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.