Integrated Project Delivery, BIM, and Colocation Pack 6 Floors Into a 5-Story Building Size

by Timothy A. Schuler
- Sep 24 2015 - 4 min read
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Biogen headquarters. Courtesy Peter Vanderwarker.

When Biogen moved its headquarters back to Cambridge, Massachusetts, much of the chatter revolved around the what: a 330,000-square-foot complex that would reunite the life-sciences company with its R&D lab. But equally compelling was the how.

Designed by SGA and built by Consigli, Biogen’s headquarters at 225 Binney Street in Kendall Square is one of a growing but still small number of projects to use the process that’s known as integrated project delivery (IPD), including an eight-month colocation phase for the entire project team.

IPD involves the real-time collaboration of a project’s core team members and a contractual obligation to share risk. It is the industry’s attempt to formalize what’s been acknowledged for some time: that a building project often benefits greatly from the early and continuous involvement of the entire team.

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Biogen headquarters. Courtesy Robert Benson.

“If any idea is being heralded as a game-changer for architectural practice, it’s integrated project delivery, or IPD,” wrote Amanda Kolson Hurley in Architect magazine back in 2009. “Those three letters, to enthusiasts, symbolize a future in which barriers between project team members are broken down, communication flows freely, and clashes and conflicts are obsolete (thanks to advances in BIM technology).”

Despite its promises, IPD has been slow to catch on. But according to an August 2014 report by McGraw Hill Construction, “one-third to nearly one-half of the practitioners experienced with IPD find it to be the best system to achieve improved communication, increased process, efficiency, and improved productivity.” The report also notes that “40 percent of those familiar with IPD also expect to see increased use of this system in the next three years.”

Matthew Michel served as SGA’s project manager for the Biogen building. He is in agreement with Andrew Deschenes, who led the BIM group for Consigli, that the IPD approach was essential to the project’s success. They estimate that the integrated delivery model and the team’s heavy reliance on BIM helped save more than $2.3 million and up to 147 working days.

Completed in 2012, Biogen’s LEED Gold Binney Street headquarters is part of a burgeoning biotech district just minutes from MIT. The complex is a blend of adaptive reuse and new construction; two existing brick buildings bookend a 310,000-square-foot volume that features a glass curtainwall on the south facade and insulated metal panels on the north.

It’s an elegant and state-of-the-art building, but some of the architecture’s best moments, including an entrance plaza along 6th Street that highlights the interplay between the new and existing structures, might have played out differently had the team not been working shoulder to shoulder. In fact, that plaza might not be there at all.

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Colocation at work. Courtesy SGA.

Michel says height restrictions in Kendall Square limited the new building to what would traditionally be five stories, but at five floors, the square footage required by the program took up nearly every inch of the site. But if they could fit six floors within the height limit, the building could be set back, and more of the site could be given to public space.

This is where the value of an IPD process became evident, Michel says. With the engineers and builders in the room, the architects used Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Navisworks to test numerous ideas and get each team member’s input in real time.

Typically, Deschenes says, if there is a question, it might be sent to several different people in sequence, languishing in an email inbox at each stop. “A simple question could take a couple weeks or more to go out and come back,” he says. “As opposed to turning around in your chair and saying, ‘Hey, can you come here and take a look at this for a second?'”

The team eventually came up with a custom-manufactured truss joist system where plumbing, ductwork, and electrical systems all could be run within the structural framing, not below it, significantly decreasing the space required for each floor.

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Biogen headquarters. Courtesy Steve Dunwell.

“Coordination of everything that happens within the limited depth of that truss joist system became critical to the project’s success,” says Michel, who explains that the BIM models and the ability to share those models using Navisworks allowed the team to “explore options and have a high degree of confidence that what we were doing in the model would be able to be pulled off in reality.”

The structural system worked. Biogen’s headquarters has six stories instead of five, and during construction, every pipe, duct, and cable “fit like a glove,” according to Michel. Autodesk BIM 360 Field was used extensively for the successful project, from a punch list to custom checklists and a mobile model viewer. Most notably BIM 360 Field helped the team create a 10,000 item equipment database that was used to track the status of each piece of equipment, link commissioning checklists, track issues, and link O&M manuals and as-builts. In the end, they had a robust, as-built model as a deliverable for Biogen, including bar-coded equipment.

Currently, SGA and Consigli are collaborating again, and although they are not colocating for another eight months, Deschenes says that in some ways they don’t need to. What the team learned while working together—about each other and their trades—formed a foundation that is still intact.

Deschenes says he expects IPD practices to be adopted more frequently in the future. “There is a movement afoot to do more of this, not for every project or all the time on every project, but we’re certainly seeing that people get it,” he says. “Once you’ve learned how to do this, it can be really effective.”

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