In Spring 2019, the pre-validation and validation phases began for East Chappelle School in Edmonton, Alberta; this marks the tenth project our team has undertaken through Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). If you’re familiar with traditional project delivery methods, pre-validation and validation may seem foreign, but as IPD continues to gain traction within North America, we can’t help but be industry leaders and advocates for this style of delivery model.

Group2 Intern, Stephen Faust briefs us on his experience in shifting from traditional project delivery methods to IPD.

How has the experience of starting a project changed for you with the introduction of IPD and ‘big room’ style collaboration?

Starting a new project in the IPD ‘big room’ format has been very different from my previous projects using Design-Bid-Build (DBB) delivery. Going from meeting with the client and other disciplines once every two weeks to meeting twice every week means that you have much more face to face time with people on the project. And you are literally physically closer; we have two long tables where we all sit shoulder to shoulder with our computers and work through the process of solving problems together. It works in the way that open offices work – if you hear someone discussing a problem that you know something about, its very easy and efficient to contribute your knowledge, or receive knowledge, right away. You find yourself going to get lunch with other disciplines and client representatives, making the relationship more like co-workers than in a traditional delivery method.

What advantages does that have?

The informal lines of communication are much stronger, so you have access to a broader amount of information than you might otherwise. For example, talking to a steel contractor you might learn that their suppliers sell in 60’ lengths. Planning around that knowledge right from the beginning of the project means we can consider working with lengths that make the most efficient use of that size, minimizing cuts and off-cuts. The cost efficiencies can be really substantial.

How has your use of technology changed with ‘big room’ work?

In traditional design bid build we draw everything, and then pass on those as pdfs to the contractor and trades, who redraws them and submits back shop drawings for our review, and so on. With the big room we have more upfront planning time to avoid that kind of duplication of work. We can identify at the project outset who is doing what and assign drawings to their respective specialists right away. And those informal lines of communication where you can get quick feedback come in to play helping to get those drawings to be compatible with everyone else’s drawings.

I’m also learning a lot about how other disciplines use BIM (Building Information Modelling), and can see ways where we can incorporate their understanding of building modelling into our own.

We’ve also moved away from using email toward more of a social network style of communication. I like it – no one gets missed on a cc, and you don’t have to trawl through long email chains to get the information you need. There’s a lot more transparency, for both the project team and the client.

What effects do you anticipate this process having on the project?

Our project is now front loaded with much more coordination and collaboration early on, which means there is more of the project budget being spent early on. During construction IPD projects tend to find significant material & labour efficiencies, in addition to schedule gains, and I anticipate it working the same way for this project.

The new communication method also means there’s a lot more information to stay on top of and to have accountability for, which ultimately will be good for the project. It simplifies the paperwork to have everything in one central location and under one central organizational system, rather than filed away in everyone’s separate inboxes under many different systems. That’s another efficiency gain.

Are there any uncertainties you have about how the process will work?

Because the IPD contract shares risk and reward across all parties on the project, the interaction between the disciplines and the various contractors shifts accordingly. Incentives are different, and less “adversarial” in a sense. I think it will be interesting to see how the deeper integration of the disciplines and trades at the early stages will play out during construction. This part of the project will be the payoff for all our extra work up front to establish an integrated project team – so we should see fewer problems during construction, and the issues that do arise will be approached by a team incentivized to be much more collaborative in finding solutions. I’m interested to be part of that process myself when our project moves into construction.

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