A better way of designing and building efficient buildings with Integrated Project Delivery

As a recent architecture technologist graduate, there are some things I wished I learned in school about Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Building Information Modelling (BIM). The importance of understanding their capabilities and potential can make you invaluable to employers. I talked to Passive House expert Adam Cohen about IPD, BIM and more.

by Penny Beaudry


It is our choice to be proactive or reactive. This important notion was learned from Adam Cohen, educator and leader in the practice of designing and constructing Passiv Buildings at Market Rate. He is also an architect, founder of Build SMART, Passiv Science, Quantum Architects, Structures Design/Build, and Passive Buildings Canada’s Education Coordinator. Currently Cohen is doing as much teaching as he can to educate people on Integrated Project Delivery. 


The first step, Cohen says,  in solving a problem is to define the problem. The problem within the design and construction industry is the broken process. It lacks integration, respect, and basic physics. There is also a lack of useful feedback mechanisms and a lack of components that could improve this broken process.


The LEAN Construction Institute estimates waste in the building industry at 50% with the business as usual approach, Cohen believes this is a stretch, but typically finds 15-20% waste in this approach. This waste could be decreased if owners, architects, engineers, contractors, project managers, and commissioning agents worked together using an Integrated Project Delivery approach. The issue is that we are not object driven, what we need is Lean construction principles and BIM. 

What are LEAN Construction Principles?


At its core, Passive House is a methodology that optimizes building performance. LEAN helps teams work together to optimize the design/build process to minimize waste and maximize value. The core of LEAN is not it’s very powerful toolbox, it is about group interaction, respect and cooperation. For most of the design and construction industry, LEAN is a new paradigm about interacting a group honestly and openly. The basis for successfully implementing LEAN is respect for people. The cool thing is that, this is how the design and construction industry used to work, so we are rediscovering our roots!


Cohen explains, “The LEAN concept is just like Passive House where people do not know how to apply it. If you think it’s about the bar and the software - this is only the lowest level. It is about the mythology that you take in of synergistically looking at your building and designing as a whole. LEAN is knowing how to interact as a group openly and honestly. If you don’t get the basis of LEAN, the tools are useless! Once understood, you can LEAN anything from phone calls, to food orders, to architecture design. LEAN is an evolutionary process of continuous improvement and respect for people. LEAN construction principles deliver all the materials and all the information when needed. This way, the architect doesn’t need to draw everything then start building but rather an evolutionary process where we draw what we need to go from here to there.”

What is BIM?


BIM is an incredibly powerful tool to capture all information in a project using one system’s database that can be used throughout the process of design, construction, and operations collaboratively. Integrated BIG BIM is the future of the industry but its true power is just beginning to be realized.

Cohen explains that an example of waste with this software is when the architect creates a BIM model but doesn’t share it with the contractor because they’re afraid of liability. The contractor many times is required by the contract to create another BIM model, this means the client has to pay twice. BIM is a very powerful tool that can be used in truly revolutionary ways. We can solve problems, save money, and save time in the field. BIG BIM is the big picture that is taking that model from design through to construction then into operation. 



Past BIM


The concept related to BIM modelling began in the early computing days in the 1970’s including computer models for buildings. The BIM revolution began when 3D software, like Revit, was developed in 2000. This started to change how collaboration in the construction industry worked. Revit is a BIM software that, in theory, allows users to design a building, structure, and components in 3D, annotate the model in 2D, and tracks the buildings life cycle from concept to construction all the way to maintenance or demolition. 

Present BIM


Many tools can be used within BIM such as client decision making, design and engineering, pre-construction, estimating, scheduling, constructability analysis, construction coordination, and post-construction. BIM helps to properly coordinate between all members involved with the project which in favor helps with design execution.


3D model includes length, height, and width

4D model includes Time/Schedule

5D model includes Estimating or Cost/Quantity 

6D model includes Sustainability 

7D model includes Facilities Management 

Future BIM


There is a powerful database within Revit that lives behind the screen. It is so early that not many know how to make it work. Even professionals who understand the future benefits of BIM struggle to implement it, which means people are using new technology with old processes.


Cohen says we need to move into the future proactively instead of reactively. Try to recognize everything as a system. A better process can be accomplished by creating a system for integration. 


“Investing in value instead of energy consumption requires little financial efforts but rather creativity & intelligent solutions.” 

– Wolfgang Feist


The start of the solution is creating a better process and a system for integration. By sharing all possible solutions with all team members, this means an informed group decision can be made producing the optimized solution for budget, function, aesthetic, and performance.



What is Integrated Project Delivery?


Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is one method of planning and constructing a building with a cohesive team that uses collective sharing of information in real time to achieve market rate delivery of high performance buildings. This involves everyone on the project team’s collaboration. 


The intersection of each role is IPD.


“This no-cost strategy of IPD is the way to start achieving market rate delivery for passive house buildings or high performance buildings.” - Adam Cohen

The IPD process should not be bid based but objective driven. 

Integrate truly functional BIM in model functions all the way through from start of design to construction and into operations.

“Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into innovation.” - Dean Kamen

As Cohen says, the construction industry must understand how to cost effectively meet climate change and must consider it from day one of the design process. To better the design process, feedback mechanisms could be used so we could create, test, and refine components before marketing. Using IPD as a method to plan and construct a building with a cohesive team and collective sharing of information could achieve high performance buildings at a market rate. We need to learn to think better about wholes and relationships as a way to understand our complex environment. If we can educate the industry in IPD and LEAN construction Principles, this may lead to using BIM to its full potential. 

COHEN’S ADVICE: Young architects should become experts in BIM and understand the power of it’s database capabilities. It is an incredibly powerful tool and this is where the industry is going.


"If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough!” - Adam Cohen

All Graphics Courtesy of Vlado Atkovski