Special Delivery

Integrated project delivery (IPD) is defined by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in its 2007 “Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide” as a “project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste, and maximize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction.” In short, IPD is a system that brings key members of the design and construction teams together to collaborate and provide the best project outcome for the owner. For the electrical contractor and other key specialty contractors, IPD means early involvement in the project and the opportunity to lend expertise throughout the planning, design, construction and commissioning phases.

Why IPD?
Commercial and institutional buildings are becoming more complex as developers and owners want green buildings that are increasingly energy-efficient while maintaining a healthy and productive environment for building occupants. Additionally, federal, state and local governments and agencies continue to incorporate green building requirements into their building standards and codes and adopt increasingly stringent energy codes. Ultimately, the goal is to produce zero-energy buildings (ZEBs) that are highly efficient in their energy use and produce as much energy through on-site renewable-power generation, such as photovoltaics (PV), as they use. ZEBs only use the grid as a storage medium to balance differences in timing between energy production and demand. A building that supplies as much energy to the grid as it takes from the grid over a specified period of time, such as a calendar year, is referred to as a net zero-energy building.

If the building industry is going to meet the challenges of the 21st century, it has to view the overall building as the system, and all of the elements that make up a modern building must be integrated and optimized collectively. These building subsystems include the power, communications and control (PC2); artificial lighting and daylighting; heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC); life safety and security; the building envelope; and others. Individual building subsystems can no longer be optimized individually. Doing so results in a building that operates less efficiently than it otherwise would if all the systems had been integrated and the building operation was optimized as a whole.

Today, the technology is both available and economical to integrate building systems and improve the operational efficiency of commercial and institutional buildings. However, in order to make the most of available communications and control system technology to integrate energy-efficient equipment and systems, it is not enough to only integrate design. Construction must be integrated with design from the start of the project; IPD is the building industry’s attempt to do this.

BIM as IPD enabler
Building information modeling (BIM) is the enabler for IPD. A building information model is essentially a digital representation of the project. This model can be used by any party that has access to add, modify or extract information during the planning, design, construction and commissioning phases of the building project. After project completion, the owner can use the model to operate and maintain the building throughout its useful life.

BIM software is more than just a three-dimensional computer--aided design (CAD) program. The model produced by BIM software is essentially a 3-D graphical database that provides the vehicle for IPD collaboration during design and construction. For example, the lighting designer may select a particular lighting fixture for a space by going to the manufacturer’s website and downloading the model for that fixture. This model includes not only the lighting fixture’s physical characteristics, which determine how it appears graphically on drawings, but also its photometric and electrical properties used for design.
The 3-D building model can be used in conjunction with a lighting design program to produce a layout of the illumination that meets the design criteria for the space. Using the lighting fixture’s physical characteristics, the BIM software can coordinate the lighting layout with the ceiling arrangement as well as other building systems, such as duct work that occupies the same ceiling space. Similarly, the electrical engineer can use the BIM software and the electrical characteristics associated with the fixture to design the lighting branch circuits serving the space and the homeruns back to the lighting panel.

With access to this model, the electrical contractor and its suppliers can explore the use of other similar lighting fixtures from both a performance and cost standpoint and offer alternatives to the designer. In addition, since the building information model is really a database, doing a takeoff of a particular lighting fixture only requires a query for the quantity and not manually counting the fixtures on a drawing. Furthermore, shop drawings and other operation and maintenance information can be inserted into the model for easy access by the owner over the life of the building.

BIM is the tool that allows continuous collaboration by project team members throughout the design and construction process. “What if” analyses of alternative designs, products or construction means and methods that take weeks on a traditional project can be accomplished in a short time with BIM. Any change in the building information model by any member of the project can result in an automated update of the entire model similar to automatic recalculation option for Excel spreadsheets. Using the lighting fixture example to illustrate, if the electrical contractor substituted a different fixture for the one specified by the lighting designer that resulted in a change in the number of them, the project documents would be updated, including drawing layouts and schedules as well as specifications and other linked design and construction documents.

IPD with BIM can be compared to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows anyone with expertise in a subject to write an article on that subject and then allows other people with similar or related expertise to review, comment, add to or modify the article. This results in a living encyclopedia that is, in theory, constantly being updated and expanded by those using it. IPD with BIM results in a similar “wiki” approach to building design and construction.

IPD’s melding of design and construction expertise using BIM has the potential of producing a superiorly performing building for the owner. However, the wiki approach to design and construction can increase the electrical contractor’s risk. At first glance, IPD looks very much like a design/build project. However, a closer look at IPD’s contract structure shows that while the objective of bringing design and construction together early in the project is the same for both IPD and design/build, the means for doing so is different.

With design/build project delivery, the owner has one contract with the design/builder. The design/builder can be a general contractor; construction manager; specialty contractor, such as the electrical contractor; developer; or any other entity willing to contract with the owner to deliver the building specified in the owner’s project criteria. The design/builder is responsible to the owner for the delivery of the completed project in accordance with the owner’s project-performance criteria. Through its contract with the owner, the design/builder takes sole responsibility for both the design and construction of the project. Contracts between the design/builder and other team members are traditional two-party agreements where the roles, responsibilities and risks are well delineated between the parties.

IPD is different than design/build contractually. With IPD, the owner has a contract or forms a limited liability corporation (LLC) with the key design and construction entities that make up the IPD project team. In other words, the owner and key design and construction team members enter into a multiparty contract or forms a project-specific LLC where all parties agree to work with one another to deliver the completed project in accordance with the owner’s project requirements. This multiparty arrangement can result in confusion regarding the division of roles, responsibilities and risks as well as possible issues such as indemnification and licensing laws.

IPD and the electrical contractor
IPD has the potential to reduce building construction costs, increase operational efficiency, and improve overall quality by breaking down barriers and improving communication and collaboration through BIM among all members of the project team. For the electrical contractor, IPD provides a means to become involved in the design process, which increases that company’s ability to impact project success as well as reduce its construction risk. However, despite its potential, IPD is a new project delivery system, and the construction industry has very limited experience with it. This inexperience increases the electrical contracting firm’s contractual and performance risks. The electrical contracting firm should do a thorough review of the IPD project, participants and proposed agreement form with its attorney, insurance carrier, surety and other risk management professionals prior to entering into an IPD agreement.

Editor’s note: To learn more about integrated project delivery, view the archive of the webinar that ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR hosted on June 10, 2010. Thomas Glavinich, in addition to representatives from the Building Owners and Managers Association and AIA, was one of the presenters on the panel.

GLAVINICH is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 and tglavinich@ku.edu.

About the Author

Thomas E. Glavinich

Freelance Writer
Thomas E. Glavinich was an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. His tenure as one of Electrical Contractor's most trusted and reliable source of industry research end...

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.