The Future is Integrated Project Delivery

March 17, 2009
Identifying and resolving potential design conflicts is just one of the benefits of adopting the integrated project delivery process

Integrated project delivery, or IPD, is the philosophical underpinning of the future of the architectural industry. Based on trust and mutual respect, mutual benefit and reward, collaborative decision-making, early involvement of key project participants, early goal definition and intensified planning, and open communications, new models for project delivery are emerging. By leveraging new technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM), organizing in new ways, and implementing best-for-project thinking, project teams are achieving significant benefits.

What IPD Means for Architects
IPD relies on an extensive, thorough design process that incorporates input from (and involvement of) other team members, including constructors, during the design phase; thus, the design process takes on added importance as other team members contribute to how the integrated project will work and be completed.

Integrated projects allow for more extensive pre-construction efforts related to identifying and resolving potential design conflicts that may not traditionally be discovered until construction. As a result, designers may perform (in an earlier stage) certain services that are traditionally performed later in the project. The resulting advancement of services potentially increases the scope of necessary compensation in the design phase.

Frequent interactions with more players during the design phase necessitates that iterations of design documents be provided to a larger group of team members for evaluation and input. This interaction results in a responsibility to track the status of iterations provided to other team members, and the nature and substance of the input received from them, and presents an opportunity for designers to fill a new project need throughout the design phase.

Ideally, in an IPD environment, communications are facilitated by the team structure, not relying on a gatekeeper. This allows time for the designer to pay attention to design vs. serving as the gatekeeper for the flow of communications between the owner and constructors, as is typical in traditional project delivery.

The integrated delivery process allows the architect/designer to benefit from the early contribution of constructors’ expertise during the design phase, such as receiving accurate budget estimates to inform design decisions, and the pre-construction resolution of design-related issues, resulting in improved project quality and financial performance. IPD increases the level of effort during early design phases, resulting in reduced documentation time and improved cost control and budget management, all of which increase the likelihood that project goals, including schedule, life-cycle costs, quality, and sustainability, will be achieved. Architects can also benefit from reduced liability since claims are minimized by the cooperative model and construction accidents are insured by the contractor.

Forces Driving Change
Waste and Productivity. Several recent studies quantify the amount of waste in the construction industry. An oft-cited January 2000 article in The Economist states that “inefficiencies, mistakes, and delays account for $200 billion of the $650 billion spent on construction in America every year.” (Annual U.S. construction spending is more like $1.3 trillion now.) Even more alarming is a 2004 Construction Industry Institute/Lean Construction Institute study suggesting that as much as 57 percent of time, effort, and material investment in construction projects do not add value to the final product, as compared to only 26 percent in the manufacturing world. The National Institute of Standards and Technology issued its Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry report in August 2004, in which $15.8 billion per year are attributed to lack of software interoperability in the construction industry. Additionally, research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, of all major non-farm industry, construction alone actually realized a decrease in productivity between 1964 and 1998; in all other non-farm industry, productivity increased.

Technological Evolution. Software for the design and construction industry manages an enormously wide range of complex data, and has become simpler to use. BIM-capable packages can deliver benefits to stakeholders in every part of the construction process. Younger professionals are coming into the industry with new, tech-savvy skills, and are comfortable with new tools. McGraw Hill’s 2008 Interoperability in the Construction Industry SmartMarket Report suggests that 2008 is the “tipping-point year” for BIM.

Traditional 2-D CAD packages are limited to depictions in flat planes – slices that contain little more than the same information as hand-drawn documents. Coordination of documents is mainly handled in traditional ways. Some firms go beyond 2-D CAD and utilize 3-D software for visualization, but usually as a separate effort from documentation for construction similar to the building of a physical scale model. 3-D BIM-capable packages, by contrast, combine these efforts and contain far more data. They’re not limited to visualizations or instructions as to what to build; they capture information not only about design and construction, but also about cost, schedule/lead time, and maintenance requirements. Drawing coordination becomes transparent – a virtually automatic byproduct of the model, ensuring higher-quality document packages. A BIM is a body of data where information is generated and captured once, and used many times, vs. being generated multiple times (with risk of lack of coordination) for one-time uses. These are inherently valuable ramifications for the designer, constructor, manufacturer, owner, and facility manager. The bottom line: BIM is coming, or is already here, and it’s superior technology. The advantages BIM offers are desirable and beneficial to all project life-cycle stakeholders. Architecture firms that utilize BIM consistently experience an increase in productivity after initial adjustment, as do other companies across the industry.

Owner Demand for Change. Owners are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Not only are they aware of the studies outlined above, but they’re also aware of technological developments, and they’re asking designers and constructors to employ advanced technologies and delivery methods. Two major examples: In 2003, the GSA mandated the use of BIM in all projects by FY06; in 2004, the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT) formed a multi-discipline committee to study problems with contract documents, which ultimately generated two whitepapers urging significant change throughout the construction process. A rise in the number of projects completed utilizing alternative delivery methods demonstrates owner dissatisfaction with the traditional design/bid/build process.

Sustainability. Everyone’s going green. Building owners everywhere are thinking about sustainability. Governing bodies, municipalities, and code authorities are also jumping in, establishing aggressive requirements for energy reduction or sustainability-rating-system outcomes. Why? Studies from the Energy Information Administration (and other studies) show that the construction and operation of buildings are responsible for as much as 48 percent of total U.S. annual energy consumption and 76 percent of annual U.S. electrical consumption, making the built environment the single largest contributor of greenhouse-gas emissions – not to mention the environmental impacts from the waste figures outlined above.

General Industry Trends. Anecdotally, AIA members say that the complexity of projects is increasing, workloads are growing under shorter timeframes (productivity continues to be a major concern), risk management and liability control are increasingly expensive, and that they’re practicing in a litigious culture with a wide range of motivations under sometimes strong stereotypes. These factors all contribute to the creation of an environment under increasing pressure.

What Should You Do?
If you don’t know much about these matters, get informed. Talk to your clients about IPD. Incorporate BIM into your work processes, and familiarize yourself with new, collaborative forms of agreements, and put them to use. Anyone can get involved in important industry initiatives, like the National Building Information Model Standards effort or the buildingSMART alliance, and organizations such as CURT (Construction Users Roundtable), the AIA, and the AGC (Associated General Contractors of America) all have things going on as well.

The process is already well under way – early adopters are realizing benefits that could be yours.

Markku Allison is a resource architect with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, D.C. (This article contains material from Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide, with permission from the AIA, available at

Traditional vs. Integrated Project Delivery

Traditional Project Delivery


Integrated Project Delivery

Fragmented, assembled on “just-as-needed” or “minimum-necessary” basis; strongly hierarchical; controlled


An integrated team entity composed of key project stakeholders, assembled early in the process; open, collaborative

Linear, distinct, segregated; knowledge gathered “just-as-needed”; information hoarded; silos of knowledge and expertise


Concurrent and multi-level; early contributions of knowledge and expertise; information openly shared; stakeholder trust and respect

Individually managed; transferred to the greatest extent possible


Collectively managed; appropriately shared

Individually pursued; minimum effort for maximum return; (usually) first-cost based


Team success tied to project success; value-based

Paper-based, 2-D; analog


Digitally based, virtual; BIM (3-, 4-, and 5-D)

Encourage unilateral effort; allocate and transfer risk; no sharing


Encourage, foster, promote and support multi-lateral open sharing and collaboration; risk sharing

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