Sustainability represents many themes to many people. While some have a vested interest in maintaining continued success, others are committed to sustaining for the common good, whether it’s the elimination of poverty, preserving the environment, or other valuable causes. Sustainability means that a process or state can be maintained at a certain level for as long as it’s wanted. On a much smaller sustainability stage, I jotted down a few of the complicated HVAC industry initiatives that face the sustainability challenge:

  1. Integrated project delivery (IPD) without a special contract;
  2. Construction management is not IPD; and
  3. Contract documents without the threat of errors and omissions.

Integrated project delivery without a special contract: IPD has language in the contract between the owner-design and team-builder that says teamwork must be sustained. Everyone working as a team can apply to construction management (CM) and design-build (DB) project delivery methods but without the added financial incentive. Think about it, the building owner funds a large amount of money to pay a team of professionals to deliver a quality product that meets the building program. If you go out and purchase a product, don’t you expect it to work correctly? Whether the product cost $40 or $40,000, shouldn’t it be procured complete and operating as intended?

So why does IPD require a special contract to sustain teamwork? Shouldn’t the client expect, as team members come together on the project, that teamwork will be the sustaining, driving force to produce the ultimate successful product? When a client signs a contract with a design team and a CM firm, is this owner not going to get teamwork because it doesn’t state this within the contract requirements? Why don’t we expect the CM process to be just as much a team-oriented group with the designers on an IPD project delivery approach? It’s very possible, and I’m sure the members of a CM project delivery job were members of an IPD initiative on another job. Is there a professional disconnect when designers and builders are awarded a project other than IPD? Can’t teamwork be sustainable when a different project delivery method is chosen? If that’s not possible and a special IPD agreement is needed, then maybe the building industry should censure CM project delivery because IPD is the only method to embrace teamwork. Teamwork within every project delivery method should be sustainable without producing a separate, special contract between all parties.

Consulting engineers producing contract documents carry errors and omissions insurance to protect themselves to some extent from the client they have a signed contract agreement with. Why is that? Are owners and engineers teammates or adversaries? Is this type of owner apt to agree to IPD without errors and omission insurance required because he believes “we’re a team?” Or will there be an IPD financial penalty covering an error or omission clause stating the entire team will share this penalty? If the contract doesn’t state a “team errors and omission” coverage, or simply indicates this insurance is not needed, then it can be said that right from the start that teamwork sustainability will not be sustainable.

I believe in the IPD process and its team-oriented environment. To me it’s an extension from my years of design-build (D-B) experience where the D-B firm guaranteed the building program design intent. Back in my D-B days, our company delivered a project for the cost quoted. The client never had to get into the details of this building program and/or required errors and omission insurance. These owners had the confidence to know they bought a product that was going to work and on budget.

For our team, we were able to sustain the D-B (aka IPD method) because we came together at the start as engineer, estimator, piping foreman, startup technician, and project manager the same way the IPD method works today, conceptualizing the design intent, estimating the scope of the work, and agreeing on the project time line through consensus. The difference I see between IPD and D-B is that the IPD contract promises that the team will receive a financial incentive if everyone works together and the project costs are controlled within the estimate. Our D-B contract was set without additional financial incentive; our D-B incentive was to work together — nothing more and nothing less.