Keeping an "I" on Project Delivery
The real impact of IPD on the people, processes, and technology used on a job.
While there is no clear set definition of collaboration, the construction industry has, for years, adhered to some unwritten guidelines when it comes to collaborating on a project. But now the industry tries to grapple with the possibility of having those rules rewritten to some degree.
Any project, regardless of how it's procured or the delivery type that is employed, has multiple levels of collaboration in terms of how the team comes together to govern, operate, and perform. And something like IPD (integrated project delivery) aims to establish guidelines for owners, architects, and construction professionals.
"I think what sets IPD apart, at least when you look at the ideal definition of it, is a purposeful collaboration in several areas," says Mark Konchar, corporate vice president for national integration, Balfour Beatty Construction, www.balfourbeattyus.com, Fairfax, Va. "One is joint governance in terms of decisionmaking about key elements of the project. Another is joint setting of project goals and targets—the distinction there being not just the owner setting out the parameters for success. Another is a signing of what I would call shared commercial terms, which gets into the shared risk and reward dialog. Another is a determination of a shared and common technology platform, i.e., the robust use of BIM (building information modeling) where appropriate, shared by all parties."
Balfour Beatty recently delivered 26,000 sq.ft. of interior space in Lincoln Property Co.'s Bridgewater Corporate Center in Fairfax, a building that is also the North Region headquarters for the company. Konchar explains, "It was challenging and we learned our way through it. We started out by saying we're going to sign one tri-party agreement. It was signed by us, the architect, and an alliance of engineering, mechanical, and electrical firms. Within the agreement, Balfour Beatty had two sets of responsibilities—to make decisions as the owner and bring the cash for the deal, and as the general contractor to manage all other trade contracts. To do this, we set up different staffs within our own house. We had a design management team, a construction management team, and an executive group that was looking at the operational standards for the new office, making decisions about scope and things like that."
The results indicate the validity of using the IPD methodology, at least in this case. Completed within budget and on schedule for occupancy, the project—which covers the entire fifth floor of the building—was designed and built to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council's, www.usgbc.org, Washington, D.C., LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification.
Of the three partners—owner, architect, and contractor—on the IPD team, the architect might be the one that has the most responsibility for getting the project right up front. "If we all, as a team, succeed and get the actual costs below the target costs by a large enough factor, then we can all start to increase our profit potential," claims Todd Henderson, senior associate, Boulder Associates Architects, www.boulderassociates.com, Boulder, Colo. "But that's so abstract when really what this noble experiment is about, to me, is finding better human relationships in the service of meeting our clients' needs."
The whole point of IPD is doing better by the client/owner so it really is the customer that makes the calls. "They're the one paying for it," acknowledges Henderson. "Not only are they paying for the building they get, they pay for how they get the building. I can see some clients who would be okay with this, but for some it's contrary to their corporate culture. If anybody in this team has a corporate culture that clashes with the notions inherent in IPD, they shouldn't participate, even if it's the owner."
He continues, "You've got to have the right people. Or, you've got to get rid of the wrong people. In a team environment it takes 20 positive people to overcome the effect of one negative person. When teams go across multiple companies, each company with its own ideas of hierarchy and its own culture, or when you get people who aren't enthusiastic about the process or about the project, it's terrible and it can shut a team down."
While people are the key, new technologies assist IPD teams in doing their work. Newforma, www.newforma.com, Manchester, N.H., is offering PIM (project information management) tools. Henderson says, "It's a tool designed for architects—although they are starting to market to contractors as well—that lets you track all the information about a project. It handles file sharing. It's where we file all our emails about a given project. You can also use it to track RFIs (requests for information), submittals, field reports, etc. There's a section that's pretty slick called 'action items,' which is where you can set up a to-do list for somebody."
Henderson sets up spreadsheets where his team can type in commitments during a meeting and then upload them into Newforma. "It's a way that we've put together to make the functioning of the team more visible. Then you send it out and people see who's doing what. We review it and see if the work is getting done."
Another similar concept from a different technology provider is currently in beta testing. Henderson says, "(This product) is interesting because it's a social network in a way, but on a teamwide basis. You can have discussions on there and lightweight file sharing and you can keep information flowing between people in an open fashion using that tool."
His experience with an IPD environment led him to examine this product. "One of the surprising things that occurred to me was, here we are colocated, sitting next to each other, but the person right next to me is with a different company, with a different IT department. Sometimes what you want to do is instant message somebody across the room and ask them to save the model or something. It's impossible because different companies have different restrictions on software like that. (This product) can solve that problem."
He adds, "For noncolocated teams, I think (this product) is even better because it is an explicit place for informal communications that are part of what make this working arrangement richer. Information, communications, and discussions where somebody chimes in with a piece of information that nobody knew they had and wouldn't have thought to ask them."
Of the projects delivered under IPD, according to the AIA (American Institute of Architects), www.aia.org, Washington, D.C., guidelines, most seem to have been in the healthcare field. One significant success story is the new eight-story Encircle Health Center in Appleton, Wis. According to Albert Park, director of facilities planning for co-owner, ThedaCare, www.thedacare.org, Appleton, Wis. "We designed and constructed a 150,000-sq.ft. outpatient facility that included primary care, internal medicine, various specialist physician suites, imaging, sleep lab, endoscopy lab, etc. This was a joint venture between ThedaCare and a number of independent physician groups as owners. The team included ThedaCare, HGA Architects (www.hga.com, Minneapolis, Minn.), Oscar Boldt Construction (www.theboldtcompany.com, Appleton, Wis.), and a number of subcontractors."
On this project the team used BIM and 3D software to model the building. Navisworks from Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., was used to detect clashes between the systems. In addition to BIM, Boldt maintained a project Website for information exchange for all project participants.
In setting up the IPD team, ThedaCare picked companies it had already dealt with on other projects. "The key factor was the numerous projects that this team had done together in the past," recalls Park. "There was an environment of trust and accountability, key to the use of an IPD model. This was managed by providing very open communication between all involved."
The architects, HGA, had worked with ThedaCare for about 20 years prior to the Appleton project. Kevin Kerschbaum, AIA, an associate vice president with HGA in Milwaukee and the project manager for the Encircle Health project, explains ThedaCare and the doctor's alliance that co-own the building formed a separate entity to act as the owner side of the IPD equation.
Kurt Spiering, AIA, vice president and the principal for the Encircle Health project, says there were some "unintended consequences" because of the way the IPD was set up. "Agree on your incentives up front with your teams. We were fairly loose about the incentives and how they might be distributed amongst the team members. Everyone was just focused on achieving success and didn't necessarily want to literally count their money before they earned it. It's easier if you prenegotiate; you want to modify behaviors up front and those incentives are a good way to help show people how they'll be rewarded for good behavior."
Incentives can be tricky. Spiering explains, "Oftentimes, incentive plans and programs are put together rewarding the guys in the office for a job well done. They reward the construction manager and their team, the architect and their team, the engineer and their team. But the people who have the biggest ability to affect this change are the workers in the field. Not many incentive plans address how we motivate people at that level to look for improvements and savings. Any plan that could in fact get at that probably would unlock more savings than we do by rewarding a construction manager because they manage change orders, or rewarding an architect because he did a good set of documents. That's one of the missing links right now."
Trent Jezwinski, director of healthcare and senior project manager, Boldt, agrees. "One challenge was just to get everybody to understand the new way of contracting. We've worked many projects together in the traditional method but then you go to a new way of contracting and you've got to work through the process and answer questions and make sure you cross the Ts and dot the Is."
Boldt Construction has been a proponent of lean construction, but not necessarily the IPD format, from the onset. Spiering notes, "We probably learned more than they did from the project although what they found was that if they shared realtime information about costs with architects and gave us the ability to pick and choose our options to try to achieve the target budgets, that we were much more willing to go along with reductions or adjustments to our design than we might have been had we not been given the information and the ability to help solve the problems with them."
In a traditional value-engineering approach, the contractor comes up with a list and the architect is forced to agree to one or more of the items without knowledge of why. "I think they felt we were much more collaborative and more willing to work with them on materials, budgets, and hitting cost numbers," says Spiering.
Expanding in IPD
Boldt calls it ILPD—Integrated Lean Project Delivery. Pat Loughrin, vice president of healthcare for Northern Operations at Boldt, says, "It's from concept design all the way through construction. In the preconstruction stage we focus on value design where we're continually updating pricing and giving constructability reviews each day as the design progresses, so the whole construction and design team knows how that is progressing and they're designing to a budget. We're not just reacting to design; it's a very collaborative process all the way through the design process and it continues all the way through construction. We also use interactive scheduling, (which is a) key component of the lean project delivery as well."
Because the healthcare segment is highly volatile, with new technologies often introduced after a building's design is finalized but before completion of construction, you have to be flexible. Jezwinski of Boldt explains, "If the owner wants to bring in new technology, you don't want to be designing too far ahead to where you have to come back and do a lot of redesign to accommodate his needs. It's getting the right information on time, when it's needed, not any sooner or any later, then implementing it into the project as far as construction is concerned. We use these lean tools to help facilitate that."
What have the three participant groups learned from the IPD … rather, ILPD … approach? At Boldt, Loughrin considers this the standard way of delivering a project. "This is the way the owner gets the best value. It's a great working relationship and it really drives to the bottomline." Adds Jezwinski, "We have so much experience with this we don't understand why you wouldn't do it."
Not All Roses
In the corner of the architects, HGA's Spiering takes a slightly darker view. "I've had some concern in the past about these one-off types of projects where the owner puts out an RFP (request for proposal) and then creates forced marriages amongst team members. The allure of getting that big project probably clouds some people's decisionmaking when they look at the culture and work ethic of their partners. I don't particularly favor where an owner would put out proposals for individual team members and create the forced marriage. I think self-formed teams are by far the best way for this collaborative approach to take place because they are based on an element of trust."
And finally, Albert Park from ThedaCare: "I believe, as the owner, that this maximized the value to us. We were able to design and construct this project very quickly because we avoided the sequential process inherent in other delivery models.
"IPD works when a good team is assembled, when an owner understands and supports the benefits of such an arrangement, and when all parties involved understand the importance of meeting commitments and then perform accordingly."
Tom Inglesby is a contributing writer for Constructech.