An insiders’ Q&A on what IPD does, why it works, and how it’s changing the future of capital project delivery.
Integrated project delivery (IPD) is a strategy that uses collaboration, respect for people and shared accountability to complete capital projects faster, with improved cost control and fewer headaches.
The IPD model is suitable for capital projects across all industries, but it’s an especially good fit for life sciences companies seeking to expand existing operations or add complex, leading-edge facilities to their portfolio.
For the patients who depend on these companies to develop vital therapies, speed, quality and cost control are more than business advantages—they’re the key to saving, extending, or improving life. In that respect, IPD can make a big difference.
Q: Isn’t IPD just a different type of contract?
A: The contract matters, but the relationships matter more.
When they hear about integrated project delivery, some people may think of the Integrated Form of Agreement (IFO), a contract that brings AEC partners and project owners together. The type of contract matters, but thinking of IPD as “only” a contract is an oversimplification.
Put it this way: the contract is like a racetrack, and IPD is the racecar. The track provides an environment in which the car can do what it’s designed to do: go fast. But a track and a car are only part of the formula. To win the race, you need something else—an experienced, reliable pit crew. That’s where IPD delivers value far beyond the bind of a contract.
IPD builds relationships between team members in a way that’s not typically possible in more traditional delivery models. Every project stakeholder, from the engineering team and trade partners to the owners, has a seat at the table from the project’s earliest phases. The idea is to build a harmonized, cross-functional team of experts, and to establish a culture that’s premised on trust, not order-taking.
That means trust in each other’s expertise, capabilities, and commitment to the overall objectives. For IPD to work, this trust must flow vertically, from trade partners up to the executive suite and back, as well as horizontally, across disciplines. When that happens—when the expertise of individual partners is not only respected but sought after—the project begins to move forward with more ease and velocity than any contract could dictate.
Q: What’s in it for the project owner?
A: Better cost and scheduling control.
Whether a large global player or a small, innovative startup, project owners need to know two things: what this capital project will cost, and when it will be finished. Traditional design-bid-build delivery methods answer these questions with an estimate. The IPD approach answers them with certainty. That’s the key difference, and it’s the reason why demand for IPD expertise is growing.
The IPD approach can offer this degree of certainty because it brings all project stakeholders to the table early. When the contractor is sitting next to the mechanical engineer, who in turn is sitting next to the electrical trade partner, and so on, the discussion about costs and timelines changes dramatically. It moves from the realm of the best guess to that of realistic and accountability-based commitments. This way, every stakeholder can agree to the costs and the project milestones upfront. No surprises. And because this collaborative environment continues through each project phase, conflicts in the field are rare. This means less rework and fewer costly delays—another great advantage for any project owner.
Q: What’s in it for the design/construction team and trade partners?
A: IPD removes traditional silos, making everyone’s job easier (and potentially more profitable).
Talking about a “culture of trust” is one thing, but putting it into practice is another.
One of the ways that IPD makes it possible for trust to germinate and grow across a multilateral project team is by establishing a principle of shared risk/shared reward. This is radically different from more traditional project delivery models, and it’s one of the factors that makes IPD so effective—and so attractive to project stakeholders at all levels.
The shared risk/shared reward model has two angles, a practical one and a more philosophical one. Let’s start with the practical: an IPD approach involves a shared profit pool. Everyone on the integrated team—the AEC entity, the trade partners, even the owners—has a proportionate stake in that pool. If the mechanical team finds a more cost-effective way to solve a challenge, for example, the pool grows, improving profits for everyone. If the electrical team overruns their costs, the pool shrinks, and everyone’s profits shrink with it. This model helps team members develop a mindset of “Your success is our success,” which is a long way from the more traditional approach in which individual teams are incentivized to protect their own interests, sometimes at the cost of other team members.
This brings us to the more philosophical angle of shared risk/shared reward. In order for that mindset to succeed, the integrated team needs a common understanding of what success actually looks like. That’s why CRB’s IPD projects begin with a chartering phase, in which all team members work together to define the project’s overarching conditions of satisfaction. By sharing these criteria for success, all team members can pull in the same direction, working together to grow that profit pool for the benefit of everyone.
In this way, IPD becomes a vehicle for improving not just the experience of working on a large and complex project, but its potential profitability, as well.
Q: Is IPD suitable for all projects?
A: Yes—although it may not be suitable for all project teams.
The key to successfully applying an integrated project delivery lies not in the right kind of project, but rather in the right kind of team.
This starts in the executive suite. To succeed, IPD needs champions at the top, modeling its principles of trust and accountability. Fortunately, the popularity of IPD—and the availability of case studies that demonstrate its value—is on the rise, and more enthusiastic owners are joining this movement every day, eager to have a share of its many advantages.
Q: What does integrated project delivery look like in action?
A: At CRB, we call it ONEsolution™.
To make IPD work for our clients, we started by making it work for ourselves.
Because CRB houses architectural teams, engineering teams, and construction teams under the same roof, we had a head start towards integration. But true IPD isn’t only about finding the right people with the right cross-section of skills and expertise—it’s also about fostering an environment in which those people can do their best work. So we focused our internal efforts on building a culture based on transparency, reliability, and shared accountability. Then we extended that culture to include our trusted trade partners, who operate as extensions of our team.
Today, these efforts are paying off under the banner of ONEsolution, our signature delivery method. We built ONEsolution on the foundation of IPD, then we added our own unique approach to driving exceptional results through the principles of lean integration. It starts with a holistic assessment of our client’s business case, their sensitivity to risk, their research pipeline, etc., and it ends with an exceptional facility or expansion project, delivered on-time and within budget.