Choosing a project delivery method is one of the first steps of a construction project. Project delivery methods determine how a construction project operates from start to finish, how the contracts are structured, and how team members communicate daily. Project delivery methods can also impact a project’s quality. Common delivery methods include design build, design bid build, and integrated projects.
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What is the integrated project delivery method?
The integrated project delivery method (IPD) is a way to organize construction projects so that all responsible parties, from the design team to the general contractors, are involved in every phase of the construction process. It establishes multi-party agreements, meaning everyone is contractually bound to complete the project. Team members agree on delivery terms, and all parties are on one contract. That means everyone shares the same level of risk, reward, and responsibility.
IPD vs. design bid build
The IPD differs from more traditional project delivery methods like design bid build due to the contract structure and building process:
- Contract structure: In design bid build, an owner first hires a design team and the two parties sign a single contract outlining the design team’s responsibilities, timeline, and fees. Once the design is complete, builders bid on the project, and the owner hires a general contractor based on cost and qualifications. The owner and the general contractor then establish their own separate contract and begin construction. In this project delivery method, the design team and the general contractor aren’t contractually bound, so they don’t share the same level of risk, reward, or responsibility.
- Building process: Design bid build moves through each of its project phases separately, meaning that once the design team has completed an approved design, they have fulfilled the contract and their work is finished. The project can then proceed to the bidding stage for general contractors, and then construction after that. In the integrated project delivery method, the design team remains involved until the project is actually built. In IPD, there is much more overlap between the design team and the general contractor, since everyone is working together to fulfill a single contract.
How does IPD work?
The integrated project delivery method offers more collaboration between different parties on a construction project. While all project delivery methods are tailored to each project, there are common steps to the IPD:
- The project owner hires a full team. A project owner works to hire a full team of contractors quickly, which typically includes a design team, general contractor, engineers, a project management team, and more. Most project owners that implement an IPD also often use a lean construction method, which aims to curb costs and delays. This can mean reducing materials, crews, and wait times between construction phases. Every team member must agree on shared goals before anything can proceed.
- The team signs a contract. The contract outlines the project’s timeline, schedule, liability, payments, and risk/reward terms. In an IPD contract, everyone shares equal responsibility, so if one team goes off-schedule and loses money, everyone loses money. If one team member gets ahead of schedule, everyone benefits. Once the multi-party contract is signed, the project moves into the design phase.
- The team approves the design. Owners, architects, and engineers work together with the other stakeholders in a project during the design phase to ensure the building is viable according to the terms of the contract. This keeps everyone on the same page from the very beginning and can help mitigate any potential delays The design team benefits from having engineers, general contractors, and other professionals offer feedback.
- Once the building permits are in, construction begins. Daily construction may only involve the general contractor and project management team, but everyone on the IPD team remains in the loop in case any issues or timeline delays arise.
Advantages of the IPD
An IPD incentivizes all project team members to work together since everyone is financially responsible for the success of the project. When team members work together, it reduces misunderstandings.
- Promotes clear communication. Due to the nature of an IPD construction project, where all stakeholders are accountable, the delivery method also promotes communication and frequent cross-team check-ins.
- Incentivizes quality. The shared accountability incentivizes team members to perform at their best, elevating the quality of the project.
- Increases productivity. IDP reduces waiting time between different phases of a construction project since each team is involved in every phase. For example, the general contractor can get a head start on ordering materials and equipment because they take part in the design phase of the project and know the project’s needs.
Disadvantages of the IPD
Some advantages of the IPD make it a riskier proposition for project owners.
- Individual performance affects the entire project. One team member’s underperformance compromises the entire timeline and other stakeholders.
- Group decision-making can slow the process down. In IPD projects, the entire group must come to a consensus on all parts of the project, which is not as time-effective as other types of project delivery methods, like design-bid-build. IDP contracts typically stipulate a form of group consensus for decisions on the project, which can also slow down the overall construction process.
- High project costs. Though IPD projects often implement lean construction, meaning they emphasize efficiency, zero-waste materials, and cross-over between the design and construction phases, it is generally a higher cost project delivery method because of the risk involved. In IDP contracts, all parties are contractually bound to each other, meaning that one team’s delay has ripple effects across the entire construction project. Because of the increased liability inherent in this project delivery method, owners often pay teams more than they ordinarily would for other, traditional project delivery methods.
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