There are many lessons that owners, designers, and contractors can learn from a construction project incorporating building information modeling (BIM) and lean processes for the Sutter Medical Center in Castro Valley, Calif., consultant Paul Teicholz told attendees of a webinar that WPL Publishing held July 20.
The project, which began in 2007, is expected to open for business by 2013 and cost up to $320 million (including demolition of an old hospital). An integrated form of agreement (IFOA) was developed for the main group involved in the project. The agreement permitted an incentive structure, called a “gain share-pain share,” whereby IFOA members share the profit or loss on the project in a specified way -- a structure that Teicholz considers “a significant innovation.”
Teicholz noted that members strived to do the following: be very explicit about defining project goals; develop a new methodology for the design process; create a new approach for tracking and planning their commitments to each other and other agencies; and be “very extensive users” of BIM.
Several technologies were employed to support the team. BIM model creation tools included Revit Architecture, Revit Structures, CAD Duct, CAD MEP, CADSprink, Tekla Structures, AutoCAD, and others. BIM model analysis tools included Innovaya Visual Estimating, Timberline/Sage Estimating, Metal Wood Framer, ETABS Structural Analysis, and Excel Spreedsheet estimating tools. Strategic Project Solutions (schedule analysis), Bentley ProjectWise (file management), and Navisworks Manage (model visualization) also were used.
Teicholz Reports Lessons Learned
During the webinar, Teicholz reported the following lessons learned from the project:
- To make a project like this successful, the owner must provide leadership. I don’t think any of this could have happened unless the owner was deeply involved and provided leadership to the IFOA team and help them keep their minds on the main goals and resolve problems with the team when they came up. I can’t put too much emphasis on that because this kind of project does not just happen; it requires intense leadership all along the way to deal with issues that come up every day.
- An IPD requires a shared commitment to the owner’s goals. It really is a different kind of process from design-bid-build, which many owners are used to. This is where they have to be part of a team from the very beginning and understand how a shared goal can be met.
- It requires the early involvement of builders, not just the general contractor but of the people who are going to build and install all of these systems. And they have to be involved in the design phase, not just after the design has been put together.
- I believe that it requires colocation of the project team, at least the project team leaders. Obviously, not all of the team members can be at one location, and, in fact, there were firms that worked on this that were all over the United States, but the team leaders were at the “big room,” and they were there from the beginning.
- It requires continuous collaboration of team members to achieve a really deep understanding of what others need that will allow them to do their work. That means that they have to plan and re-plan this work in order to understand exactly what is necessary and to avoid re-work. Quite often, in previous work, they would go way ahead of what was needed in order to meet an intermediate stage.
- It required a sharing of the 3D model as the basis for design collaboration. So, without building these models, it would have been impossible to design this kind of collaboration system.
- There is no such thing as a minor design change, and that became obvious pretty early on. During structural design, structural designers would perhaps make some change to secondary steel, and immediately it would be seen that this would interfere with other systems that were involved in that space. When any design change took place, it was reported immediately by the designer involved, and everybody had a chance to see what was impacted.
- The target costing process, where you design or constantly re-evaluate to a target budget as you’re doing the design and extracting quantities from your model, proved to be a very useful tool to them…. It is much easier to do things before detailed design has taken place than afterward, and then you’re just left with cheapening the project. So, target costing gave them an approach to getting an estimate of cost as they went along. None of the contractors other than DPR [Construction Inc., the project’s general contractor and self-performer of concrete, framing, and drywall] had a real experience in this, and they had to develop methods of extracting quantities, making sure those quantities were relevant to their costs, their pricing tools, putting them in spreadsheets, and so on, but they’re able to actually get down to a two-week target-costing cycle.
- The IPD contract, in this case the IFOA, creates an environment for this change, all of these process changes, to happen, but it is up to each team member to take advantage of that opportunity and make it happen. In other words, they have to walk the talk and really believe in what they’re doing and work with all of their team members to make it happen. I recently had the chance to talk to a number of the IFOA members when I visited the project a week ago, and the excitement they all felt in bringing this project in on time and possibly under budget, which means they’re all going to make more profit than they originally thought, was palpable. They were just thrilled that they were part of this project.
Teicholz Offers Conclusions
At the end of his presentation, Teicholz offered the following conclusions about the project:
- This is a ground-breaking project that shows that IPD is not just a utopian vision but a practical reality that can actually be implemented on a complex project.
- At the time that Teicholz wrote his case study on this topic, it was considered a very successful project that started with a clear vision from the owner and excellent support from the project team. The same project team is still in-place with a very consistent vision.
- There was a genuine collaboration effort that was able to overcome a lack of experience in using 3D models and lean production planning. As in most projects, it took some time before the project team learned how to effectively collaborate and use new tools.
- The significant changes in the approach used for design were not easy to learn (continuous collaboration, short interval planning as opposed to relative long tasks done independently). But as the IPD team became used to working together in the big room at the project site, they became more understanding of each other’s requirements and more skilled at effective collaboration and planning.
- For many team members, this was the most collaborative project they had ever participated in, and interviews with team leaders showed that they hoped for similar experiences on future projects.
- The results thus far are that no milestone has been missed, the project started construction six months earlier than a conventional design-bid-build approach and the estimated cost is under the target budget. The original target profit has been preserved with a strong possibility of increasing profit by 20 percent.