Integrated Project Delivery – Your Complete Guide to IPD in Construction

integrated project delivery ipd construction

How IPD Benefits Teams and Improves Project Efficiency

“There’s no ‘I’ in team…

“….Be a team player.

….Take one for the team.”

Despite the overused and often annoying references to teamwork we’ve all heard a million times, we hate to sound like a broken record, but teamwork is actually vital to the success of construction projects. Think about it. You have an architect, owner, design team, contractors, subs, etc. If one of those members falls short, the whole project can crumble faster than you can say, “teamwork makes the dream work.” In fact, in companies in general, 97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project. In construction, how projects deliver determines how teams work together. Methods vary from Design-Bid-Build, Design-Build, Construction Management at Risk and Multi-Prime, but none of these fully address the collaboration issues that can occur in construction teams except Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

Before we get more into what IPD is, take a moment to think about all the issues you’ve seen on a jobsite. The most common issues that disrupt a project have nothing to do with weather, equipment, or obstacles. Instead, antagonistic, adversarial relationships, unclear expectations and confusion about roles and responsibilities wreak havoc on a team’s ability to collaborate. Rework, disputes, and other issues often stem from problems with communication and project management–and the larger the project, the bigger the problems can be.

While the challenges above don’t plague every project, they impact many of them; causing unnecessary delays, higher than anticipated costs and a less than ideal working environment for all concerned. In construction, how projects are delivered really matters and integrated project delivery is becoming a compelling solution for companies looking to improve communication and collaboration. Therefore, implementing an innovative approach to project delivery can help you avoid these issues entirely and help ensure you have a harmonious team – and a successful project.

Below, we’ll discuss the basics of integrated project delivery, as well as the benefits of adopting the approach for construction teams.

What Is Integrated Project Delivery?

Integrated project delivery (IPD) allows you to create mini-organizations that last for the length of a single project to power that project to success. When you bypass the conventional and often flawed method of running a project, you can streamline it, ensure that every member of the team is empowered and has a clearly defined role and even cut your costs.

integrated project delivery contract - construction contract type

The main goal of Integrated Project Delivery is to create a team that can work together well enough to power the project for success. This team works as a single organization for the length of the project and may include members from a variety of disciplines, including:

  • Owners
  • Contractors
  • Subcontractors
  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Managers

Working together, this group will pool their knowledge and abilities and match team members with the best possible roles. Everyone, including the contractor, owner and architect/design team operates under the same contract and works with the same goals in mind. When success is defined for the team, instead of for individual players or components, working together effectively is incentivized and the infighting typical of many construction zones is minimized or eliminated. 

In a recent episode of our Digital Builder podcast, Ariana Alvear, Senior Production Manager at The Boldt Company, shared her experience working on IPD projects. “IPD goes beyond a contract because it’s a type of contract. It’s a culture that you get invited to. It’s inviting everybody to think about what’s better for the project instead of only focusing on your scope of work,” she says.

And the owner is a crucial ingredient to IPD's success. “The owner, in my experience, is a very key component. If they’re in, that makes a difference. And it’s not about only saying, ‘I’m going to do IPD, and I’m going to build a Lean project.’ You need to actually act on it and behave like it," she explains. "The owner has to be involved in all these meetings and set the pace. They need to set the example.”

Integrated Project Delivery operates differently than conventional project management methods but often results in more productivity and efficiency and reduced risk and losses. The focus shifts from “how does my company succeed on this project” to “how do we ALL succeed on this project”.

How Does IPD Work?

Integrated Project Delivery differs from the conventional methods in several ways, including the way the team is assembled and the actual phasing and execution of the project. Building a team that is capable and that has the ability to work harmoniously together is the best way to ensure success—to build that team, the following steps are recommended:

  • Identify roles: What roles and responsibilities will be needed for the project at hand? Make a list of each role and make sure you detail what responsibilities “belong” to each.
  • Recruit internal team members: Select the in-house or contracted members that best suit the roles. Ideally, most members will have the experience and ability to work in a collaborative setting.
  • Consider additional parties: What other stakeholders or parties need to be included, notified or brought into the loop. This can include insurers, your local utilities, building and other local officials and more.
  • Define goals: Outline the objectives and interests of the stakeholders and define success – what is the desired result of your project?
  • Choose an organizational structure: The conventional project delivery structure and methods may work–or they may not. Be willing to be flexible and shape your structure to suit the project at hand.
  • Multiparty agreements: Create an agreement that covers all parties, and defines all the above information, from the responsibilities for each member to the roles they will play within the organization.

What Are Multiparty Agreements?

In order for IPD to truly work and hold team members accountable, a Multiparty Agreement (MPA) is needed as a primary contractual agreement. MPA allows all primary participants in a project to be covered and included in a single contract. This document outlines the following details for each participant:

  • The role they play in the project
  • Their rights and obligations
  • Any liability they agree to or are assigned
  • Their responsibilities

IPD Skanska

Source: Skanska

This document officially establishes a smaller team within an organization that is dedicated to a single project. The contract makes it easy to fully define roles and hierarchy in a specific location, so everyone understands not only their own responsibilities but what their role is on the team. It’s especially helpful when questions arise if clarification is needed or to settle disputes. By detailing all of the important components in advance, you can avoid having the project disrupted and slowed later.

Since compensation is often dependent upon success, MPAs require both trust and an effective, efficient working relationship. In general, this type of contract is more team-friendly. For instance, all members need to be onboard and working together to fulfill the group goals. An MPA can solidify a team’s relationship and help make things “official” and is often the first step to a successful project.

Recruiting team members with a history of success and experience with collaborative efforts can help drive the entire group to success. While the specific text and scope of an MPA can vary, they generally:

  • Binds all parties together under a single contract, agreement or umbrella
  • Creates a fully functioning organization that can be temporary in nature, but is fully equipped to make decisions and complete the tasks at hand
  • Allows for decision making by consensus
  • Ties compensation to successful completion of the project, not to individual performance or components
  • Assigns roles to the people best suited for the job, regardless of rank or formal position
  • Are project alliance based, single purpose entities or relational contracts that cover all members and needs.

The Benefits of Integrated Project Delivery

What can Integrated Project Delivery do for your project? Every time you launch and complete a new project, your employees become more adept at collaboration, better at working as a team and more excited about the prospect of working on another project of this type. “It’s true collaboration. And because you’re constantly collaborating, constantly checking on how you’re doing, you can forecast how you’re going to finish,” says Alvear.

Some of the benefits of this dynamic and precise form of management include:

  • Better outcomes: When everyone can collaborate and communicate effectively, you can consistently achieve higher standards, better outcomes and more successful projects.
  • Open, easy collaboration: Every IPD project you run makes your team become better communicators, be more respectful of other components or verticals and even enhances their ability to collaborate.
  • Transparency: With this method, both the goals of the project and the risks are clearly defined for all members on an equal basis. One team or person is not responsible for conveying these details to others; they are dispersed equally to the team. This not only promotes ownership of the project and places all players on equal footing, it ensures that needed information isn’t omitted or overlooked and reduces the amount of rework needed.
  • Equal Representation: To succeed, the team needs to include members from all aspects of development, from contractors and subs to architects, engineers and stakeholders. By including individuals with a diverse skill set and background, problems and risk can be assessed and uncovered early in the process and evasive action can be taken well in advance.
  • Single Agreement: Since everyone on the team is covered under a single contract, they are all working towards the same goal. Workers can address their own concerns and areas and assist with innovation and solutions for other areas as well. The single agreement model binds the group together and ties success to collaboration, not competition, eliminating many of the reasons for strife on the work site or between site workers and office workers.
  • Precision Estimates: Since each department or vertical can have input and share insight right from the start, estimates are more likely to precisely align with actual costs. Each team member can contribute, so guesswork is eliminated.
  • Increased Efficiency: Working together with clear lines of communication can streamline the process and eliminate delays caused by misunderstanding and a lack of communication.
  • Cost-Efficient: Reducing errors, omissions and disputes, while speeding up the construction process.

Keep in mind, that when IPD is combined with Lean construction principles, these benefits have the potential to increase tenfold, especially from the reduction of waste and inefficiencies.

Fostering Team Building With IPD

We’ll say it again, an aligned team is critical for a successful project and essential for IPD. The better your team works together as a collaborative group with strong ties, the more effective the system will be. Both compatibility and communication skills are key characteristics that are necessary for IPD team members. Teamwork doesn’t stop with the assembly or selection of members; the sense of actually being a working team should be fostered whenever possible. Setting up new workspace when available, creating a “special ops” feeling and scheduling regular meetings, conferences and opportunities to collect and interact in person are essential to success. Your team is at the heart of your integrated project–and if that team does not function effectively, you won’t get the results you want. Focus on who you want on the team and in setting reasonable, achievable expectations, to maximize integrated project delivery.

Your Team

Investing in your relationships within your own team and with the contractors you need can only enhance your project efforts. Appreciating the role each plays in a successful project and ensuring that every member gets an equal voice can drastically improve your success rate.

Filling your team with professionals who not only are capable at their own roles, but able to respect, listen to and learn from others can also ensure your new organization runs as efficiently as it possibly can.

Reasonable Expectations

For integrated project delivery to be successful, every member of your team needs to not only understand the roles and goals that are being assigned to them but also provide clear and reasonable timelines and promises. By refusing to pressure team members to accept a given timeline and working instead with reasonable goals and expectations, you can avoid problems down the road.

Create Contingency Plans

While your focus will be on creating a successful project, having contingency plans can help you identify risk and immediately take action if something goes wrong. Your contingency plans should cover what happens in the event of an unexpected activity like extreme weather or emergency, the steps you’ll take and who will be responsible for assessing and addressing problems. Clearly defining this as your team comes together avoids unpleasant surprises and ensures everyone understands their stake, risk and role at the very beginning.

Value Relational Abilities

While your team needs experienced talent, don’t overlook the power of personality and the ability to get along with others. When you find someone with the perfect combination of ability, experience and personality – keep them. Retaining your key team members and then deploying them to important projects can considerably lower your stress levels and boost your success.

Technology and IPD

In the majority of projects, technology facilitates and improves the collaboration needed for successful integrated project delivery. Since most projects involve complex relationships with a variety of stakeholders, the programs and tools used for other businesses simply won’t work. Large, cumbersome attachments and inelegant, slow means of communication make typical business solutions useless for IPD.

Instead, using collaborative tools that not only support construction’s needs but that are specifically designed for the industry, ensures success with integrated project delivery. When all members of the team can communicate, collaborate and contribute with real-time information and access, many of the traditional problems associated with construction project management are drastically reduced.

Using collaborative tools to enhance and overcome IT and communications challenges improves both efficiency and productivity. Data and documentation flow are improved, and workers on-site are better able to convey needs and concerns to those in the office in real time. By facilitating this communication, construction brands can improve their customer experience and increase revenues and profits.

Put “I” Back in Team With IPD

Construction is already complicated and needs tight teams to achieve even the most basic budget and schedule goals. By making integration and synergy a part of projects from the start with IPD, the more likely construction will go smoothly. In addition, you’ll build better and long-term relationships with your team, as well as be able to turn more profits over time. Now’s the time to commit to teamwork for construction delivery. Get started and explore how you can bring integrated project delivery to your future projects.

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