Leaning into IPD: A primer for engineers

Integrated project delivery (IPD) is aimed at more directly connecting what the end users are expecting to get and what actually gets built for them, while at the same time minimizing lifecycle costs and shortening the overall schedule.


Learning Objectives

  • Learn the definitions of design-assist, design-bid-build (D-B-B), design-build, integrated project delivery (IPD), IPD light, and value.
  • Understand the workflow differences between D-B-B and IPD.
  • Review lessons learned from a recent health care project.

End user’s expectation versus built resultRather than detail what the workflow for a traditional design-bid-build (D-B-B) delivery method looks like and then detail out what an integrated project delivery (IPD) method looks like, we'll dive directly into how IPD is different.

First, there's the team that will include the owner, architect, engineer, and contractors. The formation of the team by the owner is critical, especially if most of the team members haven't worked on a project together before. In fact, the formation of the team becomes especially critical if most of the team members haven't worked on a project that's used an IPD method.

Respect among all the team members is paramount to build trust so that the intense communication required can happen as naturally and as easily as possible. The team needs to very quickly get to a point where proactive integration replaces reactive coordination. These principles will apply not only to all the folks on each team who are typically involved at the beginning of a project, but also to the other team members that will participate throughout the project including specialists, designers, and field staff.

Any team members who have had experience with adversarial relationships on previous D-B-B projects will need to work hard to shed any preconceptions they might have about how this alternative delivery method will work in order to contribute to a successful IPD project. An IPD coach can help a lot with this critical foundational principle.

Keep in mind that engineers tend to think iteratively, especially when working on design/construction projects, and contractors tend to think linearly as they build things (Figure 5). In an IPD scenario, the engineers and contractors will need to approach their roles with both types of thinking. This will be a challenge for each of them, so they'll need to be made aware of this phenomenon and discuss it thoroughly to work together most effectively.

How to sell IPD

One way to sell IPD to engineers is to stress that they'll become more cost-conscious and practical problem-solvers as a result of working closely with the contractors. They'll become more aware of constructability issues, in general, and more aware of site-specific issues, in particular-especially if the contractors on the team happen to be the "incumbent" contractors at the facility.

To sell IPD to contractors, stress that they'll learn more about system design; in fact, they should be invited into early phase meetings with the "end users" of the project, which should deepen their understanding of the design intent of the project.

This extra insight available to both the engineers and the contractors will benefit the owner because the owners' level of uncertainty related to what they'll eventually end up with should be minimized.

Process reconciliationAnother important factor to consider that will have an impact on the engineer/contractor teams' ability to succeed is early involvement by the owners' facility manager including their lead engineers/mechanics and incumbent building automation system vendor, commissioning agent, gas/vacuum verifier, compliance-testing agency, etc. Not only will these specialists have crucial information and experiences to share with the wider team, but they'll need to be included in critical system design decisions to more fully guarantee that the end users get what they're expecting.

Also, there's the contract. Finalize this as soon as possible, preferably before any of the planning, design, or construction is started. Having a contract drafted early on in the project allows a fully developed BIM implementation plan to be integrated into, and referenced by, the integrated form of agreement (IFOA).

This step will help flesh out who does what. Will the contractors be responsible for documenting existing conditions? Will they be responsible for testing the performance of existing fan systems? Who designs and documents what parts of each mechanical and electrical system? Who does the quality analysis? Who stamps and seals the basis of design/calculations, plans, and specifications? Will submittals be required for materials and equipment or just the equipment? Will submittals be required for all layouts or just congested areas? Can the IFOA accommodate a value-added change to the project during the design phase that increases the first cost but reduces the lifecycle cost?

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