Maximizing success in integrated projects

BY Burns Mechanical IN Construction

Source of graphic:  Penn State's and University of Colorado's study that looked at 200 capital facility projects.

Source of graphic: Penn State’s and University of Colorado’s study that looked at 200 capital facility projects.

As new project delivery methods slowly get introduced to the Philadelphia region’s traditional construction market, I thought I’d share insights gleaned from a recently completed research project. Penn State and the University of Colorado Boulder recently collaborated on a two-year study of 200 capital facility projects. Sponsored by the Charles Pankow Foundation and the Construction Industry Institute, the study used a variety of statistical methods to model the relationship between project delivery method and success.

According to Penn State’s Robert Leicht, Ph.D., the study “didn’t produce results that aren’t inherently intuitive.” The study demonstrated that the quality of the project team – including owner, designers, primary builder, and key specialty trades – mattered more than the chosen delivery method. Cohesive teams simply produced better results than those chosen on the basis of price alone.

The study led to a key finding that project delivery decisions could not be made independently from one another: “Organizational structure, procurement processes, and contractual terms need to be designed as a single strategy.” Also from the study, “Three critical factors emerged for enabling alignment within the core project team: early involvement, qualification driven selection and cost transparency in contracts.”

The following is extracted from the study’s executive summary:

Early involvement: Early involvement, not only of the primary builder, but also of key design-build or design-assist specialty contractors, is common in the delivery of successful projects. Engaging the core project team members in the design process, before advancing beyond schematic design, is critical to garner the full value from this approach. Early involvement also enables participation in integrated practices, such as developing project-specific goals, leading design charrettes and developing a Building Information Model (BIM) execution plan. Participation does not stop at the front end, as value was also found in the continued engagement of design team members   throughout construction and project turnover.

Qualification-based selection: To enable early, high-quality interactions within the core project team, qualification-based selection of these team members is important. The most cohesive teams were selected after the review of relevant qualifications and after an interview process that assessed the quality of individual team members. The shift away from price-based selection criteria derived from the construction scope, toward non-price considerations, such as qualifications or interview performance, is a valuable first step in assembling a project team.

Cost transparency: The use of open book accounting in contracts during the delivery process proved critical in the development of trust within the core project team. While most commonly found in the primary builder’s contract, this transparency was sometimes extended to the key specialty trades. Additionally, contract terms that allowed for shared risk and reward, either through financial incentives or joint-management responsibilities, were common in aligning project team interests in the delivery of successful projects.

I encourage you to download the following guide, Owner’s Guide to Maximizing Success in Integrated Projects, developed based on the results of the study. Also, refer to our earlier post, IPD and the New Project Manager.