Integrated Project Delivery: Q&A with Renée Cheng

We often tout the benefits of collaborating across disciplines in the classroom; but what about at the construction site? Associate Dean for Research Renée Cheng (Architecture) addresses this question in her latest research: Integrated Project Delivery (IDP): Performance, Expectations, and Future Use.

The Integrated Project Delivery Alliance (IDPA) asked Cheng’s collaborator Markku Allison, a consultant specializing in IPD for the building industry, to identify which research would be most helpful in advancing IPD. Allison reached out to Cheng, and they proposed two research projects: a broad shallow look at IPD, and a more in-depth year-long effort to document about a dozen case studies from the owner’s point of view.

In this interview, Cheng shares findings from their shorter project—a comparative survey that provides a snapshot of current perceptions of IDP’s effectiveness on building projects—and explains their potential implications for the building industry.


How would you describe IDP to a layperson?

Conventionally, an owner would hire an architect to design and a contractor to build. Completing a building is called “project delivery.” In many cases, this situation is not very effective: there is a great deal of missed communication, resulting in a building industry that is considered quite inefficient and unproductive. In IPD, these entities enter into a multi-party agreement—designer, builder and owner, essentially become full business partners working collaboratively—we refer to as “integrated project delivery.”


Have other groups performed similar surveys? If so, how do their results compare to yours?

There are no other surveys that we know of. There have been others that AIA has run on the perception of IPD. This one surveys those who are actually participating in a multiparty agreement.


Autodesk Ofices, Waltham, Massachusetts, Kling Stubbins Architects

Autodesk Ofices, Waltham, Massachusetts


How do you hope decision-makers use these results? Are there any policy implications?

It’s not likely to be policy, more likely to become an expectation for the building industry.

The current perception is that IPD is best for healthcare buildings in California. The survey shows that using IPD significantly exceeds expectations for budget, schedule and quality. This is true regardless of project type, geographic location, project scope (budget), or previous experience with IPD. This study shows that it is equally effective for all projects, so all owners would be well served to consider this.


Can IDP work in tandem with other design management processes?

We found a small but significant link between use of Lean processes and significantly exceeding expectations. This bodes well for our second study which is linking those two together. Lean Construction applies “lean” (not wasteful) manufacturing principles to the building industry. Aiming to save time and effort on the construction site but also in the decision making process.


Any other insights?

One interesting aspect of the study that has not been much discussed is that owners and contractors are more positive than architects. More information would be needed to understand why this is the case, but based on the comments, it seems that the early planning needed for IPD is quite a bit more than conventional project delivery. It’s possible that since the architects are more involved early that the additional time may be unanticipated (perhaps not enough hours budgeted) or just difficult as people adjust to the collaborative roles. The second research project will be able to explore this a bit more.

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