Integrated Project Delivery: A Cooperative Approach
The integrated design project delivery method can preempt issues by establishing early and frequent collaboration.
Predictability isn’t a given in the AEC world. Designers, engineers, and general contractors gather estimates, build schedules, and procure materials to gain as much certainty as they can before a project launches. Countless factors can derail even the most detailed plans, however. Supply chain issues, labor availability, or pandemics can throw plans into disarray.
“We are in a new world of construction and timelines, so how do we work together to mitigate delays?” said Joshua Hersel, architect and associate principal at Cushing Terrell.
The project delivery method dictating development — including design-build, design-bid-build, and integrated projects — can impact schedule, budget and even quality because it covers the totality of the project, including the planning, design, and building phases.
With design-bid-build, sometimes referred to as a traditional delivery method, a project unfolds in three distinct, sequenced phases with separate contracts for each. In design-build, the project owner has a single point of contact, and one contract covers design and construction. Design and construction parties work together from the beginning.
When assessing the best-fit delivery method for a project, owners in a recent survey identified goals and objectives, project complexity and innovation, and project schedule as the most influential factors in project delivery method selection, according to the 2021 report, Design-Build Utilization Update, by the Design-Build Institute of America and FMI Corporation.
Design-build is anticipated to continue to gain share in the next several years, representing as much as 47% of spending in 2025, according to the DBIA/FMI report.
Integrated design takes design-build a step further. Integrated design brings all responsible parties to the table at project initiation. The parties stay involved, participating in every phase of the construction process. Rather than each project phase occurring consecutively, sequencing happens simultaneously because all parties, from general contractor to trades, are involved at every step.
“Integrated project delivery is like a design-build, but everybody’s at the table from the onset,” Hersel said. “It builds a camaraderie around the team. Everyone goes forward together.”
This method can minimize surprises, and spur innovative ideas along the way, because each discipline validates the methods and decisions as the project unfolds.
“It’s a system of checks and balances because everybody’s looking at things from the start,” Hersel said. “It’s real-time design, cost estimating, and value analysis. That kind of continuous evaluation yields cost savings because issues are caught early on.”
Having subcontractors look at designs as they are developed means they have input on drawings when it has the most impact — before construction begins.
“You get details from the people who are building it, from the start,” said Matt Blandford, Andersen Construction’s Idaho operations manager.
Andersen Construction and Cushing Terrell partnered on the award-winning Tenth and Main historic renovation project in downtown Boise, Idaho. The project included a full replacement of mechanical and electrical systems, as well as a new elevator and life safety provisions, bringing the building into the 21st century in terms of comfort, safety, security, and accessibility. The project added a rooftop deck and re-opened previously closed off street-level access. The ground floor now encompasses a coffee shop, bodega, deli, restaurant, and salon and provides cohesion throughout the “micro” neighborhoods along Main Street.
With subcontractors at the table, they can review the architecture, codes, life and safety aspects, and building materials. A framer’s input, for example, can identify a better nail, strapping, or wood type to minimize change orders or help control long lead times by choosing different materials.
“It gives a sense of ownership to each of us,” Blandford said. “Our people are part of the solution. They are incubating a project, bringing it into existence.”
Identifying the Right Team
Whatever the project delivery method, it’s critical the people involved know their business and work well together. That’s especially true with integrated design.
When Blandford is asked to recommend design partners, he cites a few key elements to consider. “Are they active problem solvers? What is the level of service we get if there are issues? Do they find time to problem solve, rather than saving face?” he said.
Blandford also suggests considering what their relationship is with cities, the thoroughness of their design process, and the quality of design on paper.
No matter the project delivery method or structure of the team, there is one constant, he added. “Regardless of what it says on a piece of paper or on a contract, what it comes down to is collaboration,” Blandford said. “Because we are all brought on very early, it requires each side to work together proactively.”
Andersen Construction and Cushing Terrell have worked together for more than a decade, a partnership that has produced dozens of successful projects. “Andersen is a team player,” Hersel said. “They are open and honest. When there’s an issue, we find a resolution together.”
Blandford echoed the collaborative nature of the firms. “The relationship is very positive,” he said. “We are aligned with company structure and values. But what it comes down to is people working well together.”