From The AIA Center for Integrated Practice
Throughout 2011 CIP features resources from a range of topics that address how architects and members of the AEC industry tackle the issues and opportunities facing practice today. Listen to the September 2011 featured podcast here
On Project Delivery: Introductory Article and Podcast
Achieving Sustainability through Project Delivery
By Betsy del Monte, FAIA, Principal and Director of Sustainability, Beck
Project delivery selection is a sustainability issue. Beyond a change in design ethos, sustainability has born a fundamental shift in design practice, re-parceling critical technical information and design decisions down to the contractor and sub-contractor level. This information — details about glazing performance, site drainage, extrusion processes, crane access to site, potential of local manufacturers, etc. — does not always belong to architects any more, and we’re probably not going to pick it up. Challenged to create projects that satisfy owner’s needs for the best budget at the highest level of performance, architects need access to this information upfront. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) shares risk and reward through multi-party contracts and early collaboration; more importantly, IPD shares essential knowledge to produce higher-performing projects in less time and for less money.
Sustainable performance is often assessed through five categories of resource use: site planning, water efficiency, energy efficiency, conservation of materials, and indoor environmental quality. Although solar panels, bamboo floors, and low-VOC paints are important, they are added later, as appropriate, long after the path has been set by the early decision making processes. Site situation, passive strategies and square footage decisions have profound impacts on the ultimate performance of the building; the decisions made at the outset determine a chain of subsequent decisions. As architects, we understand that how we orient a building affects daylighting, which affects artificial lighting, which affects the indoor environment. We understand that how we landscape a site affects rainwater control and water efficiency. What we may not understand as intimately is how our positioning of a building on a site directly affects dollars spent on construction.
For example, as an integrated team at Beck we were discussing how to place a building on its site, trying to maximize the landscaped areas and maintain access. Because the Beck construction team was included in the design process, we were able to discuss construction staging before the site plan was settled. The contractor said, “If you move the building over about ten feet on this side, I can get a crane in there that is going to allow me to be faster and more effective in lifting the panels.” By working with this information, we were able — at no cost to job quality or design team effort — to save significantly on staging costs, allowing more funds to be available for building performance enhancements.
This is the responsibility of the architect: to ensure the building is the best it can be in achieving its goals at the best value to the owner. What constitutes value? It’s a shifting target, but for any owner, at least one dimension of value is tied to economy. Think of a building as a product designed to produce something: an educated child, a healthier patient, a more productive employee. If you can make a building work better for what it does, you can increase the bottom line for the owner. This is value.
By making smart, collaborative decisions at the beginning of a project as in my example above, you can reduce first cost. By creatively investing those savings in high-performance and sustainable technologies, you can similarly reduce life-cycle costs. In this example, we were able to invest in a higher-performance glazing system for better resistance to solar heat gain; sustainability as value.
The potential economic benefits of integrative delivery models enable the design dialogue to go beyond a “less bad” approach to sustainability, and instead allow teams to proactively improve the built environment. Contrast this with the opportunities presented by non-collaborative delivery models: the example I shared earlier would likely not have materialized because we wouldn’t necessarily have had access to the contractor’s expertise in staging requirements, missing out on an opportunity to easily reduce costs to allow for other sustainable strategies. Early collaboration and access to information from all stakeholders is critical in this process.
If our goal is to maximize value through sustainability and performance, this kind of specific information – not just design predictions but rather the real information about what the sub-contractors are going to be providing and how they are going to be providing it – is essential before architects commit to the sort of never-turn-back decisions that define the success of a project’s sustainability. These myriad decisions, both technical and aesthetic, directly affect both the project’s bottom line and user experience; moreover, they are decisions that can directly connect design and construction and therefore sustainable outcomes and project delivery methodologies.
The Voice of CIP
Listen to the From CIP: On Project Delivery
Podcast on the AIA Pod Net and hear Betsy del Monte, FAIA, outline how integrated project delivery distinguishes itself from other delivery methods, what IPD means for sustainability, and how early conversations with sub-contractors can add substantial value to a project.
Center for Integrated Practice Resources
Position Statement on Project Delivery