IPD and BIM: A new dimension to collaboration

May, 2015

BIM – 3D modelling of design – potentially provides participants in construction/engineering projects with the opportunity to pursue a truly collaborative approach to design, construction and ongoing management of an asset. But do current methods of project delivery fully realise this potential. Is IPD the answer?

Building Information Modelling (BIM) (3D computer modelling of design) has been used increasingly by designers since the early 1980s. By its very nature, BIM delivers the greatest benefit when it is used collaboratively. To date, however, full collaboration has not been a feature of project delivery. Rather, BIM has been used in a relatively isolated way with, in many cases, only a limited extent of collaboration between the designers and the other major participants in a project. A significant contributor to limited collaboration has been the linear contracting methods traditionally adopted such as construct only and design and construct.

In this article we will discuss the option of using BIM under an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) contracting model. Using a relationship contracting model such as IPD provides the necessary underlying contractual framework for an extensive level of collaboration between the major participants in a construction and engineering project which, in turn, permits the full benefit of BIM to be realised.

What is BIM?

While many definitions exist a good starting point is the US National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee which provides:

‘Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.

A basic premise of BIM is collaboration by different stakeholders at different phases of the life cycle of a facility to insert, extract, update or modify information in the BIM to support and reflect the roles of that stakeholder.’

The committee also notes:

As a practical matter, BIM represents many things depending on one’s perspective:

BIM is a software tool that is used by the project team to virtually design and construct the building online by incorporating modelling simulations, such as constructability and services configurations which can be emulated during construction.

3D BIM modelling incorporates all relevant information and specifications relating to the project, and provides the project team with accurate data on:

(a) the whole-of-life costs;
(b) anticipated issues with buildability, including location of services; and
(c) programming constraints.[2]

 BIM and Collaboration

BIM is an information and work collaboration tool, allowing ease of communication and providing a platform from which everyone can work as opposed to maintaining separate information, ideas and drawings.

As noted by Ashcraft:

‘Building information modelling is more than a technology. Although it can be used without collaboration, such use only scratches the surface. Because the model (or models) is a central information resource, it leads naturally to intensive communication and interdependence. Building information modes are platforms for collaboration.’[3]

 Why Collaborate?

Enhanced collaboration is pivotal to efficiency. As noted by Macdonald:

‘Collaborative working practices, where all design team members are engaged at an earlier stage in the design process, aided by BIM tools, are estimated to save at least 10% of the cost associated with traditional design-build projects (Egan, 1998 and Allen Consulting Group,2010).’[4]

 Is Collaboration being achieved?

Notwithstanding the inherently collaboratively nature of BIM and the benefit that collaboration can deliver, to date this benefit has been realised fully only in a relatively small number of projects. A contributing factor to this is that a collaborative approach is not fostered by the traditional project delivery methods, such as construct only and design and construct adopted on projects. Under these methods each party is required only to do what its particular contract obliges.  There is no obligation to collaborate with all participants in the project or to ensure that an overall project goal or outcome is achieved. Consequently, in Australia BIM has been, and continues to be, used extensively by design consultants and constructors with varying levels of collaboration.

A survey of construction experts in 70 organisations across the UK conducted by the law firm Pinsent Masons in 2013 provided the following results:[5]

Consequently, if an enhanced level of collaboration is to be achieved a strong argument exists for exploring the use of project delivery methods which have the major participants in a project as parties and which foster collaboration between them.  Clearly, alliance contracting springs to mind however in both the UK and the US IPD is being increasingly promoted, and in some cases adopted, as the project delivery method that can best leverage the benefits of BIM.  This article focusses on using IPD with BIM.

What is Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)?

IPD is an emerging contract delivery model aimed at creating a cooperative environment, through the use of a multi-party agreement between the owner, designers, contractor and key trade contractors.

IPD was developed as a result of the increased pressure on owners and developers to:

(a) reduce the risk of costs overrun during construction of the Project; and
(b) forecast the whole-of-life costs of the asset.

The construction industry in the United States favours the use of IPD and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) define it as:

‘a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structure and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to optimise project results, increase value to the owner , reduce water consumption? and maximise efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction.’[6]

 How does it work?

The execution of a multi-party agreement between:

which form the IPD project team.

All the major stakeholders in the project have a direct contractual relationship with each other and they will have enforceable obligations between them concerning:

image 1

IPD involves a change to the sequencing of the design and construction of a project. The IPD project team is formed at the concept phase and each of the stakeholders work together to create an ‘as constructed asset’ in BIM before proceeding with construction.

IPD also mandates the use of BIM  and the similarly cooperative environment inherent in each allows the IPD project team to work in unison to overcome issues of buildability or unforeseen risk that otherwise would usually be managed during the construction phase.[7]

Further, the critical benefit of IPD is that it provides a contractual mechanism to enhance collaboration between all the major stakeholders in a project. However, this requires a change in approach as to how projects are delivered. Owners need to devote more time and incur expenditure at an earlier time in the delivery of an integrated project when compared with delivery on a design and construct basis. Nevertheless, this early investment of time and money means that design issues are resolved before construction is commenced, design alternatives and their cost implications can be explored earlier with the constructor and, as a consequence, a far more robust construction schedule and cost is established.

Relevantly, the AIA/AIACC Guide provides:

‘In addition to shifting design decision making forward, redefinition of phases is driven by two key concepts: the integration of early input from constructors, installers, fabricators and supplies as well as from designers; and the ability to model and simulate the project accurately using BIM tools.  These two concepts enable the design to be brought to a much higher level of completion before the documentation phase is started.

The result is that the project is defined and coordinated to a much higher level prior to construction start than is typical with traditional delivery methods, enabling a more efficient Construction phase and a potentially shorter construction period.’ [8]

The diagram below, from the AIA California Council’s ‘Integrated Project Delivery: Working Definition’, compares traditional delivery to integrated delivery, focusing on the shifts of when different aspects of the project are resolved and when different project participants become involved.[9]


Fundamental to the success of IPD is a mindset of teamwork based on open communication and trust between the participants.  All participants need to be committed to a collective approach to achieving the agreed goals and outcomes for the project.  They need to leave behind their usual approach to traditional contract delivery.


Why do BIM and IPD go hand in hand?

The interrelationship between BIM and IPD is reflected in the AIA/AIACC Guide:

‘A Note on Building Information Modeling

It is understood that integrated project delivery and building information modeling (BIM) are different concepts – the first is a process and the second a tool.  Certainly integrated projects are done without BIM and BIM is used in non-integrated processes.  However, the full potential benefits of IPD and BIM are achieved only when they are used together.’[10]

Further, BIM and IPD complement each other by improving the management of the project through increased data exchange and cooperation between stakeholders, which results in:

(a) less risk of defects and rectification;
(b) less waste of materials; and
(c) less issues during construction.

IPD is the catalyst which allows the parties to easily share ideas, information and intellectual property and this coupled with BIM, creates efficiencies throughout the life of the project. This methodology also removes the “us vs them” mentality because parties must share otherwise protected intellectual property to achieve the project outcomes.

As Ashcraft notes:

‘IPD is designed to encourage behaviors that lead to exceptional project performance and value. These goals are achieved through a properly crafted contract that should:

The relationship formed between IPD and BIM allows for greater flexibility when circumstances change. By way of an example, during the renovation of the Edith Green Wendell Wyat building in Portland Oregan USA, a major design issue arose during construction and the project team was required to redesign the west façade in 7 weeks. Although a feat in itself, the project team was able to overcome this delay as they were equally vested in project outcomes as opposed to protecting self interests.[12]

IPD and Alliance Contracting – different

IPD is a project delivery model which fosters collaboration and forms  a team mentality between the major participants.  In many ways IPD takes on a similar form to that of alliance contracting, in particular, due its shared risk and stakeholders putting their profit at risk.

However, IPD traditionally does not adopt an alliance type pain/share gain/share model rather the IPD project team agrees to a guaranteed maximum price at the start of the project and allocates a budget for each of the trade works. During this period stakeholders are required to disclose their budget constraints and collaborate with one another to establish KPI’s for quality, functionality and sustainability.

Another notable difference is that IPD mandates the use of BIM in a collaborative way between all parties whereas under alliance contracts generally there is not the same level of collaboration concerning BIM. The reduced collaboration in alliance contracts is, in part, due to the fact that there are generally fewer participants in an alliance i.e. owner, designer and contractor when compared with an IPD.

IPD also encourages the facilities manager to be involved in the process from day one so that it can assist the IPD project team to ascertain and understand the whole-of-life asset costs. A facilities manager is rarely a party to an alliance contract.

A further distinguishing feature is that IPD provides the parties with the option to pursue legal and equitable remedies against each other when a dispute arises whereas an alliance contract excludes the right for alliance participants to initiate legal proceedings against each other.

IPD and BIM in the USA

The American Institute of Architects advocates the use of IPD/BIM as an innovative delivery model. Although the uptake was slow at first, it is gaining momentum especially given the use of IPD/BIM on a number of health infrastructure projects. An example is the Sutter Health Fairfield Medical Project, which was one of the first high profile projects incorporating IPD and BIM.

Sutter’s $320 million project involved the construction of a three story, 70,000m2 medical office building using an early form of IPD whereby the owner, builder and architect entered into a multi-party contract. The contract mandated the use of BIM and required the parties to undertake weekly group modelling sessions, which ultimately identified over 400 system clashes that would otherwise have been dealt with during construction.[13]

The consensus from the project team was that IPD/BIM allowed for significant costs savings due to enhanced productivity, tighter scheduling, more prefabricated work and less redesign. However, some subcontractors complained that the model was far too intensive during the design phase of the project.

Fully Collaboratively 3D BIM in the UK

While the uptake of BIM to date has been slow, the UK Government has mandated the use of fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) on all UK Government construction projects by 2016.[14] While approximately two-thirds of the respondents to the Pinsent Masons’ survey think this timeframe will not be met the fact that the government is mandating the adoption of collaborative 3D BIM necessarily will involve increased adoption.

The UK Government/Industry BIM programme commenced in July 2011 and is focused on the adoption of BIM technology by both public and private sector organisations involved in the procurement and delivery of buildings and infrastructure.

The drivers for the adoption of BIM have been set out in the BIS BIM Strategy and the Government Construction Strategy and in overview these are the requirement to:

The need to adopt a different, collaborative, contracting model as part of the introduction of fully collaborative 3D BIM is acknowledged in the UK Government’s ‘Government Construction Strategy May 2011’ at paragraph 2.43:

‘It is in achieving tight integration that the potential for significant cost savings lie – for example by removing contractual interfaces and the corresponding risk pricing associated with protecting individual rather than project interests; but both value for money and the reliability of delivery would also be improved by taking a different approach, specifically in using an arrangement that will:


In the current economic climate, the Australian economy in general and the construction sector in particular need to be looking at how productivity can be increased.  It’s clear that there is a need for the construction industry to embrace new technologies and emerging delivery models if it wishes to cut costs, be more efficient and thereby increase productivity.

We have the technical tool, in BIM, which is capable of delivering very significant benefits in terms of cost savings, time savings and, therefore, increased productivity. To date, however, the full benefit of BIM has not been realised. To realise the full potential benefit of BIM it needs to be used collaboratively by the major stakeholders in a project. The necessary collaborative environment does not exist in the current traditional linear contract delivery models but, rather, is best created when all major stakeholders enter into a relationship based contractual arrangement, such as IPD, and form an IPD team.

For more information, please contact:

Contact Mills Oakley

Ziv Ben-Arie| Partner
T: +61 2 8289 5854
E: zbenarie@millsoakley.com.au

Andrew Wallis| Partner
T: +61 2 8289 5810
E: awallis@millsoakley.com.au

Peter Meades | Partner
T: +61 2 8289 5889
E: pmeades@millsoakley.com.au


[1]BIM: What Can It Do For Me?, Bill McNamara/Bentley Building Solutions, presented to the CADD/GIS Center Symposium 2006. https://tsc.wes.army.mil/symposium/2006/Thursday%5CMcNamara.pdf

[2] Graphisoft ‘About BIM’ – http://www.graphisoft.com/archicad/open_bim/about_bim/

[3]Building Information Modeling: A Framework for Collaboration, Howard W Ashcraft, 28 Constr. Law. 5 2008 at p 5.

[4]‘BIM – Adding value by Assisting Collaboration’ – Jennifer A Macdonald – University of Technology Sydney.  Paper presented to the Lightweight Structures Association of Australasia 2011 Conference (Industry Conference)

[5]Government ‘will miss key 2016 BIM target’, Iain Withers, building.co.uk, 12 February 2014, http://www.building.co.uk/government-will-miss-key-2016-bim-target%E2%80%99/5066460.article

[6] AIA in Improving Building Industry Results through Integrated Project Delivery and Building Information Modelling, Autodesk White Paper, USA,2008

[7]Improving Building Industry Results through Integrated Project Delivery and Building Information Modelling, Autodesk White Paper, USA,2008

[8]AIA National/AIA California Council, Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide, 2007 version 1 at p 22

[9]AIA National/AIA California Council, Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide, 2007 version 1 at p 22

[10]Building Information Modeling: A Framework for Collaboration, Howard W Ashcraft, 28 Constr. Law. 5 2008 at p 15

[11]Howard W Ashcraft Jr, ‘Negotiating an Integrated Project Delivery Agreement’, 31 Const. Law. 17 2011 at p 19

[12]IPD Case Studies AIA, AIA Minesota, School or Architecture – University of Minesota

[13]Cohen, J, 2010 ‘Integrated Project Delivery’, AIA USA, 16 1 – 62.

[14]BIM Roundtable Discussion”. http://www.thenbs.com/roundtable/ viewed on  13 January 2015

[15]‘Industrial strategy: government and industry in partnership, Building Information Modelling’, UK Government, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/34710/12-1327-building-information-modelling.pdf

[16]UK Cabinet Office, ‘Government Construction Strategy – May 2011’ at para 2.43, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/61152/Government-Construction-Strategy_0.pdf

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