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Alternate Delivery Models: Best Practices for a Successful Project


Alternate delivery models are becoming more and more popular for certain types of projects throughout Canada and the US. These delivery models, such as P3 and IPD, put collaboration front and center, which aligns with Entuitive’s values and is one of the reasons we enjoy these projects so much. When done right, these models bring tremendous value to projects in terms of cost, timeline, and a finished product that truly meets the needs of all stakeholders.


In this article, we’ll dive into the three primary alternate delivery model types as well as the best practices and project types for each.


In just the last 10 years, Entuitive has delivered more than 30 alternate delivery model projects and the number of projects has continued to increase year after year.


Public-Private Partnerships (P3)


Public-private partnerships are long-term agreements between the government and private sector to deliver large, public infrastructure projects.


The government or public entity leading the P3 first establishes the scope and guidelines of the project, then brings on design and construction teams to compete for the opportunity to design, deliver, and in many cases maintain the project. The selected private sector consortium finances the project, and the government entity pays them back over a pre-determined number of years.


The primary benefit of the P3 model is that budgets and timelines are locked in. Since the private sector finances the project, with the government paying them back, taxpayers are protected from cost overruns. This model also necessitates deep collaboration among the consortium.


Best Types of Projects for P3s

  • Bridges

  • Hospitals

  • Court Houses

  • Schools

  • Transit

  • Roads

  • Institutions

P3 Best Practices & Considerations


1. Early Collaboration


In our experience, P3s work best with, and necessitate, deep collaboration among all sub-contractors and tradespeople early in the pursuit process. At this stage, the design is not yet fully completed, so it’s important to have key representatives with abundant P3 and sector experience at the decision-making table. This allows the budget and schedule to be locked in, and enables all involved to understand the big picture and what is important to each consultant.


It’s also critical to document all the decisions and assumptions made at this stage. This way, when it comes time to deliver the project, the entire team understands the intent during the pursuit phase. Similarly, it’s critical to identify all areas of risk and work closely with all parties to capture those risks in the pursuit submittal.


2. Identifying Risk


As mentioned above, it is crucial to identify risk items with the pursuit team during that stage of the project. So important, in fact, it’s worth mentioning twice. An example of the importance of risk identification can be found when the new structure is interfacing with an existing structure and there are insufficient existing structural drawings.


The team will have to make assumptions here and it’s vital to discuss and document all those assumptions while providing the costing team with a potential solution and its associated risks.


3. Internal Work Plans & Schedules


Once the pursuit is won, all disciplines are then working at the same time towards the committed schedule. In our experience, an internal work plan that maps key milestone dates (alongside key decision dates from our consortium partners) is invaluable.


Using this work plan, we regularly communicate and tweak the schedule with the full consultant team. We find this practice is crucial in informing and setting expectations for all.


Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)


IPDs prioritize engagement and collaboration with all stakeholders sharing in the risks and rewards of the project. The project team, typically comprising the client, design consultants, and trade partners, sign a multi-party agreement to bear the costs of the project equally. In this way, the entire project team has a vested interest in delivering the project on time and on budget.


Best Types of Projects for IPDs


The Integrated Project Delivery model is best suited to complex projects that require multi-trade coordination; large projects on which administration/participation costs can be optimized; projects where owners are seeking to optimize cost, time, and quality; and projects with clients seeking high levels of engagement and collaboration with the design and construction teams.


Projects for which we’ve seen the IPD model work successfully include:

  • Schools

  • Institutions

  • Healthcare facilities

  • Private owners who develop and hold their properties

IPD Best Practices & Considerations


1. Asking the Right Questions in Design


The key to a successful IPD project is bringing the right questions forward in design. The integrated model allows for this to happen from anywhere in the “Big Room”. For example, it is not uncommon for a solution to a coordination challenge to come from a discipline not directly involved with it. It’s crucial to get the Big Room involved and keep asking questions.


2. Collaboration Is King


There is no room in a Big Room for team members who cannot break out of the old delivery model paradigm. Collaboration with those whom you might not ordinarily work with is key to an effective IPD team. As noted above, the next good idea could come from an unexpected place. If team members are stuck in their boxes of traditional project delivery, collaboration is that much harder to implement.


Early collaboration among the team must also include identifying all risks and creating a plan to manage them. The Big Room is the perfect place to have these discussions.


3. Decision Logs


Document, document, document. When working in such a big team, it is critical to document and tag all decisions made so that they are easily referenced later on. Many key decisions can often be forgotten or lost on a traditional project. When correctly tracked and maintained, decision logs can save time and/or allow for new considerations without re-doing effort.


Design Build (DB)


The Design Build delivery model is a contractor-led model in which the contractor puts the design team together. Similar to the IPD model, the DB form of “single-source” contracting leads to increased collaboration among the team, ensuring the owner’s schedule, budget, and project needs are met.


Best Types of Projects for DBs


The Design Build model is ideal for projects with a tight schedule, and projects where the client wishes to define their performance standards to a degree that still allows the DB team to optimize and deliver the best value.


These project types can include:

  • Bridges

  • Roads

  • Warehouse/shell industrial buildings

  • Infrastructure facilities, such as water treatment plants and power plants

  • Hockey arenas

  • Primary and secondary schools

DB Best Practices & Considerations


1. Early Design Inputs & Accurate Costing


Typically it is the contractor submitting a proposal to the owner of a DB project. The contractor has put together a design team for the pursuit, who must provide accurate conceptual design input for the contractor to cost appropriately. Timelines are usually tight on these projects, so providing clear design information and identifying risks is critical. Entuitive’s experience on these projects allows us to prepare this information quickly when needed.


2. Realistic Understanding of the DB Process


A design team’s past experience with DB projects can be the key to successful project delivery. As mentioned above, timelines are typically tight on DBs, meaning teams must be familiar with the type of project in question and the effort and coordination required to mobilize on schedule. This in turn allows the contractors and trades to complete early works or order long lead items ahead of schedule to provide the best value to the project. In effect, an accurate and realistic understanding of how DBs work will ensure that the project happens at the required pace.


Projects We’ve Delivered


Below are just a few of the alternate delivery model projects our team has delivered or are currently working on.


New Adult Mental Health and Addictions Facility, St. John’s, Newfoundland, P3 Project


Rendering courtesy B+H Architects.


Entuitive is the Structural Engineering and Building Envelope Consultant on the New Adult Mental Health and Addictions Facility, or NAMHAF, in St. John’s. The six-storey facility will be an addition to the Health Science Centre campus and will provide a 102-bed hospital, a 60-bed hostel to replace the Agnes Cowan Hostel, and a 1,000-car parking garage.


NAMHAF is a P3 project, which requires deep collaboration and parallel work streams. Entuitive’s experience on P3s enabled us to provide guidance on costing and design direction in the pursuit phase, and leverage advanced technologies to create efficiencies that allowed us to deliver on the tight timeline.


Humber College Lakeshore Campus, Toronto, Ontario, IPD Project


Rendering courtesy Diamond Schmitt Architects.


Humber College Lakeshore Campus opted for the IPD delivery of their Cultural Hub project, which includes classrooms, student residences, performance spaces, a cafeteria, and athletics facilities. This project is currently under construction (January 2022) and has seen the benefits of IPD from many vantages, including the close coordination and integration of structural trades, with phase 1 of the project consisting of a concrete podium and a timber student residence above with a steel transfer over the existing recording studio.


Having all three trade contractors involved in the design process significantly assisted in integrating the systems together and streamlined construction at these interfaces.


For more information on this project, reach out to David Fox.


Garth Worthington K-9 School, Edmonton, Alberta, IPD Project


Image courtesy the IPD project team.


Entuitive provided both Structural and Building Envelope services on this IPD project, a K-9 School in Edmonton. We also provided Fire Engineering services for the mass timber feature stair made of glue-laminated timber (GLT).


The architectural vision for this project entailed a creative and thoughtful tribute to the school’s namesake, Garth Worthington, who was a music teacher with Edmonton Public Schools for 33 years. The façade of the school looks like piano keys with the windows placed to evoke the notes on a piece of sheet music, specifically the notes from the first line of Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi, a favourite of Worthington’s.


This project benefited from the IPD process, which enabled the team to complete the project under the approved budget and schedule while achieving the owner’s needs and design aspirations. This inspirational school opened its doors to students and teachers last September.


Entuitive’s experience with alternate delivery models has allowed us to amass a store of best practices and considerations for these projects. We enjoy each such project we work on as the foundation of deep collaboration matches our firm’s values. We believe that we are better together, and alternate delivery models enable that mindset right from the start of a project.



Feature Image: Okotoks Arts & Learning Campus Library, Okotoks, Alberta.

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