Are We Becoming More Integrated and Engaged?

I have written recently on the extent to which integrated project delivery (IPD) is catching on.

And did so primarily in empirical (some might say sensationalist) terms.

Today we’re treated to a guest post,Is Integrated Practice Taking Hold?” written by my friend, Finith Jernigan, internationally recognized architect, educator & author of the bestseller BIG BIM little bim: the Practical Approach to Building Information Modeling – Integrated Practice Done the Right Way.

Always thoughtful and thought provoking, Finith has the goods when it comes to data and asks some tough questions here.

I encourage you to read the post and respond to one of his questions by leaving a comment below.

Thank you!

Is Integrated Practice Taking Hold?

For several years I have used Google Alerts as one tool for keeping current with the progress of building information modeling development and integrated practice. Every day since early 2007, I receive alerts for the terms: bim, building information model, integrated practice, big bim and little bim. In the early days there were few alerts; recently there are days with twenty or more alerts on any one of these topics.

Over the last year, I have begun to notice patterns in the alerts, so I started tracking the alerts by industry. The patterns highlight major issues about how the construction industry sees and understands integrated practice. The patterns show the level of acceptance within different industries and indicate who is embracing integrated practice and who is not.

Health care organizations of all kinds (doctors, dentists and chiropractors especially) are moving to integrated practice technologies. Lawyers and accountants, as well. Baseball teams, meditation gurus, social workers, writers, artists and IT are moving. However the patterns seem to show that far fewer architects and contractors are taking the plunge.

Scientific and health care add up to a total of 58.10% of the alerts. Legal, the arts, sports, writing and IT account for an additional 18.57%. Meditation, social work, education and accounting account for 11.45%. Construction industry alerts account for only 11.88%.

It is interesting that fully 88% of the postings for integrated practice have little or nothing to do with design and construction.

Integrated practice was not created by and is not unique to the construction industry. It is a way to a goal, a process, not an end goal. The patterns from Google Alerts seem to be saying that other industries are much more actively involved in their own integrated practice implementation than are architects and contractors.

The alerts talk a lot about the benefits to individual industry members. There is little talk of the holistic benefits from integration. Construction industry discussions revolve around integrating design and construction with a nod toward operations. Few talk about or advocate for wider initiatives such as integrated decision making. Even fewer work toward possibilities such as the integration of design and construction with healthcare to create more sustainable and efficient processes.

The patterns show that other industries are embracing integrated practice. The patterns may also show that the construction industry is missing an opportunity for a larger discussion. Why is it that the construction industry has not engaged in such discussions?

Is it because architects and contractors do not understand where they fit into the larger world? Do they spend too much time focused on what they see as their niche?

Is it because too many react to the demand for integrated practice, rather than proactively using the process to do better and more?

Is it because the construction industry does not understand how to apply technology to create better and more efficient processes?

Is the construction industry so wrapped up in its’ own issues that the industry’s point of view is too limited in today’s world?

Is it because construction industry professionals are only talking to themselves?

Is it because construction industry professionals are not connecting to and learning from others?

Is it plain old inertia and ego?

Or, is it that construction industry professionals do not write in forums indexed by Google?

Whatever the answer to these questions, the pattern suggests that the construction industry needs to become more engaged in the broader discussion of what it means to be integrated.

Princeton University defines integrated as: formed or united into a whole; introduced into another entity; designated as available to all races or groups; or resembling a living organism in organization or development.

The Google Alert pattern and Princeton’s definition both suggest that the industry needs to become more engaged in integration and to widen its’ view of what integrated practice really means to the world outside of the construction industry.

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7 Comments

Filed under BIM, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, workflow

7 responses to “Are We Becoming More Integrated and Engaged?

  1. Inertia? [check]
    Ego? [check]
    Too insular to learn from other industries? [check]

    Hey guys, we CAN do this. We have to talk to our clients about these ideas, and how their project can be better! We can’t wait for the perfect client to walk through the door and ask for an integrated project.

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  3. Manufacturing (and other industries) have made an interesting evolution from vertical integration to outsourcing to integration. The AEC industry has few realistic options for vertical integration and is currently stuck in outsourcing, with most of its deficiencies.
    The argument for outsourcing is that a specialist can do the special job better and that the main organization shouldn’t be spending resources on anything other than its core business. Moreover, you get access to distributed financing and better control over inventory. But it also has a dark side in that the organization no longer knows how to build its product and loses the information embedded in the specialists. We have all seen outsourcing results that are comical at best, tragic at worst. Unfortunately, this is right where the AEC industry currently operates. Contracting, subcontracting, consulting, subconsulting are just outsourcing of necessary activities that are not in the owner’s core business.

    The smart outsourcers began to realize the deficiencies in naked outsourcing and moved to integrate these partners into their business plan and make them independent sub-units within an overall project. Language shifted from vendors to trade partners. Integration preserved flexibility and specialization, while simultaneously creating alignment, efficiency and communication. Viewed from this viewpoint, IPD is the AECO (remember to add the owner) version of partnered outsourcing. We still have much to learn from others.

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