IDP Needs Contractors

Short time lines, economic payback, and green building all weigh in on the shift in how buildings are constructed in the built environment’s current climate. The integrated design process (IDP) brings order and creativity to the process of meeting challenges and exploiting opportunities that come from these factors. Once a buzz phrase reserved for the design team, IDP is an evolving but stable concept that is expanding to include all members of the construction team—including contractors.

According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) the IPD involves an “holistic approach to high-performance building design and construction. It relies upon every member of the project team sharing a vision of sustainability, and working collaboratively to implement sustainability goals.”

Developing an integrated plan from the beginning enables the team to optimize materials, equipment, and building systems while minimizing operations and maintenance costs as well as incremental capital.

BC Green Building Roundtable published its “Roadmap for the Integrated Design Process – Part One Summary Guide,” which lists some of the key benefits to using an IDP. For instance, developing a broad, interdisciplinary team from the outset of a project ensures the correct and necessary expertise is available at the time it is most needed. Time is invested up front to ensure buy-in and common goal-setting, while transparency builds trust among the team members and ensures clear understanding, open communication, and effective conflict resolution opportunities.

A research study in 2007 compared IDP to conventional design process and included some key feedback from Busby Perkins + Will and Stantec Consulting. Specifically, these firms argued the benefits of IDP based on early involvement of building contractors include an increase in resources and time spent in the early phases, allowing contractors to substantially impact the cost and functional capabilities of the project.

As opposed to conventional project delivery in which the team is divided into “camps”—the client, designers, and builders, IDP promotes collaboration and better implementation of lean principles.

“The literature argues the separation of designers and contractors prevents constructive use of contractor expertise in the development of the design,” says a research report called “Early Contractor Involvement: Advantages and Disadvantages for the Design Team” published by International Group for Lean Construction in 2014. “For the contractor, a holistic understanding of the project is crucial to be able to deliver input concerning cost, constructability, and value. Such estimates permit the designers to carry out informed decisions about the design. At the same time, the contractor develops an ownership to the design.”

Although the benefits of involving contractors and subtrades are well-known, becoming involved in the integrated design process still takes some effort from all parties. When designers and specifiers call together an IDP team, they should be extending invitations to the consultant team who can then invite their subs (if known) from the beginning or as soon as their contractors are in place. Subcontractors should review the job specifications and ask to participate in IDP meetings, stressing the value they bring in terms of field experience and familiarity with materials. No one knows a trade like the people working in it, and specifiers rarely know intimately techniques that optimize productivity and efficiency, and the products that best suit said techniques. Understanding a designer / specifier’s position and decision-making process is a valuable tool in understanding (and influencing) project delivery on future projects, whether or not they use an IDP.

IDP involvement isn’t for everyone—it requires a careful balance of information sharing and inter-disciplinary communication and, most of all, patience and flexibility. Team players with an eye for detail and a meaningful investment in how a project turns out make the best IDP team players.

For more information, visit the BC Green Building Roundtable to view one of its multiple publications on navigating and becoming involved in the integrated design process.

Stages of the Integrated Design Process

1. Pre-design: looks at the relationships between the project and its surrounding environment to explore possibilities for the site, the users, and the owner. The scope of the project is determined and the design team is co-ordinated.

2. Schematic design: investigates technologies, new ideas, and applications while laying the foundation for the project’s goals and objectives. Preliminary analyses are conducted with respect to finances and energy consumption.

3. Design development: results in a schematic design concept being selected and approved by the client. Architectural, mechanical, and electrical systems are considered.

4. Construction documentation: finalizes all design development documents including calculations and specifications.

5. Bidding, construction, and commissioning: is the time when the main design plans are realized. By the end of this phase, the team will have achieved a finished, fully functional, and well-commissioned building, ready for occupancy.

6. Building operation: transitions the building from the design team to the building occupants. At this stage, final building commissioning has occurred and building operators have been fully trained on the efficient operation of their new building.

7. Post-occupancy: efforts continue to monitor and maintain, measure and verify, recommission and evaluate. Post-construction provides an opportunity for feedback loops, facilitating continuous building optimization.