Integrated Project Delivery, or IPD, was set in motion on the MaineGeneral Medical Center (MGMC) New Regional Hospital project in the summer of 2010. Construction began in September 2011. The Owner, Architect/Engineer, and Contracting teams, signatories to the shared IPD agreement, including “at risk” provisions, have so far spent more than a year collaborating to develop a truly integrated approach to the design and construction process.
Recently, the Senior Management Team (SMT), Project Management Team (PMT) and the ‘risk-sharing’ subcontractor teams dedicated a day and a half to continued team building by conducting an analysis of the process’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, commonly known as a SWOT analysis. In a trusting and collaborative forum, the group took stock of successful outcomes, explored important lessons learned, and most importantly, sought out areas that could be further optimized.
By Stacey Yeragotelis, LEED AP
Many strengths to celebrate. Howard Ashcraft, Esq., the meeting’s facilitator and a leading legal expert on IPD, set the stage by stating that the willingness to undertake a SWOT analysis at this juncture indicated a healthy process is indeed in place. One salient point shone throughout the analysis: the team’s ability to put project mission over and above individual goals. This sense of purpose has been achieved through hard work, collaboration, trust and thorough communication. Documentation efficiencies as well as cost and schedule savings are the inspiring results of early subcontractor involvement in the design phase. The strength of the project’s IPD mission is a direct result of the vision of MaineGeneral’s leadership. Chuck Hays, the CEO of MGMC and a Senior Management Team member, identified ‘the strong team’ as the project’s most valuable attribute.
In praise of co-location. Early on, the team decided to capitalize on co-location by leasing a building where the owner, user groups, designers and contractors could work together. The 10,000 s.f. “co-lo” became the project hub, allowing collaboration on the building and site design while concurrently modeling costs. The main floor of the co-lo is equipped with open work stations, videoconferencing and meeting areas, and space to construct mock-ups of features such as patient rooms. The co-lo has encouraged a true sense of teamwork by facilitating spontaneous interaction and improved communication. Teammates based in distant geographic locations can work beside their teammates. Workshops are held for the various trades.
Fostering the IPD culture. An IPD project resembles a corporate merger – structured to build on the strengths, additive capabilities and experience of the participating entities. Misaligned cultures, however, risk IPD failure. Culture clashes are historically difficult to overcome. For this reason, the MGMC project team agreed to continue focusing on methods to continue building collaboration and promoting an integrated culture. For example, although the design and construction phases are currently overlapped, the team determined they needed to continue nurturing critical cultural alignment, particularly as the contracting work force expands and the design becomes reality. Ideas included bringing a hospital nurse to speak to construction personnel on site about the importance of this project to staff and patients. The possibility of broadcasting teamwork messages over field video monitors was explored as a way to maintain a sense of community during construction of the 640,000 s.f. building. Because it can be challenging to integrate new subcontractors into the mix, the group discussed the importance of listening to ideas from new workers in order to increase satisfaction, productivity, and a positive culture.
Implementing cost modeling. The team identified the need for a better cost-modeling system to consistently cross-communicate among the risk-sharing contractors, working with the PMT. The group realized each subcontractor joins the project with a unique method for estimating cost. It was eye-opening to realize that one little tweak, like meeting with the subcontractors together around a consistent cost modeling system, would help align efforts. It would also contribute to the umbrella goal of building a common culture.
Understanding the demands of “drawing once.” The team utilizes a ‘just-in-time’ method for delivering the engineering design. The mechanical engineers strive for a ‘draw once’ approach, laying out the design intent in two dimensions, and handing it off to subcontractor transformation into a 3D model. The engineer reviews, iterates with the sub, and approves the drawings for construction. An extensive BIM test was designed by the BIM PIT and tested by the constituents on a small part of the building. Unfortunately, the small scale of the test did not reveal the true demand the ‘draw once’ approach would have on the total subcontractor work force. Although it quickens delivery of information from the engineer to the sub, the sub teams are faced with significant adjustments upward in staff numbers to be able provide a ‘stampable’ product for the engineer and a coordinated fabrication drawing ready for building. Compounding the manpower issue in 3D modeling, some optimization adjustments were made to the schedule at the start of construction that created some major pinch points. As a result, the IPD team has agreed to form a task force to better understand and pro-actively plan for scheduling the integrated design document release process.
Scheduling collaboratively. To support this fast-moving, complex and integrated process, the project incorporated a dedicated scheduling consultant. SWOT analysis participants confirmed the value of this role. Early renditions of the schedule need to be mapped out collaboratively with all trades present, in a fluid way so adjustments are easy to make. The schedule must then be constantly monitored and adjusted by key stakeholders. As the detail fills in, the big picture schedule must be repeatedly adjusted. As staff and contractor/vendors are added to the project, again, the schedule must be tested and adjusted. The team realized that collaboration on the schedule plays a major role in communication and culture, it informs the work flow and cost, and ties the entire project together.
The process of the SWOT analysis at a critical juncture between design and construction was beneficial to all participants of the IPD team. The analysis itself reinforced the importance of consistent reflection on the process and finding ways to improve. It allowed each team member to speak in turn from his or her own perspective. While veterans like Howard Ashcraft bring valuable outside experience and perspective to the group, ultimately every IPD project is truly local and utterly unique. This team is proud to report that each incentive milestone has been met and the project is currently on budget and ahead of schedule. Through continued and dedicated collaboration, the MGMC IPD team is energized and committed to continue on this successful journey – and to exceed expectations.
A shorter version of this article was published in the New England Real Estate Journal on 06 January 2012: http://nerej.com/52272.