Integrated Project Delivery: What Do Architects Gain? More Importantly, What Do Architects GIVE UP?

Many architects are excited about the concept of Integrated Project Delivery.  The AIA defines Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) as “a method of project delivery distinguished by a contractual arrangement among a minimum of owner, constructor and design professional that aligns business interests of all parties.”  It describes IPD as “a collaborative project delivery approach that utilizes the talents and insights of all project participants through all phases of design and construction.”  It sounds great.  We architects love to collaborate, and we understand that good buildings depend on collaboration with other team members, such as owners and contractors. 

The AIA’s “Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide” indicates that IPD’s benefits to designers are the following:

“The integrated delivery process allows the designer to benefit from the early contribution of constructors’ expertise during the design phase, such as accurate budget estimates to inform design decisions and the pre-construction resolution of design-related issues resulting in improved project quality and financial performance. The IPD process 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”.   

These are good benefits; this is important information for architects and engineers to have, so that they can do their best in providing their design services to the owner.  But design professionals can get these benefits through other means, such as by hiring a construction cost estimator, and by doing a better job of coordinating all the design disciplines. 

Architects who engage in IPD need to understand that their role is different under this project delivery method than it is under other project delivery methods.  Under IPD, architects are less autonomous than they are in traditional project delivery methods, architects are less influential over design decisions than they are in traditional delivery methods, and the architect’s relationship with the owner is watered down compared to the relationships in traditional delivery methods.  This isn’t merely how IPD happens, this is actually how it is contractually conceived.  

IPD is one solution to some of the problems in the construction industry today (such as poorly coordinated construction documents, constructability issues with designs, projects coming in over budget, and poor project management by architects during construction contract administration), but IPD is not the only solution

Architecture firms should not wade into these IPD waters without fully understanding what they’re getting into, and what they’re giving up.  They need to understand that they are giving up the chance to work by themselves on the early phases of the design of buildings.  They need to understand that they will never have a one-on-one relationship with the owner on an IPD project.  They need to understand that they won’t be the party passing communications between the owner and the contractor.  They need to understand that although the contractor will have heavy input on the design, the design professional will still have professional liability for the design.

Architecture needs to improve itself as a profession if it is to thrive under IPD, just as architecture needs to improve itself as a profession if it is to thrive at all.  IPD isn’t the savior of the architecture profession.  IPD cannot make up for architects’ deficiencies in building technology knowledge, deficiencies in understanding of, and administration of, construction contracts, and deficiencies in understanding and implementing building codes.  If architecture can improve itself in these areas, maybe architects will find IPD less attractive.  If architecture cannot improve itself in these areas, architects are likely to find our profession in just as unhealthy a position when IPD becomes prevalent.

Some comments from others on the subject of IPD:

Thoughts from Barbara Golter Heller, FAIA, in a 2008 article:

“Architects usually assume that their design will be the controlling factor in integrated project delivery; owners want technology to facilitate their control over the project and its process. Owners who focus on cost-saving efficiencies and expedited schedules may not be managing a project in a way that is congruent with the expectations of designers and engineers. If large owners focus as aggressively on economics through technological capabilities as they are currently doing with project delivery methods such as design-build, architects are threatened with lost autonomy. If architecture is to thrive in the new world of technology aided integrated project delivery, architects must clearly communicate the human value of design in the context of cost-driven business incentives.”  –  Barbara Golter Heller, FAIA

From Antony McPhee, an Australian architect, in a recent blog post:

“Current proposed IPD models marginalise architects… They push the architect out of their role at the beginning of projects, when traditionally architects have had the most influence.” – Antony McPhee

 “It explicitly reduces the traditional influence of architects at early stages of a project, and therefore the main driver of design excellence.”- Antony McPhee

 “In theory BIM and IPD will provide improved quality of outcomes. But that improvement doesn’t necessarily include better architectural outcomes. It does include reduced time, reduced co-ordination mistakes, the ability to model alternative scenarios. But those scenarios are not necessarily ones involving improving architectural design. As only one member of a collaborative team, it is unlikely the team will appreciate the advantage of letting the architects work through design alternatives. Contrast that with current practice where the architect spends most of the early stages of a project doing just that.”- Antony McPhee

For more thoughts on why architects should become more TECHNICALLY competent, for the sake of DESIGN, see the following:

Ron Geren’s blog post “Towards a More Irrelevant Architect”

Walter Scarborough’s “Specifying Mediocrity? Without a Technical Foundation, Design is on Shaky Ground”

My blog post “Architects, Take Back the Reins!”

And, finally, a paper by Dr. Kevin Burr that explains why a future full of IPD is likely inevitable: “Moving Toward Synergistic Building Delivery and Integration”  (scroll down the page to find the paper).

I have not experienced an IPD project, so, even more than usual, I welcome your comments on this post.

31 thoughts on “Integrated Project Delivery: What Do Architects Gain? More Importantly, What Do Architects GIVE UP?

  1. Liz:

    As always, you’ve written another thought-provoking post that begs serious questions about the status of the architectural profession. I do have successful experience with IPD projects so I feel qualified to make a couple of observations.

    In response to your point that IPD is only one solution, this is true. IPD isn’t for every project. It is most applicable to those which are complex, large, and involve a large number of stakeholders, and then only sometimes. Like any other project delivery method, its selection should be contingent upon a thorough review of its pros and cons. As Antony McPhee points out, there are downsides to IPD.

    That being said, IPD needn’t signal a trend toward the marginalization of architects and the services we are best-suited to deliver. We can’t be experts in everything. However, we can still exert the level of influence we have historically been accustomed to if we play our cards right. By this, I mean that architects can still be the maestro of the construction industry (to borrow from Ron Geren). It’s my contention (and one I’ve made before) that by virtue of our education, architects have a unique skill set which enables (or should enable) us to problem-solve, synthesize, and bring the big-picture view to projects. We need to be the most well-rounded of all the players in the game, always keeping our eyes on the prize. That’s the value we bring to the process.

    The bottom line? IPD will only further the marginalization of our profession if we let it.

    • Randy,
      I am so glad you commented. Thank you!
      You’re right – IPD doesn’t necessarily need to further diminish the role of the architect. But it absolutely will if we let it.

    • Yes, marginalizes our product too. On a low fee basis – third class firms architectural, contractor, owner, developer, will continue the antics to do as little as possible (cut corners) and risk product outcome for a profit.
      Same as occurs with traditional delivery procedures except we as a profession start from a point of lower standing with IPD and lose industry respect.
      The accuracy of the coordination effort is merely a wish and only as good as the participants involved. Same with the standard of care.
      Its good to hear someone is going to bat(t) for architects.

  2. Nothing new, here; architects have been giving away the store for a long time. My current “Master Builder” series shows how architects, and, more significantly, architecture schools, have been dumbing down the profession, choosing to let others do much of the hard stuff.

    IPD in itself makes sense, but, as you note, it will further erode the profession if nothing is done to stop it.

  3. Extremely well done– and so very insightful. Good for you!

    You are quite some lady and of most value to CSI and our profession.
    Glad to know you the little I do– have a great day!

    Ralph W. Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
    Senior Architect- Specifications

    • Thank you so much!

      A LinkedIn post by Marty Rose, another CSI member, in which he posted Antony McPhee’s blog post started this. I Tweeted Antony’s post, and a Twitter conversation made me research IPD some more, and write this.

  4. The concept of IPD has some advantages. It could be seen as an extension of partnering (remember that?) but will it be any more successful than was partnering?

    Systems are not panaceas. They depend on people of good will, with experience and good judgement, doing their jobs to the best of their ability. And if that happens, the project is likely to be successful whether the delivery method was traditional design-bid-build, design-build, or IPD.

    The IPD process requires that decisions be made earlier in the schedule. And to realize the touted benefits of IPD, that means that those decisions must be firm–which means that designers have to stop designing earlier in the schedule. This makes me skeptical of IPD–systems that do not take human nature into account will lessen their chances of success.

    • Dave, thanks so much for posting your excellent insights. Great point about architects needing to stop designing earlier in the schedule (hey, I’m going to LOVE IPD!)

      I look at most things in my work (and in my life) from the point of view of, “What could go wrong, how do I prevent those things from happening, how do I deal with them if they do happen?” (I actually sleep really well at night.)

      As you say, if good, experienced people do their jobs to the best of their abilities, the project will be a success, no matter what delivery method is used.

      If IPD gets noticed by owners everywhere, who will insist that it be used on all projects, and who may not carefully select the contractor and/or the architect, I believe that IPD is likely to marginalize architects. I think that IPD is not quite what many architects believe it is.

      As usual, I just want architects to read their contracts, and know what they’re getting into.

  5. I am closely watching IPD to inform my opinion of it. At the upcoming Phoenix conference, I am scheduled to attend two seminars, “Evolving Contracts for IPD” and “The Cost Impact of IP: Metrics, Risk & Resource Allocation.” I’ll be tweeting my impressions.

  6. IPD is another variance of try to make the project team a better working team – it follows negotiated construction contracts with the contractor on-board early, CM, and design build. I remember when CM came on the scene to “save the world.” I would put all of these in a different category from design-bid-build where the contractor is not on-board until after the design has been completed and documented.

    IPD is trying to provide contractual incentives for better team work. That only works when everyone “buys in.” As Dave says, the most important thing is that everyone does their job, contributes based on their expertise, respects the contributions of others, who works fo the success of the project as a team player. I have worked on negotiated contracts where that has been the case – all the participants knew and trusted each other and really worked together as a team utilizing each other’s experience and expertise. I have also had the opposite experience where some of the team members were mostly out of themselves. I am sure both are true for IPD.

    There must be a leader for the team – that can be the owner, the prime design professional, or the contractor. They just have to have the qualities of good leader whose primary goal is a successful project.

    I don’t think any of these project delivery methods are the most reason for architects losing their position – that relates to their own action and inaction – how much expertise they retain – how much they give to others. If the architect is depending on an autonomous relation with the owner or working by themselves, they are in trouble. They should be able to contribute well from their expertise in a team atmosphere – if the other participants don’t respect their expertise, they are in trouble no matter what the project delivery method is.

    I totally agree with the reality and problems that come with the diminished role of the architects, but I think that is independent of the project delivery method. It is the result of architects not all the knowledge and expertise they need – some of it because they have come to have limited interests and some because concern for liability. Architects are giving up some of their roles; project delivery methods are not stealing it.

  7. Liz,

    You are correct to suggest that IPD will lead to a decreased role for the architect. Once it becomes clear to the owner that architects actually have very little knowledge regarding cost, scheduling and risk for projects, owners will begin to treat the architect as a “vendor” of design services. This has already happened except in “signature” buildings (ie those that are not concerned with cost, schedule or risk issues and are to be thought of purely as luxury items selling a luxury brand either public or private). Architects define themselves all too often by hyper-inflating the value of these luxury products as the core of the profession. Current IPD projects are to be seen as very idiosyncratic, including the contractual and insurance schemes associated with them. I encourage attending Fred Butters talk at CONSTRUCT 2012 to get a really good view of what is going on in IPD contracts. Most of the extant projects are so big that all parties simply will do anything to get the job. The Sutter Projects are a perfect example of this. Partnering failed miserably both because of the overall increase in adverse selection that results from outsourcing all risk (no one can sue other parties to the base contract) and because it became clear that no insurance scheme could be meaningfully crafted to back partnering without massive losses to the insurers.

    Some of the comments have understood this problem well. CM, owner’s reps, etc. have all attempted to solve the problem and have been hailed as the next big thing to solve the morass of the A/E/C industry, but none have fully succeeded. What all these have done is to make clear to the owner that the architect is not going to step up and others will. The sense of pride that architects take in their education is deeply misplaced. In fact, the education that architects are so proud of is in most cases a third rate humanities education combined with a third rate scientific/technical training passing as cultural engagement. A profession cannot live by pointing to exceptional individuals. It must point to a general standard of competency and knowledge. The fact that all of us may know some really kind and useful psychoanalysts doesn’t make the profession of psychoanalysis any more believable or significant (a whole generation of architects bought into this hook, line and sinker since it was intellectually au courant). Architects are tempted to follow fashions and fads dressed up as “research” or “explorations” or “creativity”, specifiers do so at their peril. Herein lies the fundamental aporia of the specifiers problem. IPD will only increase this disconnect and thus poses a unique challenge to the CSI.

    As with another of your commentators, I am looking forward to the presentations on IPD at CONSTRUCT, especially if they are not rah-rah but objectively driven and can begin a conversation beyond the group hug model.

    • Thank you so much for your comments! I’ve heard you speak about the insurance problems with IPD, and I am glad that you’ve touched on those issues here.

      I love the term “group hug model.” The article by Barbara Golter Heller which I linked to in my post above addresses this a bit – it explains that architects see IPD in a different way than other members of the team see IPD. For most architects, IPD does seem to be treated as a “group hug.” But nobody else is seeing it that way. That’s ok, but what’s NOT ok is that most architects don’t seem to see that nobody else is seeing it this way.

      Hence, the aporia (a word whose definition I had to look up) of the architect’s specialty consultants… who see both sides. You’re right – this will be a challenge.

  8. We have one IPD project under our belt. The tri-parti contract had an amazing effect on this project. The goals that were set contractually particularly with regards to sustainability and costs were attained due to the incentives linked to them. We found that it wasn’t as easy to VE out something which affected sustainability when the GC and Architect lost money in the deal.

    As for the architect losing out initially on a one-on-one relationship with the owner, I believe that we actually benefitted from the constructor was in the room. The constructor brought buildability and cost information which were invaluable to the project and saved the team time in design.

    Though we promote the IPD delivery method we do not find owners quick to sign those contracts. An IPD project requires the owner to be heavily involved in the process and committed to create a cohesive team. The owner also has to be willing to incure the additional cost of the constructor upfront which may not fit their pro forma.

    If you are interested in learning more about IPD, the Lean Construction Institute Design Forums held in January and June each year provide great information and experience as to how it actually works.

  9. I started in this business as an Architect, and through my careers evolution have worked as a Contractor for the last 25 years. I am now a Senior VP at a firm that has claimed to be a Design/Builder for years. Though we have never signed an IPD contract, I now understand that we have been practicing IPD for years.

    I, as do several others in my firm, call myself a Pre-Con Manager. We bring it all together in a package that considers Cost, Quality and Schedule… with the same priority that the Owner does! I believe that this approach offers a better solution to the Owner than autonomous control by solely the Architect or the Contractor.

    The tools are not gained by simply hiring an Estimator. That logic is what has made the Architectural role so limited; its understanding of the overall process. I am very passionate about the combination of my skills, and leary of the average Architect that is so naive about the process. I believe that for Architecture to flourish and survive, it must become more about the real world of costs, schedule, and production concerns, and less worried about loss of control. Thoughts of autonomy and entitlement will ensure the field’s demise.

    • David,

      Thank you so much for commenting! It sounds as if your company is one of the good ones.

      As I commented on Antony McPhee’s blog post, I do not doubt that IPD will make the construction industry more efficient. But, I think it will not make aesthetic design better overall, and I think that worse aesthetic design, in general, will be bad for the built environment. This is why I frequently encourage architects, in my blog, and in my practice, to improve their building technology knowledge (as I always try to improve mine), to improve their understanding of, and administration of, construction contracts, and to improve their understanding of and implementation of building codes in their documents (as I always try to improve mine).

      I greatly appreciate your contribution to this discussion.

  10. Liz, Maybe because of where I ended up, but I believe that the best Architecture responds to the Clients needs and wants. It is up to me to present information in a accurate and prudent manner. The decisions are made based on the unbiased intent of the client. I never want to try to acheive the most of excellent design, but I also want to make sure the budget work, and that the maintenance of the materials are adequate 10 years after the pretty pictures are taken.

    Many of my clients are more concerned with the quality of the roof than what the building looks like. I want to provide aesthetics to the highest degree that the budget, schedule and specification will allow, but I am going to make sure the roof is on the top of my list.

    Thanks for your thoughts.


  11. Aesthetics reside in the perception of each individual, and rarely, if ever, is there a complete consensus between individuals. Projects that begin with clear goals and values (and roles & responsibilities) stand the best chance of meeting or exceeding them. It is only when we understand the strengths of each team member/firm, that we can use each strength collectively for a successful result. It is the people/individuals, not the contracted firm. “IPD” is only the beginning of what I envision the future of the building industry will and must achieve…collaborative project teams consisting of creative, experienced, knowlegeable individuals, coming together as one entity, with shared risk and reward, to exceed project goals by building on lessons learned and implementing new technology. That’s how we get better at this; but for now, each firms’ liabilities, egos, and propriety just get in the way.

  12. Nicely done, Liz. Another resource: my humor-based column on the Region website It’s so true that architects are willingly giving away the farm as far as project leadership is concerned. That’s why I think CSI needs to reach out beyond the AE realm of the industry.

  13. H. Maynard Blumer, FAIA, FCSI

    I am retired but I have been watching all of these new delivery systems designed by non-architects and specifications architects that are designed specificlly to areduce their (the other guys) liabiliaties. I have yet to see one that either saves time or money for the Owner.

    Read my old articles ” The Architect’s Role During Construction”, The Construction Specifier, October, 1991. Do not give up anything that I defined then. As a minimum you must write a complete specification before any other parties become involved in materials selections. This is a must. You will know the job well enough to do that. Run prior approval on every bid package. Read my articles: “Brand Name Specifications: Prior Approval Companion,” September, 1989:; “Design Build – Tightening Controls,” The Construction Specifier, October, 1886; “The Shop Drawing Controversy” The Construction Specifier, July 1986, ” So Change the Contract,” The Construction Specifier, June1986; “Prior Approval, A Specification System” The Construction Specifier, April 1986; “Prior Approval:” Architect’s Answer to The O-Equal Spec,” Architectural; Record,January 1974.

    It has become intresting to me in retirement, while I have been working with David Lincoln, the son of John C. Lincoln (Lincoln Arc Welding, and Lincoln Electric) on Ethics Symposiums, that Lincoln companies are known for their business ethics. They are business ethics examples used in Hrvard Business School. I now realize that all these years I was writing about ethics in the construcditon industries. Spec writers, you are the gardians of ethics in the construction industry. Do not let others trick you out of your role. There are no others working on this major problem in our industry, its business ethics.

    Thank you for bring up the subject. It has given this 82 year man a last chance to reach you. Please carry on what has made the USA the number one in construction delivery in the world.

    I was awarded the double fellow for these ethics writings.

    H. Maynard Blumer, FAIA, FCSI

    • This is quite moving, and a really good point.

      Just yesterday I was discussing the issue of ethics and the specifier’s role in a project. I explained that our job is to filter through all the construction product data that’s out there and to help with product selection so that the owner gets appropriate products appropriately installed, not just whatever the general contractor’s favorite sub’s favorite vendor likes to sell.

      I will find these articles and read them. Thank you.

  14. Construction production in the last 40 years has actually gone down. As an industry we where producing at a hire level in 1964. And your worried about the “control” you have over your project, or design.

    You are missing the mark. The “system” is broken. Architects being part of the system means there is room for improvement. Constant improvement is the name of the game. As an industry we need to break down the silos in the name of efficiency and waste reduction. The amount of waste involved in construction is staggering, in design and post design, it’s there all the way through, even through to operations.

    As an industry things must change and they will, It has become the business model and a source of pride for many in the industry to suboptimize bids in order to fight for it no the back end, creating immediate hostility between subs and generals, because that’s how the “game” is played- really. The rules need to change.

    The Lean/IPD delivery method has many of the answers.

    Architects should be accountable to constructors of the project, constructors should be accountable to architects. Why would an Architect think the are being marginalized in that situation? They have the qualification to do what they do. I find the more confident the people I work with are the more open they are to teach as well as learn. We should always be doing both!

  15. Pingback: The Meaning of Teamwork « Comments From a Spec Writer

  16. Thank you for opening the discussion. As a IPD MSc. student with architecture background, I feel I’m a betrayer to my profession now. ;p

  17. It has been a while since I wrote. But I did write one more article the Specifier picked up on how to use BIM. If I were still practicing I would have minimum drafting staff. I would look for contractors that were good at BIM. I would no ;longer do working drawings. I would have AIA A201 in all contracts. I would do complete specifications and control documents including finishing schedules. Then I would put the project out for sub and materials bidding with prior approval addenda following., When the BIM came in, I would process it the same as shop drawings. The delillvery system would not matter. The intellectual property and responsibilities of all the parties would be nailed down by AIA A201. No problems. Less architectural office costs. Better value in project. Happy new day.

    Maynard Blumer

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