There is a revolution underway in the building industry based on a simple, yet powerful idea: collaboration produces better results. This seems like an obvious truth. So why is it so revolutionary in the building professions? Isn’t this the way buildings are built?
As it turns out, it isn’t–at least, not historically. The traditional approach to building design and construction is what the American Institute of Architects (AIA) calls the “building triad” — comprised of the owner, architect, and contractor. This triad forms the top of the project hierarchy and additional subcontractors and specialists are brought into a project as needed. But this way of working is outdated. It fails to harness and apply specialized knowledge. It leads to inefficiencies, miscommunications, and missed opportunities.
We, as building professionals, need to find ways to better apply our specialized knowledge as a force for collaborative good.
This collaborative revolution is enough of a departure from the traditional approach that the AIA has adopted a new term for it – Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). While this term may seem vague, and the 60+ page document explaining it may seem complex, the core of this approach is comprised of several simple ideas:
– build your team early
– practice clear and consistent communication
– establish mutual respect and trust
– share risk and reward
IPD recognizes that the ideal team is comprised of multiple stakeholders, each with specific expertise that informs a project from start to finish. It prioritizes collective decision making and open discussion over the strict, linear hierarchy of the “building triad.” The team’s success is linked to the project’s success, and this reduces time and material waste, maximizes project efficiency, and increases the project value for the owner.
Not only does IPD offer a new approach to professional collaboration, it has the potential to produce better performing, more affordable buildings. There are thresholds of efficiency and cost savings that are tough to surpass without collaboration. For instance, AIA research has shown that it is possible to reduce energy use by 30% through fairly simply tools such as prescriptive checklists and best practices. But the AIA ultimately argues that passing the 30% threshold requires that the “complex interaction of systems and context must be taken into account.” Such analysis requires ongoing and open discussion, not just information. That is, turning discussion into innovative design requires team relationships, not just checklists.
Collaborative approaches are the future of sustainable building. While technology continues to play a role in facilitating virtual collaboration, we believe it is also important to make space for face-to-face collaboration. That is why we are proud to announce our partnership in the Leading Force Energy and Design Center. Leading Force is a place where collaboration is given a physical presence – where the powerful ideas of IPD are tested in real time and open to the public. It is a place for designers and builders, clients and community members, and experts and novices alike. It is a place for learning and innovation. We hope to see you there.