Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a collaborative process that has been applied more and more frequently to building design and construction projects. Although it is implemented in slightly different ways from project to project, it is always about involving all project team members in intense planning and coordination, starting very early in design and extending through construction and facility turnover. It is time-intensive but intended to benefit overall project efficiency through improved communication, reduction of waste, and leveraging the skills and experience of all team members to achieve optimal results for the owner.
IPD is focused to the greatest practical extent on arriving at consensus and buy-in from all project stakeholders. I believe most people believe IPD is about the designers and contractors doing things differently, but there is a very significant role for the owner. The owner’s project manager is an obvious participant, but the involvement of the owner’s facilities operations professionals is equally important. Whereas the project manager is apt to be focused on schedule and budget issues, facilities operators will be focused on long-term reliability, maintainability, and operability.
STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE
A few years ago, we commissioned a major hospital project that was following an IPD process, but commissioning was not introduced to the project until the end of design and was not represented on the IPD team at all. The owner’s facilities staff was also excluded from the IPD process; presumably the assumption was that the owner’s project manager would represent all elements of the owner’s interests. If operations and commissioning representation was deliberately excluded from the IPD table as a cost-saving measure, it was not a very wise choice. It may be, however, that it never crossed anyone’s minds to include such “outliers” on the formal IPD team.
That hospital project was no more successful from a building systems perspective than non-IPD hospital projects. There were the same disconnects between the project team and the facilities operators regarding system types and configurations, control system complexities, and operations and maintenance requirements. It was a gorgeous building with sophisticated mechanical and electrical systems that the facilities operations staff were unprepared and un-inclined to operate properly (i.e., differently than what they were used to doing).
Simply inviting the owner’s facilities representatives to sit on the IPD team is not enough. They need to be encouraged to speak up and then be taken seriously when they do. In many cases, operations personnel have been relegated to the dark recesses of buildings with no one seriously asking their opinion about the systems for which they are responsible. As such, it cannot be assumed they are experienced in expressing themselves clearly, articulately, and definitively about what they think. However, facilities staff think a lot and have a lot of strong opinions and ideas. The IPD facilitator is key to eventually breaking the silence. It is only through patient and repeated listening, understanding, and professional responses to operators’ ideas that the facilities staff will begin to open up and meaningfully contribute to the process in concrete ways.
The last IPD design team I sat on did include the facilities staff. The facilities representatives participated in all meetings, spoke up, and seemed to be engaged. However, after all of the meetings were over, the conceptual design was developed and approved, and the owner moved on to the next steps of project implementation, the facilities team expressed concerns about the direction of the project and unilaterally influenced owner-management to significantly change the project scope and approach. This seems like an IPD “fail” to me.
I am not an IPD facilitation expert, but I know that engaging future building operators is absolutely critical to long-term project success. The bottom line when it comes to systems is that the people responsible for operating and maintaining them hold all of the cards. It is in their hands to make or break a plan, and if they do not believe in it, a system will not have much chance of actually working. ES