistic problem-solving. This collaborative approach not only enhances the quality of the design but also ensures that all potential issues are addressed early, minimizing costly changes and delays during construction.

“First and foremost, the integrated approach minimizes conflicts (and associated delays) commonly associated with traditional project delivery methods. Through transparent communication and alignment of project goals, we ensure smoother workflows and faster decision-making processes.” – Symmetry Companies

Integrated Project Delivery Pros and Cons

The pros of this method are profound. The two biggest positives are that you get pricing updates along the way, and that you discover issues earlier rather than later. These benefits are extremely valuable for the owner. First, with the budget being updated while changes are made, the client can weigh their wishes against reality quicker than with any other design system. Second, all the components that make up a building affect one another. For example, the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system you use might affect the need for solar panels, geothermal systems, and how your building is insulated. If these decisions are not brought up until later in the game or, at worst, are not coordinated with each other, you just created a more expensive and a less efficient building. When weighing the pros and cons of each system you are going to use in your building, you will benefit from the specific knowledge each specialist can bring.

Another significant advantage of IPD is the enhanced communication and teamwork it promotes. With all parties involved from the outset, there is a better understanding of each discipline’s requirements and constraints, leading to more cohesive and integrated solutions. This can result in higher quality outcomes, as each team member is fully invested in the project’s success and works collaboratively to achieve common goals.

Moreover, the continuous feedback loop in IPD allows for real-time adjustments and refinements. This dynamic approach means that design and construction issues are identified and resolved promptly, reducing the risk of rework and delays. The ability to make informed decisions quickly is particularly beneficial in complex projects where time and cost efficiency are critical.

The con of this method is that you are going to be paying more money upfront. You will have to pay the contractor and the other professionals to show up from the beginning. A good rule of thumb is if your construction costs are going to be greater than $5,000,000, you should strongly consider the Integrated Project Delivery Method. The money you spend upfront will be well worth it in the savings you get from figuring out the hard issues earlier.

Of course, issues will and can always happen, but think about it: this method could reduce your contingency fund for unknown or uncovered issues from 10% to 5% of the construction budget. The upfront investment in collaboration and integrated planning can significantly reduce the risk of unforeseen complications and budget overruns.

“The open communication between the trades has allowed us to navigate some complex problems with a team effort that feels natural and productive. Having all trades together early in the process has not only created a team process, but allowed a level of open communication that has been instrumental in solving some of the design project challenges. The key to being efficient is often good communication. Having all trades working together from the start has provided a forum where the risk of re-work and re-design has been significantly decreased.” – Darren Johnston Kronus Engineering

Managing Integrated Project Delivery

Typically, Integrated Project Delivery is managed differently, and how it is managed depends on the current skills of the developer. Like every company, a developer or owner will have strengths and weaknesses. The key in managing Integrated Project Delivery is to align themselves with an Owner’s Representative (Owner’s Rep.) who complements them.

For example, the owners might be developers who manage the design and site plan review process well. This means they can assemble the team, know the city code they are building in, and are aware of the process from start to permit. What they will want to do is hire an owner’s rep. with construction knowledge to help them identify key cost issues, review important details, and ensure everything on the construction side is getting proper attention.

If, on the other hand, they are well-versed in their business but not in the process of developing real estate, then they will want an owner’s rep who is familiar with managing the design and site plan review process, assembling the team, and knowing the city codes they are building in. If you don’t know which fits you, contact an architect you can trust and ask them what team they would assemble for you for an Integrated Project Delivery Method.

The Owner’s Rep plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between the client and the project team. They ensure that the owner’s interests are represented throughout the project and that the project stays on track in terms of scope, budget, and schedule.

Is Integrated Project Delivery the Same as Design-Build?

No! But I won’t leave it at that. Design-build, in its true sense, should be led by either an architecture firm that also builds projects or by a construction company that has architects in-house. Beware of construction companies that say they are design-build when they really just hire a freelance architect to do the design work. This arrangement is typically cheap on design and expensive on construction. Feel free to ask if their architect is in-house. If they waffle or don’t give a concise answer, ask if the architect has a desk in the office or works remotely. If they work remotely, that is a red flag.

In design-build, the emphasis is on streamlining the process by having a single entity responsible for both design and construction. While this can be effective in certain situations, it often lacks the depth of collaboration and integration that IPD offers. Design-build projects can suffer from a lack of checks and balances, as the contractor may prioritize cost savings over design quality.

The goal of an Integrated Project Delivery system is to assemble the best professionals across the board to give you the best value for your buck. By bringing together a diverse team of experts, IPD ensures that all aspects of the project are considered holistically, leading to more innovative and efficient solutions.

Conclusion

Integrated Project Delivery represents a significant shift in how construction projects are conceived and executed. By fostering collaboration, enhancing communication, and integrating all key stakeholders from the outset, IPD offers numerous advantages over traditional project delivery methods. While the upfront costs may be higher, the long-term benefits in terms of cost savings, efficiency, and project quality make IPD a compelling choice for complex and large-scale projects.

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