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What Is an Integrated Project Delivery?

Jeffrey L. Callicott
Jeffrey L. Callicott

Integrated project delivery (IPD) is a term used to describe project development in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. The process came into use in the first decade of the 21st century and consists of unifying the project owner, contractor and designer into a single design team working collaboratively on the same data and sharing the same risks. The intent of IPD is to best utilize the collective skill of the project team, reduce waste and increase overall project efficiency. While the concept of IPD can apply to most designs, in practice its use has been reserved for larger AEC projects.

The most common approach to AEC project delivery has been design-bid-build. In this scenario, the owner sends a project to an engineer or architect for design. Once design is finished, the project is bid for construction and the data are passed on to a contractor for construction. After this phase is complete, it is turned over to the owner for operation.


“Design-build” is another common way of realizing an AEC project and seeks to create additional efficiency for the owner. With this type of project setup, a designer — typically an architect or engineer — teams with a contractor to create a design-build firm, a joint venture between the two. This usually allows a project to be completed more quickly than would normally be possible with design-bid-build.

Despite the many advances in technology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the productivity of the construction industry has not kept pace with other types of commerce. Integrated project delivery is intended to help close this gap by taking the design-build concept even further. By adding the project owner to the team, the resources of the entire project team are combined within a single entity. This happens regardless of the actual companies or governmental agencies involved, or even their physical location.

Integrated project delivery is as much a philosophy of team building and mutual trust as it is a project delivery method, and it represents a departure from previous project delivery methods. By combining designer, contractor and project owner into a single team, integrated project delivery mandates that all team members are contractually obligated to collaborate toward the same goals. All members of the team share equally in the risks, rewards, decision-making and liability.

There are eight main stages of integrated project delivery:

  • Conceptualization phase (expanded programming)
  • Criteria design phase (expanded schematic design)
  • Detailed design phase (expanded design development)
  • Implementation documents phase (construction documents)
  • Agency review phase
  • Buyout phase
  • Construction phase (construction/contract administration)
  • Closeout phase

The definition and order of these phases come from two key aspects of IPD. First, it is desirable to gain insight through coordination with the project designers as well as the contractor and any suppliers and fabricators, so any items requiring longer amounts of time to procure may be identified as early as possible. Second, the phases are driven by the ability of the team to design and model the project using building information models (BIM) or similar software that can create intelligent, interactive models.

Similarly, all members of the team utilize the same electronic data from a single shared storage location, regardless of the team members’ physical locations. The arrival of data management software allowed multiple users to work on a single set of data stored in one location. BIM soon followed. These types of software, in turn, led to integrated project delivery.

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