Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is the new paradigm in design and construction. At its core, IPD means bringing all of the parties in a typical construction project—owner, architect, and builder—together as early as possible in a more robust partnership than is traditionally seen in construction. A true IPD partnership involves changing how the project team is configured, how contracts are written, how risk is shared, how decisions are made, and the tools that are used to communicate information. Today some projects are implementing IPD in its pure form, while others are making incremental steps towards it.
Much attention has also been given to the role of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in the IPD process. BIM is a technology tool for creating three dimensional, object-based building designs that contain embedded information about the products and assemblies included in the building. BIM is a major shift from the traditional design methodology of two dimensional drawings and CAD. BIM can be very useful in the IPD process, but it also can be used outside of IPD. Ultimately BIM is a tool that helps project participants have more information about what the final building is intended to include, and when used properly it can help to identify conflicts and resolve design questions sooner rather than later.
While BIM is an incredibly valuable tool, it is not the end-all and be-all of technology needed to design and construct a building, and certainly not the only technology needed to practice IPD. Project teams using BIM software must still find a way to share and collaborate on their model files between different team members and offices. During design, there is a wealth of additional information that needs communicated beyond just a BIM file, including documentation of existing site or building conditions, studies, budgets, schedules, meeting minutes, and more. During construction, the information flow continues with submittals, RFIs, change proposals, and more.
Current industry practice is to communicate this information using a variety of methods including, but not limited to, mail, shipping services, fax, email, FTP, and internal servers configured to allow limited access to external parties through a firewall. While functional, these methods can lead to a confusing blur of communication without clear organization or accountability.
The Missing Link: Integrated Project Collaboration
Integrated Project Collaboration (IPC) is the process of leveraging another new paradigm in technology, cloud computing, to provide a central location for project team members to exchange all of the needed project information. IPC software, also known as “Integrated Project Delivery in the Cloud”, allows all project team members to sit at the same virtual table, hosted on the Internet, with access and accountability for each participant. IPC software is designed for shared use, in contrast to other systems that are designed primarily for the benefit of only one part of the project team. IPC does not replace other software solutions, but complements them by providing a central location for information generated in other systems to be shared and responded to by the full integrated project team.
Seven years ago I was a designer at an architectural firm, enthusiastic about the promise of design and construction but frustrated with the cumbersome nature of existing communications process, particularly when it came to sharing information such as submittals and other documents between the design team, construction team, and owner. I did not realize it at first, but my frustration was shared by thousands of others in the industry. Integrated Project Delivery offers an opportunity to reform the relationships between team members and how projects are delivered. Integrated Project Collaboration software, powerful web-based systems designed for sharing by all team members, is a critical component of the IPD process by bringing all parties together at a common virtual table to collaborate and share information needed for a successful construction project.
Matt is a licensed architect and the president and founder of Submittal Exchange, a comprehensive online system for architects, engineers, contractors, construction managers, and facility owners to exchange, review, and archive construction submittals, requests for information (RFIs), and other construction communications electronically. He provides coverage of advances in software, cloud computing, and information portability specific to the AEC industry for Buildipedia.com.