A 2012 study by Paul Teicholz of Stanford University found that U.S. construction productivity has continued to decline over the past 20 years, despite various advancements in methods, technology and delivery methods. In an article published in aecbytes.com, Teicholz listed various reasons for the decline, which have been well documented over the years, primarily, many small firms doing small pieces of the project, fragmentation of the construction team, inefficient use of data and documents, and the competitive nature of procurement systems. Teicholz goes on to describe potential sources of positive change, including building information modeling (BIM), more use of pre-fabrication, and an improved business model that supports owner life-cycle requirements.
Citing this and other studies, attorney Howard Ashcraft recently published an insightful look at the evolving use of various forms of integrated project delivery (IPD) systems. (Orginally published in The Construction Lawyer, the article can be accessed at the hansonbridgett.com website.) Ashcraft sees the solution to be more use of collaborative procurement methods, driven by three important forces:
- Lean design and construction
- Sustainability, and
Ashcraft aptly describes the nature of traditional methodologies that contributes to the lack of productivity improvement:
"Although there may be many contributors to this inefficiency, insularity and fragmentation are the main culprits. Traditional project delivery rewards individual success, regardless of impact on project outcome, and creates a system in which project optimization is difficult or impossible. Moreover, the design/bid/build approach inherently excludes trade contractors from design and denies designers the knowledge embedded in the trades. Construction documents reinforce these divisions, forbidding designers to be involved in means and methods and distancing builders from design responsibility. The upshot is that the existing industry is fragmented, adversarial, and inefficient."
Lean construction attempts to improve workflow by breaking down the barriers to inefficient work transition and on optimizing the entire project, not just a specific step in the project or focusing on a single trade. Whether a full-lean project or one just employing several lean principles, success is dependent upon close collaboration of the parties.
Sustainability enters the picture from the standpoint of optimizing the final product. A truly optimal building, from an energy, maintenance and sustainable materials standpoint, involves the collaboration of designers, contractors, equipment manufacturers, engineering consultants and the owner’s facility personnel to address all the technical and constructability options, as well as cost. Ashcraft points out that the solution to this “multivariable optimization” problem and its need for collaboration has also resulted in a standard for an Integrative Process by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The key technology driver for collaboration is BIM, according to Ashcraft. “The sharing of data in the model fosters collaborative design, optimization, simulation, constructability, manufacturing, prefabrication, estimating, scheduling, building automation, and facilities management,” notes Ashcraft. Although not expressed, BIM enables efficiencies in document management as well.
The article goes on to discuss project delivery methods that foster various degrees of integration, but reminds the reader of the benefits offered only by a full IPD implementation. Finally, Ashcraft discusses several barriers to integration, particularly obstacles placed by project financing and public contracting. Anyone with a passing interest in integrated project delivery, or just plain curious, should make it a point to read this article, available here.