It has been a while since I first discussed Building Information Modeling (BIM) software and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), the contractual and procedural agreements that fully exploit the collaborative construction process that BIM makes possible. While the AEC industry was in recovery from the global financial meltdown of 2008, design/build gained market share—contractors promised low cost buildings using this approach, and that’s what owners were looking for.
... owners are less focused on simply minimizing their upfront costs and more willing to consider the promise of BIM and IPD to deliver better-looking, better-sounding, better-feeling buildings that last longer and are cheaper to own and operate.
More recently, BIM and IPD have continued to grow, while lean construction and energy savings have become more prominent ways of expressing the value of IPD. One reason may be that times are better, and owners are less focused on simply minimizing their upfront costs and more willing to consider the promise of BIM and IPD to deliver better-looking, better-sounding, better-feeling buildings that last longer and are cheaper to own and operate. Financial and human resources firm Financial Markets International Inc. (FMI) in Washington, D.C., predicted 6% growth for Q2 2016, with non-residential construction growing faster that home building. Its Nonresidential Construction Index, a measure of optimism among industry executives, rose from 55.6 in the first quarter to 61.3 in the second. That means growth is likely to continue into 2017 and perhaps beyond.
“On the topic of construction delivery method trends,” the report notes, “responses … indicated a return to more collaborative methods. This indicates a shift toward alternative delivery methods and away from the more traditional approach of design/bid/build popular during the recession as a way to ensure the lowest initial price for projects.” Looking forward, FMI’s survey expects that “a slow transition from design/bid/build and CM at-risk to more design/build and the newer concept of integrated project delivery ”over the next three years.Rounding out the equation
Another factor driving BIM and IPD forward could be that contractors have failed to earn the trust of their employers. UK-based KPMG’s 2015 Global Construction
Survey notes that just 31% of respondents had a high level of trust in their contractors (only 9% reported a low trust level, leaving 60% in the “moderate trust” category). In addition, 69% blamed contractors for underperforming projects. Contractors acknowledged that collaboration continues to be a problem and an underlying cause of poor performance.
In September 2015, the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., surveyed 59 IPD projects. Fifty-seven of these were in North America: about half were health care facilities. IPD was chosen mainly because the owner required it, and out of the desire for a more integrated construction process. About 70% of the respondents said they wanted to use IPD again and would recommend the method to others. These results are similar to McGraw-Hill’s 2014 SmartMarket
Report on BIM, in which a healthy 39% of U.S.-based contractors planned major investments in BIM software, desktop computers and mobile devices to run it, staff training and internal process development. These contractors reported that over half of institutional building projects were using BIM two years ago.
New Haven, Conn., Yale professor and San Rafael, Calif.’s Autodesk Vice President Phil Bernstein pointed out in a 2013 Faith & Form article that IPD adoption is driven by a desire to reduce the approximately 35 cents of every construction dollar that is wasted by conventional “award to the lowest bidder” working methods.
In fact, the AEC industry’s overall productivity has declined since the 1960s, during a time when virtually every other industry has experienced substantial increases in productivity. Lowest bidder priority can lead to conflicts of interest and seems to mandate an inherently antagonistic process that anticipates litigation, even if no lawsuits are filed. In addition, design / bid / build or design / build processes, including “construction manager at risk” projects, are focused on quantitative cost measures. Qualitative concerns that are particularly important to sacred spaces are often lost in the shuffle. Of course the building committee has a duty to be careful stewards of the congregation’s money. But if the result is a low-cost building that fails to express the congregation’s need to worship, have the stewards done all of their job, or just a part of it?The skinny
Collaborative building—IPD—reduces or eliminates waste factors such as miscommunication, excess costs of rework, fewer creative solutions and poorer coordination. IPD has been proven to deliver high-performance facilities without excessive costs. Most participants in IPD projects report a better working environment and a desire to repeat the experience. But confusion over legal and financial issues—how to share risks and rewards—continues to be an obstacle.
Even though 94% of construction firms surveyed by UK law firm Pinsent Masons in 2013 believe BIM demands a more collaborative approach, a large majority, 69%, said existing construction contracts fail to adequately address the goal of collaborative contracting.
IPD implies a return to the “master builder” concept that produced some of the greatest structures of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Owner, designer and builder create a team—a unified yet temporary organization—to design, build and commission the facility. Team members can include key consultants, such as structural engineers and AVL designers, and major subcontractors as well as the general contractor.
The fundamental premise of IPD is that sharing risk and rewards makes it possible to share information, including internal costs, which would otherwise be withheld. When all the cost factors are clearly communicated in advance, they can be minimized without necessarily reducing expected profits. So IPD leads naturally into “lean construction,” in which better scheduling means less waste in procurement, needed materials and building system components arrive at the job site on time and not weeks in advance, and change orders can be implemented without seemingly endless cycles of paperwork.
Dace Campbell, a Seattle-based architect, points out that effective collaboration takes place on three dimensions: people, process and tools. On a building project, the people dimension can be organized using an IPD framework. The process can focus on lean methods in order to reduce delivered cost. The tools can include BIM software to make sure that information is complete and current. This creates a three-way synergy: IPD provides incentives to collaborate; BIM facilitates visualization and communication, building understanding and confidence; Lean attitudes, processes and techniques help all the partners maximize value by working smarter and sharing information.Thinking big
How does this work in practice? Atul Khanzode leads DPR’s Construction Technologies Group, with offices across the United States, which has used lean, IPD and BIM to facilitate breakthrough results on cost, quality and outcome. Khanzode has eight recommendations:
1. Begin by defining processes, including mapping workflows and developing incentives for collaboration.
2. Develop a shared vision and goals for the project.
3. Know in advance who is relying on whom in order to get work done (customer-supplier workflow relationships).
4. Decide how and why you will use BIM. The team should know who will use software tools and how.
5. Choose metrics that indicate performance, and then track them relentlessly.
6. Use pull planning (working backward from a target completion date) to understand handoffs and track commitment reliability.
7. Make schedules, financial information, and other key decision inputs as transparent as possible.
8. Include small breakout spaces in a Big Room so a few team members can meet without disturbing the entire team.