Integrated Project Delivery, BIM and Construction Culture

by John Millar | July 9, 2021 |  5 min read

On Integrated Project Delivery, BIM and Construction Industry Culture
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It has been understood for many years that common routes of procurement in construction projects, such as the ‘traditional’ route or Design & Build, can result in sub-par project delivery, with the project in question (and, by extension, the international construction industry as a whole) often suffering from shortcomings in satisfying the ‘triple constraint’ of construction projects (i.e., time, cost and quality) due to their intrinsic cultural values (Darrington and Lichtig, 2018).

Whilst, in recent years, there has been a great deal of focus on the technological and informational aspects of project delivery, it is felt that there must also be an equal amount of industrial collaboration on rethinking these common routes of procurement if the construction industry is to reach its much-desired lean ideal.

One alternative procurement route which has been gaining traction internationally is Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), the most cited definition of which is offered by the AIA (2007) in their seminal guide, describing it as:

a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste, and maximize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction.

IPD stands in stark contrast to the traditional procurement model, which is infamously fragmented and adversarial in nature, instead offering an approach which emphasises close, genuine collaboration between project participants in the spirit of trust, shared objectives and mutual benefit (Pelberg, 2009; AIA, 2007).

Perhaps the most fundamental quality of IPD implementation is in the equalised sharing of both risk and reward. By participating in a project that leverages IPD, the participant forfeits their opportunity to manage their share of the project work in a way that will generate maximum individual profit, instead opting for an equal share of the net budget savings generated by the integrated team as a whole, as well as an apportioned share of the total project risk.

The result of this is that the corporate focus can instead turn towards effective collaboration and added value in the project’s early stages, with the prospect of maximising individual profit via total shared profit perhaps serving as an incentive for all participants to optimise their contributions to the project as far as is practicably possible (Moylan and Arafah, 2017; Kent, 2010).

Fig. 1 – The MacLeamy (2004) Curve, illustrating IPD’s efficiency over traditional delivery

Fig. 1 – The MacLeamy (2004) Curve, illustrating IPD’s efficiency over traditional delivery

With this in mind, the potential importance of the IPD philosophy in an industry striving for greater levels of efficiency, collaboration, transparency and accountability needs not to be explained, and the industry-wide progress made in BIM adoption and innovation means that the industry is already halfway there.

At a high level, BIM and IPD can seem like very similar concepts, with them both advocating close collaboration between cross-functional parties with a ‘collective mind’ of information as a means of enabling more efficient and effective trans-disciplinary problem solving. However, the important distinction to make is that BIM is largely concerned with the various information management processes that take place over the course of an asset’s lifecycle, whilst IPD is more concerned with the project team – both from a procurement and cultural standpoint.

Together, their symbiotic relationship allows all participants to maximise project outcomes, for shared benefit. The AIA’s (2007, p.10) view of BIM is that of a “platform for collaboration” that helps to enable IPD in practice: “BIM is a tool, not a project delivery method, but IPD process methods work hand-in-hand with BIM and leverage the tool’s capabilities”.

In simple terms, BIM provides the technological platform and robust information management protocols that enable collaborative working, as well as the shared ‘single source of truth’, whilst IPD provides the strong cultural backbone which can often be missing from projects (to their detriment), structuring the interactions between and incentives of the project team.

With existing data confirming that IPD (implemented in tandem with BIM and with strict adherence to the lean principles it is based on) presents a highly effective alternative to traditionally delivered projects (Laurent, 2017; El Asmar et al., 2007), more and more practices worldwide are enjoying the benefits of its implementation. Despite these developments, commentary on the subject has thus far been minimal in the UK, with seemingly no plans for uptake in the future.

Therefore, it would seem that there is still much work to be done in positively influencing the cultural landscape of the British construction industry and establishing the trusting, truly collaborative spirit that is fundamental to its success in implementation. However, as industrial awareness of IPD diffuses enough for it to finally be introduced in those crucial first projects, the overall performance of our industry can be expected to improve accordingly in time, with progress then being made towards the sustainable lean ideal in construction.

For more information on this topic, please contact John Millar.

  1. AIA (2007). Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide. [ebook] Available at: [Accessed 2 Apr. 2019].
  2. Darrington, J. and Lichtig, W. (2018). Integrated Project Delivery: Aligning Project Organization, Operating System and Commercial Terms. [ebook] Available at: Construction Management [Accessed 3 Apr. 2019].
  3. Laurent, J. (2017). Cross-Functional Project Teams in Construction: A Case Study. Masters. Pennsylvania State University.
  4. MacLeamy, P. (2004) Collaboration, integrated information and the project lifecycle in building design, construction and operation.
  5. Moylan, W. & Arafah, N (2017) Integrated Project Delivery: Complicated Collaboration or Improbable Panacea.
  6. Kent, David, C., & Burcin Becerik-Gerber Understanding Construction Industry Experienceand Attitudes Toward Integrated Project Delivery. ASCE Journal of Construction, Engineering and Management 136, no.8 (2010):815-825.
  7. Pelberg, Brian E. (2009). Contracting for Integrated Project Delivery: ConsensusDocs, presented to The 48th Annual Meeting of Invited Attorneys, Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, Inc.