Using IPD and Lean in building design



If you really want to push the boundaries of the traditional process, have the team think about co-locating for the duration of the project. Sometimes the best way to share information is in a casual conversation between team players. Sharing ideas can be reinforced when the work is produced in this environment. Setting up a "big room" (see Figure 1) is a great strategy for encouraging deep collaboration. Here you have the key stakeholders present during document production and providing constant feedback to the development of the design. We all know how hard it is to truly coordinate information even among the design team members, but in a big room setting, the focus remains on the development of the project and all key stakeholders monitor the development based on their expertise.


The architect has shown an electrical room adjacent to a stairwell and a mechanical shaft in the initial layout of the floor plan. During a work session, the electrical contractor sees the location and expresses a concern about her ability to successfully route all of the conduit in and out of the room to serve the floor. With all of the key stakeholders sitting at the table, the entire team can find a more suitable place on the floor plan that does not come with the same limitations as the original location.

Value management

Figure 1: The “big room” space brings together all of the key stakeholders on the project. Sitting side-by-side allows for greater communication and for best practices to be incorporated into the project design. Courtesy: ccrd

One of the underlying principles with an IPD approach is to eliminate waste to drive more value into the project. With all of the key stakeholders present at the beginning of the project, complex issues can be analyzed more thoroughly to ensure the owner's money is being spent in the best way possible.

Target value design (TVD) is a tool that many teams use to ensure that the design is tracking to the project budget. One of the greatest wastes in a traditional process is the concept of value engineering and the redesign efforts that often accompany those decisions. When a design team develops documents that exceed the project budget, teams waste a lot of time in redevelopment of the documents, the most important parts of the design are lost, and lifecycle costing decisions are sacrificed.

Because the owner is engaged early, it can assist the team in identifying a hierarchy of key factors that are important to the development of its project. When all members of the team understand these key factors as well as the budget constraints, conversation is encouraged at the project start about what type of building the owner truly expects. As the design develops, the budget is continually monitored to ensure the project is trending in the right direction. This process also allows design iterations involving multiple disciplines to be analyzed for the best value to the owner.


The owner has asked that its building be a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Silver project. The mechanical engineer has determined that a highly efficient chilled water system would be the best system design for the project and has incorporated this into the project. The drawings are completed and priced, but the project has come in over budget and the mechanical budget seems proportionally high compared to the last project.

In a traditional process, the mechanical contractor may offer up value engineering to go to a direct expansion (DX) system because it would save the project a substantial amount of money. If all of the stakeholders are not involved, the project could risk losing its ability to meet the LEED Silver requirements with a less energy-efficient system. This may also have an impact on the owner's long-term operating costs. In an IPD approach, this chilled water system would be evaluated at the beginning of the project to ensure the system will meet the budget demands before any of the work gets drawn. If not, the team can evaluate the importance between a LEED Silver project and this particular system selection.

Putting it into practice

Like most things, we find it is easy to talk about the process, but it's difficult to master it until you get a chance to put it into practice. Every project comes with a unique set of requirements, and new team members make this process fluid. An IPD approach enables your team to lower the risk involved with producing the documents and provides ample opportunity to interface with the trade partners to lay the groundwork for the Lean processes to carry over into the construction side.

Sarah S. Kuchera is associate principal at ccrd in Dallas. Kuchera is a project manager and electrical engineer specializing in health care projects. She has been involved with multiple integrated project delivery teams and actively applies Lean construction methods in her designs. Kuchera is involved with Lean Construction Institute (LCI) and spoke at the 2013 LCI Congress on Lean Collaboration.

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