Integration a Must, Not Just a Plus

Posted on September 7, 2011

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Regardless of what each team calls it—design-build, IPD, partnering, lean delivery—integration is at the core of each of these production methods. And their goal is to produce a better building through the benefits integration provides.

With so many clients choosing integration, owners who maintain slow, disintegrated methods of project delivery forfeit advantages and fall behind their market-leading competition. It could be argued that an average integrated project outperforms even a perfectly-executed design-bid-build or CM-at-risk job. Owners need to hire the most integrated teams available to them.

Proponents of DBB and CM like to point to their first cost, the final construction cost, as a win. However, as with systems design, the real value is year-after-year performance. This is why commissioning is considered an investment, and not an expense.

The benefits of project integration are not always so obvious to owners. It helps to review some important, but less noticeable ways integration adds value:

  • Reliable and accurate transfer of information.  In this information age, information is sometimes easily dismissed; however, in a project with millions at stake, information quality and communication are important. A team with more people working under fewer contracts means less meetings, less paperwork, less interpretation, more direct communication, and saved money.
  • Unified team.  Team and company motivations are incredibly divergent. Heck, individual motiviations are sometimes difficult to manage. With fewer companies involved, and ideally everyone working for the same company, the project benefits from more collaboration, less conflict, less chance of legal dispute, and greater accountability to the owner.
  • Faster, more accurate decisions.  Once again, workers are swimming in a sea of information; it is what to do with the information that separates teams. The superior knowledge worker knows how to interpret and put trusted information to use. How earnestly will an architect treat a estimate produced by another company? How about one produced by his boss? Integration allows for action sooner:  no duplication of effort, real-time progress, and a reduction in administrative red tape.
  • Greater likelihood for innovation.  Hospitals are looking for financial fixes, and innovation on capital projects provides this opportunity. When push comes to shove, teams that are not integrated will side with CYA decision-making over innovation. The risk-reward ratio is just not that strong for non-integrated teams to push-the-envelope.

Yes, these are hard-to-quantify benefits with regard to metrics, but obvious and hard-to-ignore every day of a project. And is it not a bit antithetical for disintegrated teams, such as design-bid-build, to be using BIM and the tools of an integrated team?  This is like using a high-powered scope on a sawed-off shotgun—what’s the point?

Integration is where everything is headed. It can happen willingly, or it can be forced, like the Borg on Star Trekyou will be assimilated. We see how the reactive effort works as hospitals stare down the barrel of healthcare reform after years of false starts and threats. Do you want your capital budgets at the service of disintegrated teams, or perhaps take the initiative for a more proactive stance?

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