Overview — BIM In Integrated Project Delivery

Overview — BIM In Integrated Project Delivery

Key Concepts

Integrated Project Delivery

Integrated project delivery (IPD) is an approach to delivering projects that integrates people, systems, business structures, and practices into a process that collaboratively uses the talents and insights of all participants to optimize project results. By facilitating streamlined coordination between the design disciplines and building trades, IPD maximizes value to the owner by cutting waste and improving efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction.

IPD principles are flexible and can be applied to a wide variety of contractual arrangements. IPD teams can focus on the basic triad of owner, architect, and contractor or extend beyond to include other members of the design and construction team. What distinguishes integrated projects from traditional delivery approaches is a highly effective level of collaboration between the owner, the principal designer, and the prime constructor, commencing at the early design stages and continuing through the life of the project up to the final handover.

Effectively structured, trust-based collaboration encourages parties to focus on project outcomes rather than their individual goals by shifting the fundamental interaction from risk avoidance and compensation to shared risk and shared reward. Relationships between the major parties in construction projects using traditional delivery approaches have grown increasingly adverse and antagonistic to the effect of being counterproductive for all. The IPD approach recognizes and offers immense benefits of early sharing of information and insight by a diverse set of stakeholders and decision makers to optimize project outcomes and increase workflow efficiency for all involved.

Without such transparency, each discipline or project participant must include sizable contingencies and contract conditions as protection against risk and uncertainty. With increased use of BIM tools and the IPD approach, problems can be identified much earlier and more easily, before they become costly field change orders or create delays that result in liquidated damages.

The Impact of Waste and Inefficiency

Practitioners have been studying and documenting the negative impacts of inefficiency and waste on the construction industry:

  • An Economist article from 2000 cited 30 percent waste in the U.S. construction industry.
  • A National Institute of Standards and Technology study from 2004 recognized that the lack of AEC software interoperability costs the industry $15.8B annually.
  • A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study showed construction alone as decreasing in productivity since 1964, while all other nonfarm industries have increased productivity by more than 200 percent during the same period.

AEC industry leaders are now recognizing that coupling emerging BIM technologies with proven workflow processes can bring substantial increases in productivity and decreases in requests for information (RFIs), field conflicts, waste, and project schedules. Owners are also becoming savvier and now requiring that these methodologies be used to deliver better outcomes.

Principles of Integrated Project Delivery

Achieving the benefits of this new delivery approach requires adopting a new mindset.  The AIA set forth the following guiding principles for IPD:

  • Mutual Respect and Trust. As the owner, designer, consultants, constructor, subcontractors, and suppliers rely on collaboration and teamwork to support the best interests of the project, they must show greater respect and trust.
  • Mutual Benefit and Reward. Compensation structures must recognize and reward early involvement in the project, as this often leads to higher efficiency. Compensation should reward “what’s best for project” behavior.
  • Collaborative Innovation. Creative decision making and innovation is stimulated when ideas are freely exchanged among all participants in a team environment. In an integrated project, ideas should be judged on their merits, not on the originator’s role or status.
  • Early Involvement of Key Participants. Key participants should be involved as early as possible to improve decision making. Their diverse knowledge and expertise can have a greater impact on cost and value if it is employed earlier.
  • Early Goal Definition. Project goals should be developed early, and agreed upon and respected by all team participants.
  • Intensified Planning. Increased effort in planning can result in increased efficiency and savings by streamlining and shortening the construction effort, which is typically much more expensive.
  • Open Communication. Team performance relies on open, direct, and honest communication among all participants. A no-blame culture can lead to quick identification and resolution of problems, rather than focusing on liability.
  • Appropriate Technology. Technologies should be specified at project initiation to maximize functionality, generality, and interoperability. Open and interoperable data exchanges based on disciplined and transparent data structures are essential.
  • Organization and Leadership. The project team is an organization in its own right where all the team members, for the duration of the project, are committed to the project team’s goals and values. Leadership should be assigned to the team member most capable of the specific work and services at hand. Clearly defined roles can help prevent artificial barriers that inhibit open communication and risk taking.

For a more detailed explanation of these principles, refer to the AIA Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide in the list of suggested resources below.

Utilizing the Potential of BIM

The AEC industry faces the unique challenges of constant design and change management—both of the product and the organization—since each project poses distinct and rarely repeated conditions. The streamlining and data management capabilities enabled by applying BIM tools offers enormous value for managing the continual stream of changes that are always present in an AEC project.

BIM tools facilitate early analysis, assessment, and decision making by allowing team members to communicate and visualize vast amounts of complex project information in a systematic and consistent way. Incorporating detailed information from all team participants into a single integrated model can reduce construction time and material waste and enable the integrated design required for a resource-efficient project.

By utilizing BIM at the earliest project stages, team members can assess how their design decisions fit into the larger picture—for example, how design decisions about windows and their placement in turn impact the lighting and HVAC system designs. Rather than working in silos and making decisions optimized for a single discipline, the BIM methodology enables design decisions to be evaluated in light of their impact on the total project.

A BIM-based IPD approach brings many benefits throughout the project lifecycle. BIM models enable the integrated project team to collaboratively review and coordinate the composite project—the aggregate of the designs created by each discipline and trade–and jointly resolve conflicts that would traditionally result in finger-pointing and costly change orders. The BIM model servers as a neutral platform for visualizing and assessing the composite design in a way that leaves little question around who or what needs to be changed.

The MacLeamy Curve, shown below, illustrates how IPD displaces the peak in the overall team effort toward the beginning of the project, which is the time period that offers the design team greater ability to impact cost and functional performance of the final design product.


By pushing the design effort and effect earlier toward the design phase and away from the construction phase, the cost of finding and correcting errors is greatly reduced. This should result in fewer RFIs and change order requests during the construction phase of the project. Finding these issues early through the BIM model enables quicker resolution and tremendous cost savings.

Benefits to Designers and Architects

Designers using the BIM modeling methodology can analyze many more design options to hone in on and optimize the desired performance characteristics of their designs. For example, they can instantaneously calculate the costs of substituting different types of materials, or model the building performance and energy use impacts of their design decisions based on actual geographic and meteorological information. BIM enhances and empowers an iterative design process, which can improve the efficiency of the design process and result in better decision decisions.

Benefits to Constructors and Project Managers

Early involvement of project managers in the design process enables increased consideration for the constructability and costs as design decisions are being made.

The improved reliability and consistency of BIM-based designs can lower construction costs by enabling many components to be prefabricated off-site in advance. Prefabricated components, by virtue of being made in controlled factory environments, are typically lower cost and lower risk by avoiding unpredictable field conditions.

Team members responsible for schedule planning and cost control can use the information in the composite project model throughout the construction process to measure the impacts of design changes and field conditions upon the predicted schedule and budget. Changes to the BIM model can be assessed to generate updated schedules and budget predictions, enabling project managers to better plan and allocate resources in the day-to-day operations at the construction site.


Sophisticated and experienced owners are increasingly requiring the use of IPD and the BIM methodology as they consider the proven impacts of these approaches on the bottom line and the building performance.

Early input from all the disciplines and perspectives involved in the project yields better results by focusing the entire team on the total performance of the completed outcome, rather than their isolated design responsibilities. Project teams can tap into diverse perspectives, ranging the facility operations staff to the actual building users, to improve the functionality of design decisions and consider the impact on the lifecycle performance.