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USGNN Original StoryCSI Explains Subcontractor's Role in Integrated Project Delivery
May 14, 2009

They say there's no "I" in team-nor apparently is there truly an "I" in IPD. "Working together" was the theme of a webinar presented this afternoon by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) on integrated project delivery (IPD), how it differs from traditional delivery methods, how it coexists with building information modeling (BIM)-and what it means for subcontractors.

Erin Rae Hoffer AIA LEED AP CSI, of Autodesk Inc., explained that IPD begins the "movement from the idea of agreements as separate documents … toward [being] all one entity." Through this process, the owner, designers, contractors and subcontractors are closely involved in creating a finished product. With the advent of building information modeling (BIM), design and construction organizations began developing ways in which all parties could work together for a better result for the owners by bringing together knowledge earlier in process. IPD is the result.

Hoffer pointed out, for those subcontractors familiar with BIM, that using "BIM is not the same as doing an integrated project with partners under one contract." BIM is essentially a tool for creating an integrated process (CLICK HERE for more on BIM). When one listener asked if IPD is possible without using BIM, Hoffer noted, "The theory is that it's possible without BIM but in practice there's so much communication … would be hard to imagine."

Hoffer further explained, "One of the biggest differences between integrated and traditional design is a different way of looking at phasing." With IPD, "emphasis here is on what, who and how being figured out much earlier [in the process]."

The Autodesk Revit Headquarters in Waltham, Mass., was the case study presented during this afternoon's webinar to better explain IPD.

Sarah Vekasy, AIA LEED AP, with architect Kling Stubbins, explained that on this particular project six architects were invited to submit work and were requested to select the builders with which they wanted to work prior to the initial interview. Early on the designer had to choose a general contractor with whom they worked well. The same happened with the general contractor; the contractor was asked to chose a select few subcontractors early on in the process, showing the importance of those work relationships in this process (CLICK HERE for related story).

One webinar listener asked how important BIM knowledge was in selecting a subcontractor for the project. According to Laura Handler, LEED AP, with general contractor Tocci Building Cos., "The most important factor was the quality of the subcontractor." She noted that the general contractor actually was able to help some subcontractors in getting started with BIM. "They didn't have to be experts with the technology; it was not the deciding factor for [choosing] subcontractors," she said.

In the case of the Autodesk Headquarters, Handler noted that many of the subcontractors were on board in a design-assist function from the very beginning. Handler explained that because there was such detail early on in the design process, Tocci was able to validate pricing in great detail early on, which helped the general contractor to keep pricing competitive. With a firm handle on budget, and subcontractor input, the team was able to pinpoint areas to upgrade from basic designs.

As an example, Vekasy pointed out how an interior office partition originally specified as a 3-foot door with an 18-inch sidelite was upgraded to a custom all-glass door and partition. "Because the team was so integrated, we were able to leverage quality of design and bring it up a few more notches," she said.

Typically, last-minute changes such as these can result in design or cost changes. With IPD, "We're able to incorporate it faster but have to be very cautious on what is the scale of the last-minute changes," Vekasy commented.

Handler added, "Because the decisions are made together there aren't as many opportunities for the owner to just throw changes in."

Regarding adoption of IPD, Hoffer polled the listeners on what they saw as the biggest obstacle and heard, overall, "concerns about risk associated with changing business models."

Another question that come up frequently in connection to risk with the BIM tool is ownership of the model following the building process. "The question of BIM ownership comes up a lot," Handler agreed. She noted, "We didn't worry about it a lot, but the ownership went to Autodesk [the building owner] at the end." According to Handler, "It becomes a non-issue when you start working together."

Also on the topic of liability, when one listener asked who holds responsibility for OSHA compliance on integrated projects, Handler responded, "As a team we're all responsible for everything, whether it's safety or code-compliance." She added, however, that each team has responsibility for its own area of expertise. "It's really about giving the work to who's best suited to accomplish it," a point that seemed to sum up the goal of IPD. By bringing knowledgeable specialty contractors, such as glazing contractors, onto a project early, the overall project management is able to benefit.

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