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Aug. 5, 2010: Design Firms Are Reluctant to Adopt Collaborative Project Methods

August 5, 2010
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WAYLAND, Mass. - Many architecture and engineering leaders believe integrated project delivery (IPD) - where architects, engineers, owners, contractors, and subcontractors work collaboratively as a team from the inception of a project and share the benefits and risks - is riddled with too many unknowns to even consider at this point, according to a survey by The Zweig Letter.

Participants in the survey said the lack of specific insurance protection products, no vetting in the courts, and the sheer difficulty of assembling a group of people with a common goal, are all impediments to IPD.

“Unfortunately I feel that IPD will only be tested when there is litigation,” said Rick Savely, chief development officer at architecture firm TAYLOR. “Then and only then will we see whether all parties will band together as one.”

Despite the jitters, a number of design firms are pushing the concept, which is seen as a way of producing better projects at lower costs. An evenly split majority of respondents (75 percent) said that they have either tried or are considering IPD.

“IPD allows competent firms to deliver increased value to their clients and achieve better returns if only by slashing bureaucracy, improving communication, and limiting rework, all while containing their liabilities through use of appropriate subcontract agreements,” said Kevin Phillips, CEO of FPM Group Ltd. in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., a full-service environmental and traditional engineering firm.

Respondents gave a variety of answers when asked about the greatest impediment to IPD adoption.

The most common responses focused on inertia, finding partners who think alike, fear of the “point of no return” with IPD, lack of specific liability coverage, legal unknowns, technological challenges, and reluctance to adopt existing IPD contracts, among others.

Specifically, 25 percent of respondents listed lack of specific insurance products as the biggest barrier, followed by lack of legal precedent (17 percent), and the difficulty in assembling the right team and a perception that IPD benefits some more than others (both at 13 percent).

Nevertheless, many among the skeptics are at least willing to give IPD a try. According to the survey, 44 percent of respondents said they would join an IPD team if they could find the right partners. Another 26 percent said they would entertain the concept if insurance products were available, and a further 26 percent said they are waiting to see how the courts look at litigation involving IPD before looking deeper.

Publication date: 08/02/2010

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