Trades and IPD? Excitement and Trepidation
As we contemplated bringing sub-trades on board to our Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) model, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had consistently heard from people in and around construction that the trades would scoff at the idea of an IPD or risk reward contract-sharing scenario. And, that most wouldn’t want to change the way things are currently done.
So heading into territory unknown, I started making phone calls and as expected, I got varying responses. Some trades immediately indicated this would cost more, some seemed skeptical, and others were pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. So, to really get a sense of trade appetite for IPD projects, we set up two different meetings and invited 4 trades to each (mechanical, electrical, envelope and drywall). We figured if we got one of each in the room, they might feed off each other and comment more. We also knew that this could backfire; one overly negative person could derail the entire conversation.
During each of our two preliminary meetings, we debriefed the potential trades on the details of the project, the mission and rationale, then showed them the financial model. We wanted them to fully understand how their fee could be at risk if the project did not go well and how they could make extra money if we all found savings and worked effectively.
Yes, there was some skepticism but there was optimism. And even more surprising, there were trades who were excited about this process.
Interestingly, one of the common concerns expressed was regarding the design-assist portion. The trades were skeptical that the consultant team would actually collaborate with them. Many of them had experienced consultants who were unwilling to take suggestions from the contractor and often felt insulted by the implication that they needed help designing. If we truly were going to work as a team, we needed the relationship between our trades and our consultants to be highly functional with a high level of respect.
Often, the relationship between the trade and the consultant is buffered by the general contractor. The trade can grumble on site about design flaws and the consultant can grumble about change order pricing and product substitutions. These two groups interact in site meetings occasionally, but not that often – and their written communication is rarely direct with each other. So, it’s no wonder that this would be an area of concern for all parties. I somehow visualize unfamiliar dogs walking around each other and sniffing, no wagging tails, hesitant to do anything other than circle around until familiarity is established.
I do hope that we manage to get the right teams on board. This relationship, the one that will exist between trade, consultant and general contractor, is key to the success of this project. Getting each group to lower their defenses and really act as a team will make all the difference to the outcome.