Collaboration or Treason?

Jason Costello, AIA, LEED BD+C
– Thursday, November 8, 2012

The construction industry is fraught with examples of individual agendas derailing projects and resulting in cost overruns, schedule delays and client frustrations. This single-minded approach to designing and constructing a building places individual self-interest above everything else. Integrated Project Delivery provides a break from business as usual and rewards an interdisciplinary team that collaborates and focuses on the project’s goals as opposed to individual success. To collaborate, according to Merriam-Webster, means:

1. to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor
2. to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one’s country and especially an occupying force
3. to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected

Architects sometimes have a reputation for not playing well with other roles in the traditional construction design/bid/build/occupy process. It can be seen as betraying the architectural cause if one is willing to work closely with the CM and the owner, particularly during those milestone budget meetings where the entire project is brought under the scrutiny of value engineering. A significant amount of time in the process is dedicated to owning something in the drawings, typically something very expensive so it can be given up at milestones to end up with an acceptable level of finish or scope and then re-drawn once approved.

In contrast, during the schematic design on one current IPD project, the broader team focused on decisions that impacted building footprint in an effort to validate the building area. The team studied the impact of a prefabricated, metal stud back-up wall would have on the schedule, budget, and quality of the job. Project Coordinator/BIM Manager Laura Herbert remembers, “Rather than making notes to ‘own’ items, it was more important to make the moves and decisions that affected the footprint like wall panelization and moving all the walls out so that they could run the studs by the columns — even though this added square footage to the project.” Essentially, the IPD team took a subcontractor’s idea for streamlining the time to erect the exterior wall in the field and analyzed both its impact on the design and the net effect of schedule reductions versus square footage added. These actions ultimately created real value for the owner by lowering the $/SF of the project.

The design and construction process traditionally has been an adversarial relay race run by ad hoc teams of owners, architects and engineers, construction managers and subcontractors with individual goals and no common incentive to help each other succeed. IPD provides that incentive, yet the individual participants must be willing leave their prior project experiences behind them and collaborate. Keith Jones AIA, project architect on a different current TROJB IPD project says, “It is really important to leave the baggage of prior projects at the door and focus on the knowledge and expertise that each individual brings to this project.” This is not to say that there will not be conflict and disagreement during the process. At times these discussions can get quite heated but it often results in improved decision-making and shared accountability and ownership moving forward.

The key is living in the present and not allowing negative experiences from your last job to enter your frame of mind. Instead, focus on the skills and expertise that may well be sitting at the table with you at that moment, ready to work with you. The question is, are you willing to put aside your biases and self interest to truly focus on accomplishing something great?