How Integrated Project Delivery leads to greater efficiency in the construction process Featured

8:01pm EDT July 31, 2012
How Integrated Project Delivery leads to greater efficiency in the construction process

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a method to take a project from design through construction. The key element of this, as opposed to some other types of project delivery, is you bring together all of your team in the beginning — your engineer, all of your general, mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors, and your operations and maintenance staff who will take care of the property after construction is complete.

“You have them all at the table during the design process. It’s a new procedure to complete your project from the conceptual phase through construction and into occupancy,” says Alfa Tech President Tim Chadwick.

Smart Business spoke with Chadwick about IPD and how having owners, engineers and contractors synchronized through the design and construction process can lead to greater efficiency and a better end result.

How does IPD differ from other project delivery approaches?

In a typical design-bid-build approach, the owner hires the architect in the beginning and generally an engineer isn’t involved until after the programming and conceptual design are complete. Then the contractor is hired and the operations staff is brought in once construction is complete.

There is also design-assist, where a consulting engineer writes a basis of design, which is a rough outline of the system types and level of quality the owner is looking for, and hands it over to the contractors for more detailed design and construction. The engineer then takes a step back and oversees the project but generally from a distance.

Comparatively, IPD has a consulting engineer working all the way through the project, meaning you get a much better and more coordinated design without missing out on the contractor’s input. All of these team members can provide valuable input on the conceptual building design rather than having to react to decisions made without their input.

In design-assist, the engineer hands off the designs to the mechanical contractor to take care of his or her portion, then to the electrical contractor for his or her portion and so on. Contractors, however, don’t typically coordinate as well with the other contractors during this design. Engineers, on the other hand, often have all those engineering disciplines within one company, so you get much better coordination before installation starts.

Further, contractors can be forced to resolve issues that arise during construction out in the field, and compromises in quality, performance or serviceability can result. With IPD, having all the engineers within one entity and involved throughout the design results in a design that’s well conceived and an installation that has an organization that looks better, is easier to maintain and performs better.

What benefits does IPD offer over other forms of project delivery?

The real benefits can be seen when you compare it with design-build method. Many companies have been leaning toward design-build because the contractor is on board early; the assumption is the project moves at a faster pace because construction can get started early and their construction experience adds value. However, conventional design-build projects can be challenged by a lack of installation quality and flexibility as well as a lack of coordination that leads to a poorly performing system. With IPD you can get the speed of design-build coupled with the quality assurance brought on by having an engineer involved, making it the best of both worlds. The consulting engineer protects your interests and quality while contractors help you accelerate the construction aspect of the project.

What are the tangible benefits of using IPD?

In addition to resolving field conflicts before construction, having the contractor at the table during the design phase can help you avoid additional conflicts and delays, which means the final installation is more cost effective without sacrifices in quality. In design-build, circumstances can arise where you have to compromise such as when you have two systems routed through the same space — often a result of poor coordination at the front end. This leads to a compromise that could, for example, require that an exposed pipe is routed through an aesthetic part of your building or you have to move something else that needs regular maintenance to a place where it becomes hard to access.

The lack of coordination at the front end also could lead to more tangible losses, such as reduced energy efficiency when ductwork isn’t arranged in the best possible way, requiring more power to run the system. The IPD process can help you avoid some of the compromises you might otherwise have to make in quality, looks, performance or maintainability.

What cost savings are involved in IPD and how does this compare to design-build?

More cost certainty can be realized up front with the IPD system since you have all the players on board from the start, which gives you the all-in price very early. By obtaining buy-in from all parties on the design, a significant reduction in construction change-orders can be achieved.

You mentioned facility operation and maintenance staff being part of the IPD team. What does this mean?

One of the most common complaints after a construction project is complete is maintenance and operation staff expressing concern over how to maintain the systems. If they’re not represented at the table during the design phase, their concerns are often compromised. Having them involved helps appreciate their concerns while gaining an understanding of their knowledge of the existing systems. An engineer can design an elaborate control scheme, but if the staff’s capability to operate it isn’t there it might be wise to simplify. You might lose out on some efficiency, but it’s better to keep it relatively simple so your operations staff can run it.

Tim Chadwick is president of Alfa Tech. Reach him at (408) 487-1278 or

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