Is integrated project delivery right for your project?


A look inside the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management at Northwood University. Courtesy Triangle Associates

Picture yourself walking into the new Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management building at Northwood University in Midland. Light filters through floor-to-ceiling glass walls and radiates off of reclaimed wood accents. One of your first impressions will probably involve the unity of the space, materials and circulation throughout the building.

With a LEED Silver certification and modern technologies throughout, the building is both simple and highly complex at the same time. To achieve the goals of this building, our team and Northwood University employed an integrated project delivery, or IPD, approach for design and construction.

IPD is defined by the American Institute of Architects as a “project-delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices” and is designed to maximize efficiency, reduce waste and foster collaboration between all parties from the very beginning of a construction project. The IPD method is not a new concept. However, it has recently gained prominence in the construction industry.

IPD stands out from the traditional methods of design-bid-build and design-build, because of its joint collaborative structure. Design-bid-build is the most common approach and starts with the owner soliciting design work from an architecture firm and then hiring a builder for the project after an open bid or proposal. By using this method, the builder has very little design input, which can result in coordination issues down the road.

With a design-build approach, the owner chooses one firm to combine the roles of designer and constructor, leading to greater collaboration during design and overall completion of the project. Once the project has begun, however, there is little involvement from the owner.

With the IPD method, all parties work together from the beginning, focusing on collaboration and the final result rather than individual goals or budgets. In IPD, every party is equally accountable for the design — and ultimately the success — of the project. It is a true four-way team from the beginning — with heavy involvement from the owner, architect, construction manager and subcontractors.

In theory, IPD sounds like the most seamless delivery method, but it’s not ideal for all projects. It can take more time to negotiate the contracts between all parties and requires more involvement by the owner than with traditional methods. Working with an experienced project manager can help determine if the IPD method is right for a given project. Matt Novak, our project manager on the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management, coordinated the IPD approach.

“IPD was great for this project, because the process allowed for seamless collaboration for the construction of a raised floor system with integrated technology platforms,” Novak said. “We received valuable feedback from MEP partners that were able to share their knowledge, past experiences and new ideas with the team. This process sparked good conversation on how to avoid constructibility challenges and sped up installation durations on site, ultimately reducing the overall labor costs.”

Early involvement of all construction partners in the design phase can help any project, but is paramount for an IPD approach. The earlier the involvement, the easier it is to formulate accurate budgets, which leads to fewer changes once construction begins. However, this success can only be achieved when teams work together and communicate regularly. We have utilized technologies such as building information modeling software to identify constructibility issues long before they can become problems during installation. An IPD approach puts great focus on steps such as these in the design process.

“Communication is key with IPD deliveries,” Novak added. “Our team utilized cloud-based project management software, Procore, which allowed all parties access to current budgets, models, drawings, meeting minutes and correspondence in real time.”

Now that the Northwood University project has been completed, it can be stated with confidence that the integrated project delivery was a success, in large part due to the entire team’s commitment to the process. IPD does not fit every project, but when appropriate, the higher levels of accountability and coordination keep everyone highly engaged through the entire process to deliver a quality project on time and within budget.

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