How to use IPD for design-bid-build success

By engaging all the players in a building’s design or retrofit, integrated project delivery (IPD) can ensure the project runs smoothly.


This article has been peer-reviewed.Learning Objectives

  • Know the basics of an integrated project delivery (IPD) philosophy, and when it can best be applied.
  • Develop an approach to completing an IPD building project.
  • Learn from an example of how to best implement IPD in a building retrofit.

Since the turn of the 21st century, integrated project delivery (IPD) has been developed as both a project delivery method and a philosophy in response to a desire to reduce waste, improve productivity, embrace technological evolution, and support increasing owner demands for value. IPD as a delivery method was developed in the 1990s and patented in 2000. It involves defined collaboration between all project stakeholders—including the owner, design team, and contractor—to ensure that best practices are leveraged at all phases of a building project through a multiparty contract. Lower project costs and higher-quality work are incentivized with this method, along with consistent communication and transparency among all stakeholders. The open nature of the process balances the goals of each stakeholder from the beginning of a project.

An engineer’s role in the delivery process is critically important due to the increasing cost of technical systems, their level of complexity, and the increasing pursuit of high-performance outcomes for indoor environment quality and resource use.

Figure 1: A full laser scan of the interior of the Renwick Gallery was performed by the general contractor. This was then used to develop a BIM model of the building architecture and structure for final coordination and sequencing of all building systems. IPD is a more comprehensive version of the design-build procurement model. Both design-build and IPD include a single design-builder entity. IPD, however, further defines specific roles for the owner and specific responsibilities for decision making. IPD holds all parties involved to a shared and transparent risk-reward structure. Typically, a project that does not meet prescribed quality metrics results in a shared loss of financial success.

IPD was developed in response to challenges with design-bid-build (DBB) delivery, which is still considered the most widely used project delivery method. In the DBB model, the owner engages in two separate contracts: one with a design team and the other with a general contractor. This split system amplifies the potential for adversarial team relationships, resulting in potential budget-control issues for the owner, as constructability or quality issues come into play. A design team does not benefit from constructability input during the design phase, and a contractor does not benefit from the project knowledge developed through design team interaction with the owner. Once a project enters construction, the design team’s involvement reduces, increasing the risk for miscommunication or misinterpretation of design intent.

Figure 2: This is one of two main air handling units in the attic mechanical room, significantly improved for accessibility to equipment for long-term maintenance. This space fits within the original volume of the building. Courtesy: Kevin Reeves, DLR GrouLeveraging IPD principles to DBB

A Construction Management Association of America study from 2012 indicates that only 1% of projects use IPD as a delivery method. Yet, it is possible to apply an IPD philosophy to any project, even if there is no formal multiparty contract. This can be referred to as IPD lite, IPD-ish, hybrid IPD, or technology-enhanced collaboration.

IPD-lite projects may incorporate the following components described by the Associated General Contractors of America:


  • Fiscal transparency between key participants.
  • Early involvement of key participants.
  • Intensified design.
  • Jointly developed project target criteria.
  • Collaborative decision making.
  • Mutual respect and trust.
  • Willingness to collaborate.
  • Open communication.
  • Use of building information modeling (BIM).
  • Use of lean principles.
  • Team colocation.

This article focuses on aspects of these elements that are more readily approached in a DBB-delivery framework, but can result in improved project outcomes.

One of the main challenges with DBB is that a contractor is not brought on board until after design is complete. The owner may choose to still bring on a contractor for preconstruction support or identify a project manager that has significant construction experience to assist the design team with lessons learned from prior projects. Projects benefit from early partnering sessions to identify a vision for the project, risk factors, and a communication strategy.

It is critical that as many stakeholders as possible be identified early on and that the natural hierarchy in any organization does not become a barrier to smooth and transparent information flow. Often, facility managers and their operations teams will be integrated into projects relatively late. Their feedback is critical to the long-term success of a building’s operation. An owner’s organization may have final decision makers that cannot participate in a project from day to day; it is critical to determine a series of meetings on a monthly or quarterly basis to keep them informed of critical milestones where their input is needed.

Establish clear goals via OPR

A significant amount of focus has been given to the owner’s project requirements (OPR) as a component of the commissioning process. This document should capture broad project goals and also establish a prioritization to those goals, such as schedule, budget, and quality considerations, so that these can be evaluated through the natural course of a project. These goals serve as a roadmap to keep an entire project team on point.

The OPR document is translated into a design based on a team’s technical expertise and interpretation of a significant number of factors, such as codes and standards, assumptions for occupancy and equipment, or even the project budget. It is important to clearly document these inputs in a basis of design (BOD) document. This should be presented proactively to other design team members and then back to the owner team. If a key design assumption is not fully understood by the owner, it can cause the project to go off course.

At the end of each primary design phase, the design team should present to the owner an overview of their approach as well as risk factors or assumptions. To allow knowledge transfer to occur, the owner should describe special design features in solicitation documents for contractor selection and have the design team participate in prebid activities. Bidding contractors often do not have the benefit of months or years of history with a project and may need additional context beyond what is shown on plans and in specifications.

Once a contractor is selected, the owner, design team, and contractor should have a partnering session to review project goals and provide an opportunity for both the owner and design team to present key project considerations. If the building has a building automation system (BAS), the controls integrator should be brought into discussions with the team as early as possible.

The key takeaway is the importance of sharing, documenting, and building upon subject matter expertise at key milestones of a project. From a consulting engineer’s perspective, establishing strong, collaborative, and trusting relationships early is equally as important as technical know-how.

IPD in existing-building modernization

Figure 3: Careful multi-disciplinary coordination was required in the basement mechanical room to accommodate more than a dozen variable air volume (VAV) boxes.

The IPD mindset is useful when working on a variety of project types, but it is particularly relevant for existing-building modernization projects. It is typical for unforeseen conditions to arise during construction as older systems are removed from an existing building. These conditions must be addressed by a cohesive team that is prepared to communicate openly to find and employ the best solutions.

BIM enhances the transfer of information between stakeholders in a virtual environment. While BIM is often equated to the use of 3-D modeling software, the higher-level goal is to share information across a multidisciplinary team; not only is the information useful during the entire duration of a project’s lifecycle, but also during the building’s lifecycle, which includes post-occupancy. Virtual and augmented reality models are now increasingly being linked within a BIM process to further enhance collaboration and reduce the risk of miscommunication, coordination issues, and project rework.

A data-rich process may allow more real-time quantification of materials for cost modeling, analysis of building systems for their impact on energy and water use, or the visualization of sequencing for complex phases of construction involving multiple subcontractors. Often, work within existing or historic buildings is constrained by spatial or structural limitations, where each building trade must install work in a certain sequence to maintain code-required head heights (6 ft 8 in. is typical) or proper access for equipment maintenance, like filter changes.

Putting IPD into practice

An IPD mindset is particularly useful for work on historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which follows the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. These standards consist of 10 guiding principles for historic-building projects. Significant tax and grant incentives available through federal and state programs are contingent on successful implementation of these standards.

The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., recently went through a major modernization. This historic institution was completed in the 1860s, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, and is considered the first purpose-built art museum in the United States. The building was originally designed by James Renwick Jr., the architect of the Smithsonian’s “Castle” and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. It is often referred to as the American Louvre, with many similarities to the Second Empire Style Tuileries Gallery of the Louvre in France. The Renwick Gallery was at risk of being demolished in the 1960s to make room for a new government facility. In the early 1970s, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy led a successful campaign to bring new stewardship to the facility, including a modernization to restore the building’s use as a museum.

Fast-forward to 2011 and a combination of aging infrastructure, new demands for exhibit flexibility, and updated building codes necessitated a major renovation. Funding for the project was from both private and public sources. As such, visible improvements that energized the owner’s donor base had to be balanced against equally important, but less visible, building system upgrades. The project team was additionally driven by two guiding principles from the Secretary of the Interior’s standards:

  • A property shall be used for its historic purpose or be placed in a new use that requires minimal change to the defining characteristics of the building and its site and environment.
  • The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved. The removal of historic materials or alteration of features and spaces that characterize the property shall be avoided.

While DBB delivery was selected by the Smithsonian Institution for the project, several elements of an IPD workflow were integrated. The design process began with a series of partnering meetings to prioritize goals and develop greater connections between team members. These meetings included facility management staff and owner representatives that had recently completed other major construction projects. Creating connections was essential to building trust and sharing ideas among team members. This proved useful for collaboratively developing solutions during design, construction, and commissioning. The goals for the project were set forth in the OPR document, which was developed in the first 60 days of the project and continually updated. These requirements kept the team on track with the owner’s goals.

The design team gathered existing building documentation through interviews, multiple onsite surveys, and a review of historical records dating back to the mid-1800s, which included drawings, utility bills, and environmental-control trends. The building systems had not been updated since the previous renovation in the 1970s and had significantly exceeded traditional service life. Many systems were difficult to access for maintenance and repair or not up to current codes, solidifying the need for comprehensive upgrades.

The history of the building was closely studied, with existing pathways and spaces for building systems noted and included in early design models. More than 30 different vertical pathways exist in the building, created within the historic fabric. Yet virtually no horizontal pathways are available for ductwork on the main floors, due to the inherent architectural characteristics of primary gallery spaces. These spatial limitations demanded collaboration among team members. This led to a strong focus on reduced cooling-load demand, facility operations input, risk reduction for art, and overall space usability.

<< First < Previous Page 1 Page 2 Next > Last >>

Product of the Year
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
40 Under Forty: Get Recognized
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
MEP Giants Program
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
November 2018
Emergency power requirements, salary survey results, lighting controls, fire pumps, healthcare facilities, and more
October 2018
Approaches to building engineering, 2018 Commissioning Giants, integrated project delivery, improving construction efficiency, an IPD primer, collaborative projects, NFPA 13 sprinkler systems.
September 2018
Power boiler control, Product of the Year, power generation,and integration and interoperability
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
click me