How IPD/lean thinking can benefit your project

On a project our team recently completed in Oregon for a confidential client, we took part in the future of construction, and I can summarize it in three words: integrated project delivery.

IPD is so much more than a buzzword. On the project, which involved fitting out shell space into a technology lab, IPD – together with lean construction methods – enabled our team to deliver a project approximately 29 percent lower than the owner’s estimate. It also resulted in zero requests for information, zero construction-driven change orders and zero rejected submittals. Furthermore, it meant working more than 43,000 hours with zero recordable incidents, further proving that a well-planned project is a safe project, and we completed the project on the day to which we had committed.

Despite the hard work to achieve all this, our IPD team had fun. Senior Superintendent Mike Cook says IPD/lean is the only way he wants to build from now on, and I more than agree. That’s remarkable because this is the first IPD project either of us have worked on in our careers, which together represent more than 65 years of commercial construction. It started with one thought: We can do this.

By now, you may know the basic IPD structure: the client, construction manager, designer and key trade contractors are bound together through a mutual contract, such that the success of individual firms is tied to overall project success, with risk and reward both capped and shared. It’s simple in theory, but tremendously powerful how it gets all stakeholders rowing in the same direction. Lean approaches – such as pull planning, target-value design, kanbans and Big Room co-location – further drive collaboration and efficiency.

Oregon lab

On this Oregon technology lab project, the project team located the Big Room inside the construction area to bring decision making as close as possible to the trade work being done.

Until this project and the recent intensive care unit renovation we were part of for The George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., I had assumed IPD would only work on larger projects, like the 420,000-square-foot San Carlos Center near San Francisco we delivered last year for an affiliate of IPD pioneer Sutter Health. Now, I hope it’s becoming clear that IPD and lean can benefit any size project.

Even when an owner hasn’t selected IPD and isn’t advocating lean, there are still opportunities for us to derive some of those benefits. In fact, recent Construction Industry Institute research found that delivery method is less an indicator of project success than team integration and cohesion. So on any project, anything we can do to bring together the overall team will pay dividends. And with lean, while engagement by the owner and design partners adds much value, it’s still beneficial even if only part of our means and methods.

In the end, having an open mind and being willing to truly work together is what will drive success on any project, IPD or not. On my recent lab project, it was so powerful how IPD team members went beyond discipline borders in the spirit of gaining efficiencies and lowering costs – trades even shared such resources as safety personnel and aerial lifts. Working this way makes good sense all around, so why not build more projects this way?

To hear more of my thoughts on this topic, please join me October 14 in Boston as I – along with Ken Hyland of CH2M – speak at the Lean Construction Institute’s annual Congress. Our presentation is entitled “Naked in the Big Room.” Other Skanska presentations at the Congress will address implementing a sustainable lean corporate culture, parallels between safety and lean journeys, and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation lean IPD project near San Francisco. Additionally, we will host a tour of the lean practices in use at our Watermark Seaport development project in Boston. 

Blake Devine

Blake Devine

Vice president of operations

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