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IPD and BIM, oranges and apples

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Confused about integrated project delivery (IPD) and building information modeling (BIM)? As little three letter acronyms and similar concepts, it is easy to use the terms interchangeably or believe one necessitates the other, but this isn’t the case!

As a technology that is built to promote collaboration, and one that requires collaboration to reap the full benefits of its capabilities, BIM works well with the concept of IPD. While IPD can be seen as a guiding philosophy, BIM is an enabling technology. A recent article in The Zweig Letter, ZweigWhite’s weekly management publication, explains some of the differences.

“It’s really an apples and oranges thing. Integrated project delivery is a process that encompasses contracts and relationships and incentives – a whole variety of things – whereas BIM is simply a technology,” Jonathan Cohen, vice president of Brookwood Group, told TZL. Cohen is also the author of Integrated Project Delivery: Six Case Studies, a work that profiles six completed buildings – varying in size, scale, and geographical location— that were completed using IPD “in as pure a form as possible.”

“(BIM) is useful in supporting IPD, but no amount of BIM gives you IPD. And it’s possible to do IPD without BIM,” Cohen said.

In its purest form, IPD encompasses an entire project delivery system that is dependent on close and early collaboration between the many stakeholders on a project – from designers to construction companies to utility contractors, and everyone else with a role to play. Perhaps most importantly, it requires an owner who is sold on the value of IPD.

“We feel that lean (construction principles) and IPD – thinking and working as a collaborative team – go hand in hand in driving the delivery system. We definitely feel that BIM is a powerful tool that seamlessly integrates into the process of working collaboratively or tying to eliminate waste,” says Adam Jelen, vice president and district manager for Gilbane Building Company in Providence, R.I., one of the industry’s largest family-owned real estate development and construction firms.

Although he’s seen and documented the benefits of IPD, Cohen doesn’t believe it will make broad and sweeping changes in the industry. “I don’t think it’s going to replace all other forms of project delivery. It’s very suitable for certain types of projects and certain types of clients. And not so suitable for others,” he said.

Owners of one-off projects or projects that fall out of their core business may feel more comfortable with a more traditional delivery method. In fact, the comfort that comes from doing things the way they’ve always been done is one of the bigger factors working against IPD.

“To be able to do this right, people have to be able to put their guard down and people have to trust each other. You have to knock down those barriers. You have to work collaboratively. But I think the reluctance comes from the trust piece,” Jelen says.

BIM has garnered a lot of attention in recent months as the U.S. Air Force, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the General Services Administration all announced BIM requirements will be included in their contracts.

“Just using BIM doesn’t really advance you towards IPD, in and of itself. They want BIM models as a deliverable, instead of drawings. And that’s fine,” Cohen said.

For more information on The Zweig Letter visit www.zweigwhite.com/trends/thezweigletter.
 

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