Using the IPD Method for On-Time, On-Budget Construction Projects

Integrated project delivery involves key stakeholders at the start so everyone’s responsible — and everyone wins.

Early integration of all key stakeholders — owner, architect, general contractor and major trades — is an increasingly popular route to on-time, on-budget, high-quality construction projects, especially complex ones. The approach is embodied in the integrated project delivery (IPD) method.

IPD goes a step further than design/build (D/B). Usually, in a D/B project, the owner contracts with an architect or a general contractor as the lead. Everyone else contracts under the lead, according to Kristin Hill, director of education programs at the Lean Construction Institute. With an IPD, all the key players, including trades, typically sign one contract, with other subcontractors signing an adjoining agreement.

IPD helps drive a deeper level of collaboration and innovation in part because the contract usually has a profit-sharing piece to it. “The participants are incentivized to collaborate differently,” Hill explained. Most IPD agreements also have some form of lean project delivery associated with them to help ensure the team’s success. (Lean construction focuses on creating a culture of respect and continuous improvement that can provide more value for the customer while identifying and eliminating waste, according to the Lean Construction Institute.)

Collaboration of this sort appears to pay off. In a 2016 study by Dodge Data and Analytics and the Lean Construction Institute, the researchers asked owners to reflect on their best projects vs. their typical projects. The study found that 76 percent of the best projects (as identified by the owners) engaged the key stakeholders either before or during conceptualization.

Involving trades at the outset lets them provide important input into the design; they influence it in a positive way to create better value, said Hill. It also allows everyone to better understand the interconnections between different sections of the structure — how the mechanical systems will affect the skin, the roof and the structure, for example.

IPD is most often used for large, complex projects, although it can be scalable to almost any size once participants become familiar with IPD and lean concepts. “There is some time investment in getting people to realize that we’re doing something different; it just doesn’t happen overnight,” said Hill.

Because the use of IPD is growing, especially in the private sector, contractors should begin preparing for these projects now, according to Hill. “Even if they haven’t had a chance to work on a lean or IPD project, they can take steps to bring lean thinking to their organization and start training some of their teams to be ready for it.”