On Tuesday, March 6 the AIA Project Delivery Knowledge Community held its 2018 Symposium titled Delivering the Future at the AIA Headquarters in Washington D.C. The event provided an interesting overview of how project delivery methods have evolved to their current state and how we need to continuously improve and evolve them into the future. This need for innovation and disruption came through clearly during the opening keynote when Barbara Jackson, Director of the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver, told the group “the sweet spot for disruption is where the most complex problems and fewest solutions intersect.” This was a great message to set the stage for a diverse group of perspectives on project delivery, which came across through the following panels discussion topics

  • Project Delivery Strategies
  • Owners Panel: Public & Private
  • Trade Contractors and the Architects
  • Modeling and Research Panel

As the opening keynote continued, Barbara Jackson raised awareness to the external perceptions that the construction industry is low tech, archaic, using outdated business models, wasteful and has a low level of productivity which was clearly illustrated throughout the day in multiple charts/graphics from the recent McKinsey Global Institute’s recent report, as illustrated in the value-added graphic below.

Barbara also talked about looking for a “challenge driven approach” that is proactive and not reactive. She encouraged everyone attending to instigate solution finding for the challenges existing all around us. We should also look beyond just buildings for an innovative ecosystem and look at project financing, insurance and risk management as well and regulation, zoning and permitting opportunities.

Another common theme that permeated the event was the idea of how culture can define delivery models and the industry’s need to prioritize relational organizations more than transactional.  Our industry also needs to evolve from the idea of collaborating (agreeing to work together) to integrating (agreeing to work together as a team to achieve a common goal). That common goal is also one that should be defined by the client, not just the architects or contractor. We need to accept and best understand our clients are also looking for collaborative teams to bridge the gap in the differences within the standard of care between the architect and builder.

While many of these complex challenges exist across the industry, it’s exciting to be part of the integrated services team at CannonDesign that is emerging to provide these types of collaborative solutions for our clients. Taking advantage of just Lean, Integrated Project Delivery, co-location, BIM or anything else will not provide the full or best solution. Instead, we require a strategic approach with a repeatable process to best grow as design firms, innovate, and provide these types of project delivery solutions for our clients. We should be advocating for qualifications-based and/or best-value selection processes like those found in Progressive Design-Build and also looking to engage Design-Assist partners to drive opportunities for schedule alignment and cost control measures as integrated pieces of the design process.

These efforts will also catalyze greater prefabrication and modularization opportunities driving positive outcomes to accelerate delivery, provide design certainty, improve quality and enhance safety. This facet of the industry is an ideal scenario where the “most complex problems and fewest solutions exist” per Barbara Jackson’s earlier comments. It also where CannonDesign’s Integrated Modular Design (IMD) team is looking to disrupt the industry as a positive change agent for design and construction with our national alliance of partners and thought leaders focused on advancing project delivery.

At the end of the AIA Project Delivery Knowledge Community event, Phil Bernstein form the Yale School of Architecture provided the chart below, which was an interesting perspective on how our industry should transform its perspective on risk from one of mitigation to management and embracing it as a driver for additional value resonated.

This risk vs. value diagram mirrors how CannonDesign’s Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) initiative is achieving predictable outcomes by driving a process for a new standard of care in the development of reliable multi-disciplinary model-based deliverables supporting the Design-Construct-Operate continuum at CannonDesign driving bottom line cost savings which also enables the implementation from greater service line integration and Progressive DesignBuild strategies to achieve these outcomes. Phil also left us with his David Letterman style top ten key takeaways from the 2018 Project Delivery Symposium, which provided and excellent summary of what was a great event:

  • Construction may finally be entering an age of innovation.
  • Design and construction are integrating in various ways but culture is still a problem.
  • Technology is opportunistic, but not deterministic.
  • More collaboration and cooperation is better than less.
  • No single delivery model fits all, and we need to be smarter in choosing them…
  • …but delivery models are constantly evolving, so try to keep up.
  • Design is about iteration, construction is about optimization. Can they co-habitate?
  • We need more data on actual results (help us GSA!).
  • Outcomes are more valuable that commodities, but AEC is primarily transactional.

New methodologies need to be more socialized across the industry.

All in all, it was an interesting, inspiring and important event that will should help us advance project delivery as an industry in the year ahead.