Reinforcing the engineer’s role in the IPD method

Integrated project delivery (IPD) requires a team approach and buy-in from all players, including the architect, engineer, contractor, and owner. The consulting engineer plays a significant role in the IPD process.


Learning objectives

  • Understand the definition of integrated project delivery (IPD).
  • Learn about the role of the engineer in the process.
  • Learn how to successfully implement IPD in a project.

As more owners consider alternatives to traditional delivery methods, integrated project delivery (IPD) has emerged as an important option. IPD is a relatively new method, but it is becoming increasingly popular. Many projects are "IPD-ish," where certain components of the process are implemented using traditional delivery methods. IPD with multiparty agreements also have been experienced, where the true value and incentives of the process are realized.

IPD is a process through which people, systems, business structures, and practices are joined together to optimize project results, increase efficiencies, reduce waste, and gain insights from all parties involved in the design, fabrication, and construction phases. The American Institute of Architects has developed a guide for how to implement the IPD method. The basic idea is to identify who or which team is best able to complete the task at hand, even if it means stepping outside traditional roles. Inherently, the process is built on continuous improvement and staying focused on achieving the project objectives outlined at the onset of the project.

Among the most important components of implementing IPD are the roles and behaviors of those involved on the team. There is a fundamental shift in mindset that needs to occur from all project team members. Instead of focusing solely on their siloed issues, they must focus on what is best for the project (see Figure 1). This means the entire team must be committed to engaging in the behaviors described below:

  • Collaboration. Change in mindset from individual contracts to a collective project.
  • Trust. Demonstrate reliability to build trust between all parties.
  • Commitment-based management. Focus on system and project performance, not just siloed performance. 
  • Continuous improvement. Learn rapidly from outcomes that do not go as planned.

Figure 1: This illustration shows the integrated project delivery (IPD) team behaviors. Courtesy: CannonDesignThere typically are five phases in the IPD process, and the engineers are key players in each. The following are specific experiences that an engineer can expect to undergo during the IPD process. The phases, noted below, are subtly represented in these experiences:

  • Establishing goals and metrics.
  • Understanding elements of the design.
  • Taking time to refine.
  • Documenting the process.
  • Execution.

The team also needs to balance doing the right thing and doing it right. The IPD process is outcome-driven, consensus-based, multidisciplinary, and depends on shared accountability. To keep the project progressing forward in the manner described thus far, there are three groups that comprise the IPD management structure and help determine its success. Each partner is responsible for meeting the agreed-upon cost for the contract, with financial rewards based on total project results, not individual group results (see Figure 2).

  • The project management team (PMT) will act in a collaborative manner to provide management-level leadership during the design and construction process in a concerted effort to achieve the project's objective. The PMT is responsible for managing the budget, schedule, and all administrative aspects of the project. The PMT, at a minimum, should include representatives from the owner, architect, engineer, and construction manager.
  • The senior management team (SMT) is tasked with resolving any matters referred to it by the PMT. The SMT is comprised of executive-level representatives from each party that signs the agreement.
  • Project-implementation teams (PITs) lead the execution of the work, spearhead innovation, and aim to drive waste out of the process. PITs include representatives from all members of the team. Common PITs include site, structure, interior, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and low-voltage.

It is crucial to have engineers as a part of each group, with at least one engineer per group, to ensure consistent communication is established early. Engineers will take on a leadership role to help define expected outcomes and establish success.

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