The State of IPD and BIM: an Owner’s Perspective

Since owners benefit as much – if not more – than contractors and architects from use of the new digital technology tools and collaborative work processes now used on many building projects, why is it that we so seldom hear about building information modeling (BIM) and integrated project delivery (IPD) from the owner’s side?

To help rectify this situation, I decided to conduct an interview with Symphony Partners.

Clay Goser and Dawn Naney served as owners at BJC HealthCare prior to starting Symphony LLC and are extremely knowledgeable about how these new tools and processes serve the entire project team.

Saying you can do IPD without regard for a contract is a recipe for disaster: True or False?

Clay: False. It’s not about a contract –

Dawn: –  it’s about getting people to behave differently.

Clay: A contract is a tool that has two purposes – to set business terms and conditions and to allow the team  to have the critical conversations around expectations.  The reason IFOA agreements often work is that they are different enough that they introduce risk and firms want to know what that means for them.  The Integrated Form of Agreement (IFoA) begins to define how a group works as an organization.  What we don’t have most of the time is a conversation about what we’re going to do and how we are going to do it. The nature of IPD is getting people to come back together – collaborating to a greater extent. Collaboration is the behavior.

Dawn: The contract has a different purpose. The purpose of IPD is to identify and proactively manage risk and capitalize on opportunity within the delivery process.  The purpose of the contract is different. It asks: what are you going to do, how much are you going to get paid to do it and the process outputs required (i.e. status reports, schedules, RFI turn around times etc.) and does not address how are you are going to operate as a team and the procedures to implement the project.   Defining what you are going to build and HOW you are going to build it is critical to successful integration outside of the IFoA contract.  This is the behavior change.

What do you see as the current state of IPD?Clay: IPD is firmly in Gartner’s Hype Cycle©  as we try to define what IPD will do for us. We will head for the Trough of  Disillusionment© -[ meaning when inflated expectations are not met, there will be a threat of abandonment. All new technologies and ideas go through this cycle.  Some survive, some don’t and that is dependent upon how long and how deep the trough lasts.   The risk we introduce is that as firms start to market IPD and implement without completely understanding why it works those waiting for IPD to become mainstream before introducing this new delivery method to their organizations, will abandon the concept as unpredictable and risky and start to question the value of integration.

Dawn: One challenge we’re having as an industry is distinguishing what is – and is not – an IPD project. We need to change the question.

Whether an IPD project is pure or IPD-ish is not the right question?

Dawn: Right.  There isn’t a standard checklist of “do this” that makes a team “IPD”.

Clay: Here’s an example: some teams feel that you have to  do BIM throughout the entire project to be IPD.   However, a team, for example, that adopts BIM to answer key critical questions that the team deems important to their success without creating waste – such as using BIM to define how the exterior structure ties into an existing structure that’s ‘pure’ IPD or integration at it’s best.   I have seen many design teams implement 100% BIM only to have the trade contractors turn around and dismiss the model because the model isn’t useful to fabricate from. True IPD would define how much BIM is needed from the design team to facilitate understanding and fabrication by the trades, stop there and let the person best equipped to carry it forward, carry it forward.   It’s based on the project, time and circumstance.

What do you see as the impact of the economy on IPD?

Dawn: When an owner goes for the lowest bid, they often just get what they pay for not what they need, which results in change.   We incent bad behavior when we, as Owners, award solely on lowest bid…i.e. we incent firms to hide the risk and submit change orders to course correct the scope instead of buying intelligent performance to avoid the risks and do it right the first time and eliminating the waste. Owners are under the impression that we’re in a buyer’s market, so they’re holding back from pursuing IPD. The market needs to look for better, smarter ways to be profitable and sustainable in a down economy and Owners needs to look for better, smarter ways to conserve precious capital.   Buying through low bid introduces risk to both parties.

Clay: As a percentage, all construction projects vs. IPD projects, the number of IPD projects is very small. There are a lot of conversations about how prevalent IPD is now. The industry is ramping up. Every IPD project is a petri dish from which we continue to learn. We’re at a very early adoption stage of IPD.

The economy is driving us to work and behave differently: smarter.

When people say “once the economy comes back we’ll consider change:” IPD won’t go gangbusters. When firms are busy they don’t have time to think about how to work better, more effectively: they are worried about how to get the work done.  People should be thinking about how to work more effectively NOW, so that they can differentiate themselves when the economy gains momentum.

What has been the impact of IPD case studies – those published by the AIA and University of  Minnesota? Is it your impression that owners are reading them?

Clay: Owners are interested in the IPD case studies, especially owners of robust and innovative organizations dedicated to continuous learning. Owners focused on keeping their head above water or adverse to risk aren’t as interested in the IPD case studies.

Owner-involvement in IPD is critical to a project’s success: Is owner-led IPD the only way to go?

Clay: Owners impact vendors – architects, engineers and contractors – by incentivizing and setting specifications, and not always in a good way. As for IPD, owners don’t always understand what IPD means.  Do Design-Bid-Build jobs go poorly? Yes. Do Design-Bid-Build jobs go well? Yes. What’s the difference? The team – how they cooperate, how they behave.

The question needs to be: How do we produce good collaboration and reproduce it?

Dawn: Owners must ask and seek out why IPD worked when it does work for them. Most of the time, it’s because the team wanted it to work well. The relationships were better and they problem solved in the best interest of the project, not themselves. Team formation is critical to successful integration.  Each new project is a melting-pot of different cultures melding together.    When you bring the right people to the table at the right time to best inform project decisions this integration occurs earlier in the process allowing for the critical forming, norming, storming and performing of the team to occur prior to construction when the cost of change escalates exponentially. IPD allows for time at the beginning for the team to create a team culture and define how they are going to work together.

Clay: When you show up early in the design process, IPD allows you to have a conversation about how you’re going to work vs. just show-up and perform.  Many firms are marketing IPD to Owners promoting the need for an IFoA agreement.  Many Owners don’t know what’s in the contract. What it involves or how it effects all of the team members as a group.

Architects, engineers and contractors say we have to do something different from Design-Bid-Build to remain profitable. Owners say: why don’t architects, engineers and contractors drive IPD?

Keep in mind, IPD after all, when it was first created, was used by the team without knowledge by the Owner!

Dawn:  Owners are asking: If IPD is so great, why haven’t you been doing it for 100 years?  Why do I need to incentivize you to “collaborate” by removing risk?

Owners are used to accepting the lowest bid. They have a hard time swallowing the IPD pill because it isn’t quantifiable or defendable to their Boards and Investors.

We need to educate Owners that IPD allows you to solve problems, avoiding risk and uncovering opportunities we didn’t know existed.   A lot of the time teams don’t know what the real problems are so they solve symptoms. What they need to do – and this comes from Lean – is identify the root problem and solve it.  We need to understand the cause and effect relationships of our behavior.

Clay:  An owner empowers an IPD team but doesn’t need to demand it.

Dawn: IPD is a smart way to work. If you don’t have the owner driving IPD, integrate anyway and reap the benefits as a best business practice.   It makes the team members more profitable, reduces risk and informs an improvement strategy that is sustainable and lucrative for future business.

Can you do IPD without BIM?

Clay: You can’t divorce Lean from BIM from IPD. Lean is a not a methodology, but a philosophy.  BIM is a tool.   You don’t have to do BIM to be IPD. IPD is a means to an end. Lean is the end. BIM is a way to get there.   You can do IPD without BIM and have great results. BIM is a tool that helps facilitate communication – understanding what it is you are trying to achieve.

Likewise, you can use BIM without IPD but the benefits may be marginalized. BIM and IPD coupled together are stronger.

Rate obstacles in terms of most prevalent to least: owner involvement (thru ambivalence, skepticism, indifference); insurance issues; legal issues; blurring of roles; who owns the BIM; collaboration; need for education/processes; inflexible behavior; MEP/engineers; resistance to change.

Clay: The need for education and a consistent definition of what IPD really means, not how but what you are trying to accomplish is very important.

Dawn: Most often, people want to jump into IPD and make it a revolution – not an evolution. Most owners don’t have the flexibility to change to IPD right away. IPD requires a change in process and considerable amount of change adoption.

People don’t resist change – they resist risk.  Remove the risk, remove the resistance.

Clay:  The collaborative nature of a nimble-thinking team approaches obstacles as problems to be solved.

Integration is the “leaning” of the entire delivery process wherever people and process touch each other.

We need to reframe “obstacles” as just “problems to be solved.”

Clay Goser has been responsible for projects in nine hospitals and over a half billion in medical construction in and around the metropolitan St Louis area. He left BJC Healthcare to start Symphony LLC, a company consulting in strategic improvement in portfolio, program and project management. Read more about Clay here.

Dawn Naney has over 15 years of experience establishing and managing teams responsible for the successful planning and execution of portfolios, programs and projects in a variety of fields including design/construction, information technology, clinical interventions and process improvement, primarily in the healthcare industry. Prior to serving as consultant at Symphony LLC, Dawn served as an owner in the area of Portfolio/Program/Project Management for the Center for Clinical Excellence. Read more about Dawn here.

Symphony LLC is a consulting firm providing collaborative leadership, education and management of capital portfolios, programs and projects primarily for the design and construction industry. Symphony balances tradition and innovation to lead high performance teams focused on delivering the best value for a fair price. Best value for capital expended is derived from improvements resulting in better quality and performance, reduced cost and competitive differentiation for owners and service providers. Learn more about Symphony LLC here.



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11 responses to “The State of IPD and BIM: an Owner’s Perspective

  1. Andrew Abernathy

    thanks for interviewing two knowledgeable owner reps. Now Clay mentioned, we need to continue the education of more owners how reducing risk in any market results in better bottom lines.

  2. great interview. thanks for posting it for us all.

  3. Randy,
    Your interview with Dawn and Clay could not be more timely. Thank you. It is obvious our present processes are broken, are no longer valid and unrealistic. BJC Healthcare’s call for a change in AECO behavior for project participants resonates as truthful, sensible, and indispensable. Perhaps we should start by developing a new narrative for the true value of BIM and IPD. We need a bit of truth surrounding the real effort, and its corresponding value, to design and deliver through the IPD process. Thanks again.

  4. Pingback: Where are we with IPD these days? | Boiled Architecture

  5. I like the comment “People don’t resist change – they resist risk.” Wish I had said that…
    Good interview, in that the interviewees give some terrifically nuanced answers.

  6. Marc Howell

    Excellent interview. I could not agree more. This is exactly what I have been trying to say for the last three years.

    Thank you.

  7. P Nillup

    As I go to the linked URLs, I see the Cathedral Hill Hospital came in at $1,200/sf. Recently I noted the new Yale School of Mgt at $800/sf. This cost level is not prudent. When you commit to your contractors first, and then talk cost you are going to have cooperative, happy, rich contractors.
    IPD is a philosophy to extend the design period, meaning more designers working more hours with more software. These result in two clear winners: groups with billable hours and software companies.
    If you want to have bloggers praising you as being erudite, then go with IPD. If you are shrewd, have proven managers perform with the appropriate conventional contract methods.

    • Andrew Abernathy

      I often find $/sf values misleading and inconclusive when you get into their makeup, so I’m not sure what you are trying to get at. If the point you are trying to make is IPD is a rational delivery method, I would agree with you. If you are advocating for the same as before, then I would only point to the millions of projects which have wasted trillions of $$ with competitive bidding.
      Conventional contract methods are adversarial in their nature, protecting the originator of the agreement and proven managers must deal with that contentious environment those traditional instruments encourage. While I agree with both Clay and Dawn that the contract is not the magic potion for successful IPD, I would lobby for something other than the traditional AIA, AGC….. agreements when working in a highly collaborative and risk reducing environment.
      One of the primary tenants of IPD is increase value by reducing risk. Traditional agreements do not provide any mechanism for rewarding this new behavior. Yet I have worked with traditional agreements when this was the stated goal of the Owner. In the end our only reward was a better job for the Owner at the same fee with greater number of hours and less initial profit. Later on we found ways to extend the traditional agreements to help compensate all the major team members. In these situations BIM was used, but it wasn’t a driver for behavior change, business incentives drove the change in relationships.

  8. T Zigo

    I beg to differ, and I will do so from a purely subjective but somewhat insider position on the IPD and BIM fluff associated with the “Owner” as outlined in this article. First, it is not my intent to disagree with the established belief that an integrated project delivery, no matter how we label it is a more effective way by which all of the design and construction projects should be delivered. However I take a great offence when the statements on successful IPD and, within the context of IPD, BIM enabled projects are coming from an organization that still doesn’t understand what BIM is.
    As far as labeling BIM as a “tool”, I see that as a fundamental misunderstanding of digital project delivery and its implication of the process change, to the point that the methodology is not a tool. For an owner that has absolutely no use for the information rich data sets (“the author of the article should do some fact checking”), coming from designers and contractors, these comments on 100% BIM, or IPD defining the scope of BIM are at least disingenuous.
    In regard to Lean being an end and BIM being a way to get there, I’d say good luck executing BIM without Lean being the starting point and the underpinning of properly executed BIM. Lean is not the end, and as correctly stated in the article it is a philosophy, but that philosophy is the modus operandi for both the process of IPD, and methodology of BIM.

  9. IPD and IPD for rennovation, repair, sustainability and minor new construction (Job Order Contracting) have be around and successfully practiced for decades.
    They are both clearly superior to design-bid-build and even design-build,
    Both are robust and easily supported by technology.

    The main issue, however, is the culture of the AECOO community, and absolute failure when it comes to willingness to collaborate.
    Another issue is the inability of many FMers to be heard at the “boardroom table”. Many need to develop skills presenting their business cases in terms of impact to the organization, .

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