IPD and Team Knowledge

At Rhodes Architecture we've found that using Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is an excellent way to leverage knowledge of the entire team, bringing the stakeholders together in a collaborative effort that makes the best use of every one's expertise in design process, materials, design documentation, communication, collaboration, sustainability / green design (or LEED certification) and overall team knowledge. There's been a little confusion about IPD versus BIM, which are not synonymous.

IPD is a way of approaching a project that uses every one's input through each phase of the project, from the design team, to the contractors, to the owner, and all the other stakeholders. The challenge is to coordinate these efforts in an efficient way. The result is an integrated project completed through superior process innovation and collaborative effort
. This IPD effort works equally well in church architecture and design led by a church architect as it does in commercial design led by commercial architects.

That's where building information modeling (BIM) comes in. BIM brings the worlds of design and construction closer together, showing a more precise scope of work earlier in the process and leveraging the knowledge of the stakeholders in a collaborative environment built on strategic alliances with open information sharing. This is the case both before and during construction. It also takes into account geography and spatial relationships in a way that far exceeds traditional CAD programs. BIM also provides open information sharing with easily defined standards for all the information on the project, allowing for collision prevention at every step.  The software doesn't do all the work. The team, made up of strategic alliances, has to have a coordinated effort in using the tool to make the best use of it for each discipline.

All stakeholders first define the decision-making methods they want to employ. The entire team also needs to establish the standards of quality. Everyone will attempt to attain the highest value at the lowest possible cost, but this process will leverage the knowledge of everyone involved, balancing expectations against the realities inherent in the project. Next, the team should agree on how, and who will be in control of BIM model, defining how it will be utilized in each phase. 

Perhaps the most important step in defining the working relationships is conflict resolution within the team. IPD is based on collaborative decisions, but if there's a plan in place to deal with conflict when it arises, the project benefits in downstream value through enhanced team communication. At Rhodes Architecture we've found that the best way to approach this is to insist on unanimity among the stakeholders at every meeting.

Ideally, establishing these standards can mark the beginning of a long and profitable strategic alliance based on excellent workmanship and open information sharing. As the number of successful projects builds on itself, the benefits of IPD begin to compound on each other. This relationship includes general contractors, fabricators, sub-contractors, and designers.

Since integrated project delivery takes not just design, but materials and components into account, fabrication is more integral to the design process with IPD than traditional design-build methods.

The project begins with open information sharing using the BIM as the for the initial as-built drawings. We've found that it's most efficient for the team leader to control the BIM model, keeping the process in accord with the standards established at the outset, taking feedback from the other stakeholders into consideration.

One thing to keep in mind is that, since the open information sharing reaches everyone on the project, the communications need to be geared to the lowest common denominator. Not all companies will have the same design capabilities and infrastructure to handle the project in BIM; the goal is to communicate, not to impress. The problems that can arise in this area illustrate another advantage of long-term strategic alliances--everyone using and expecting the same standards and capabilities.

Process innovation is usually initiated by the contractor in IPD, leveraging the knowledge of the whole design team, including the skilled labor of the trades and other fabrication professions. Skilled labor and fabricators work far more closely to enhance team knowledge.  Innovation is useless if it doesn’t work during fabrication and construction.

In these integrated projects, the handling of proprietary information can present some difficult, though not insurmountable problems. Confidentiality agreements should be used where necessary, but ultimately, trust is essential. Another benefit of a strong strategic alliance is that there's no need to rewrite confidentiality agreements, and relationships of trust can be firmly established.

Beware of confusing innovation with novelty. The team just can't afford innovation without downstream value and total project awareness. True innovation applies new processes and technology to fulfill projects more efficiently.

If you have any questions, or if you’d like more information, please contact us today. We can be reached by phone at 206.465.2021, or you can submit to the right and we’ll get right back to you.

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