17 August 2012

Integrated Project Delivery: Bad News for Architects?

This month the Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) and Consult Australia are presenting their first suite of practice documents related to BIM in Australia. (more info)

Although there are a number of other Australian BIM documents around (NatSpec, CRC), these will be the first by groups with some skin in the market.

Undoubtedly these documents will be heavily influenced by (if not actually based on, like NatSpec) existing American documents, particularly the work done by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Fair enough, but I have an issue with the AIA approach to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

It is inherently anti-architect. It explicitly reduces the traditional influence of architects at early stages of a project, and therefore the main driver of design excellence.

Background – The AIA IPD Document

The AIA’s Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is an excellent example of the direction Integrated Practice is heading. It makes sense; it ties together all the concepts that have been discussed over the last 10 years. But on reading it I see some implications for architects:
  • They see integrated practice as collaboration between owner, contractor and architect (in that order!).
  • Places the owner at the head of an integrated team, being responsible for managing the BIM model, as well as providing “final arbitration”.
  • Their whole scenario relies on early involvement of contractor and at least some trades / suppliers.
  • They clearly state that traditional “design-bid-built” type contracts are not capable of integrated practice, yet offer only one alternative model.
  • AIA is focusing on contractual arrangements, 3 out of the 4 IPD sub-groups focus on legal & legislative issues.
  • Suggest that members of an integrated team be “pre-qualified”. What does this mean and who is arbitrator of this pre-qualification?
  • Foresees BIM model ownership transferring to contractor at construction phase.
  • Assume architects will have less involvement during construction because “all issues are resolved during earlier stages”.
  • The AIA call it “Integrated Project Delivery”, which accurately describes their model. But is this model really necessary for “Integrated Practice”?

I'm at a loss as to why an architectural practice would agree to this arrangement, or why the AIA is pushing it.

Is it money?

IPD arrangements don’t suggest architects fees will benefit from IPD. One of the problems with IPD is that architects require higher fees at earlier stages to even provide BIM, let alone profit from it.

Is it influence?

Current IPD models don’t increase the influence of the architect. Collaborative arrangements are more likely to decrease the architect’s influence, particularly if the contractor and owner are involved from the start. At least under standard practice the architect has the ear of the owner until the building has been completely designed.

Is it control?

There is a perception that architects will be able to control a BIM model because they are the first to initiate it. Yet the AIA IPD arrangements place control of the model to a 3rd party specialist, engaged by the owner or contractor. Architects will not be able to argue they should maintain control of the model unless they also provide model management services, something that, as essentially an IT skill, is not a core skill of architectural practices. (remember what happened with Project Management)

Is it market share?

It is hard to see how IPD will increase the need for architects in the industry. With its focus on project delivery, architect specialities like design excellence and design co-ordination are mere bit players, unlike current practice where the beginning of a project is dominated by these factors.

Is it Quality?

In theory BIM and IPD will provide improved quality of outcomes. But that improvement doesn’t necessarily include better architectural outcomes. It does include reduced time, reduced co-ordination mistakes, the ability to model alternative scenarios. But those scenarios are not necessarily ones involving improving architectural design. As only one member of a collaborative team, it is unlikely the team will appreciate the advantage of letting the architects work through design alternatives. Contrast that with current practice where the architect spends most of the early stages of a project doing just that.

Is it industry leadership?

Current IPD models rely on the owner and contractor being active participants in IPD. Yet, at least in Australia, extremely few owners or builders are interested enough to actively engage in IPD. The truth is architects have little influence, and even less ability to encourage, organisations many times larger than any architectural practice, (some larger than all practices combined). I’m not sure why architects are the ones trying to convince them.

Is it benevolence?

Widespread IPD will create a more efficient building industry. It will cost less to build and operate the same amount of built space. And architects like being benevolent. But the reality is the ultimate monetary beneficiary will be the owner, as they will pay less construction costs. Some contractors may initially be able to increase profit, but only if they are competing against other contractors who don’t use IPD. I think the AIA needs to ask itself; are they doing this to solely benefit others?

Is it fear?

IPD will happen. The efficiencies for owners and contractors are too attractive. The reality is if architects aren’t prepared to involve themselves in IPD arrangements, or can’t at least provide a BIM service, these major players will go elsewhere. They will either employ their own architects, engage large drafting services, or engage large multi-discipline practices (invariably owned and controlled by engineers).

The AIA IPD approach is WRONG

I’ve come to the conclusion that architects as a profession have a lot to fear from IPD. Current proposed IPD models marginalise architects. The AIA IPD model is suited to large scale, large owner, large contractor type projects. They push the architect out of their role at the beginning of projects, when traditionally architects have had the most influence.

That is not to say IPD as such is bad and should be resisted. I believe architects should treat it as inevitable. But I do think architects, through their representative associations, should be developing IPD model(s) that protect the control and influence of architects. And I don’t believe an approach like the AIA IPD model does this.

Lets not repeat this mistake in Australia.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post - a LinkedIn connection of mine posted it, and then I tweeted it, and then I got interesting feedback, so I had to blog about it myself.

    I do not doubt that IPD will make the construction industry more efficient. But, like you, I think it will not make aesthetic design better, and I think that worse aesthetic design will be bad for the built environment.