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IPD – The Way of the Future

The Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) model has been around for close to two decades and, while it began in the United States, it’s slowly picking up speed in Canada. In fact, IPD has been called one of the future trends that will impact our industry.

At Entuitive we value collaboration, and the pandemic has only reinforced what we have always known – we are better together. On IPD projects, engagement and collaboration are prioritized and everyone shares in the risks and rewards. These projects allow clients and the design team to come together to better prioritize their values. This increased emphasis on values drives the rewards by deepening a team’s motivation toward efficient spending and scheduling.

In this article, we reflect on what IPD is, why it’s growing as a trend, and what it takes to make an IPD project a success.

What Is Integrated Project Delivery?

Research and experience have shown that a more collaborative approach to projects is more likely to produce success and encourage better team performance. These objectives are the foundation upon which IPD is built.

IPD projects bring together a project team – typically made up of the client, design consultants, and trade partners – that share responsibility to invest in the project outcome. Shared responsibility is ensured through a multi-party agreement that is signed by all project teams and waives liability to one another. In most cases, this ups the level of accountability and collaboration among all contract signatories.

Teamwork and shared responsibility are implemented from the get-go, even before the design phase. Before an owner commits to a project, all players gather for a “validation phase” – where the team engages to discuss whether the project goals, scope, and targeted budget are viable. This stage shapes the future of the project and is when the partners can really add value for the client, as all partners work together to find the right solutions to meet the client’s goals. A big benefit here is that if a client’s goal isn’t feasible from a budgetary perspective, it gets added to a “value add” list. If costs are cut during the course of the project, items from the “value add” list can be added back into the project scope.

Through all phases of the project, work is completed in a shared ‘Big Room’ where all parties co-locate and complete the majority of the effort together (i.e., in the same room working collaboratively).

In our experience, there are pros and cons to IPD projects, both of which we outline below.


IPD projects are some of the hardest but also some of the most rewarding projects to be involved in. Some reasons why include:

  • Better communication and collaboration, including talking about the right things at the right time.

  • Shared risk allows teams to move out of traditional scope delineation and assign the right person for the right job.

  • Being equal partners increases all team members’ engagement, creating a greater vested interest in the project, not just on any one firms’ success.

  • Greater opportunities to leverage technology and think across silos with an emphasis on the greater total good rather than what is best for one or a few individuals.

  • After validation, the client gets a plan for the building they have helped shape and develop that meets their requirements for the budget they have.

  • Enjoyable projects for all team members and the building of a strong project team.

  • Sharing of best practices and learning new skills from across the teams to improve individual firm productivity.

  • Stronger focus on project values such as public engagement or user experience.

The First Nations Technical Institute is a project we worked on in Edmonton.


The challenges that typically face IPD projects can include:

  • Higher upfront costs for the client during the validation and pre-construction phases.

  • Difficulty for consultants and trade partners to adapt to this new model and way of thinking.

  • Difficulty creating an open and collaborative environment among the various players.

  • Greater time commitment.

On balance, it seems there are many more pros than cons when we consider IPD projects, but it’s more than just the pros that make IPD a great strategy for a post-COVID world. We are already seeing trends in the industry that lend themselves well toward this delivery model.

Deeper Collaboration Is Becoming Increasingly Normalized

We have noticed an increasing trend toward design and engineering firms teaming up on projects that aren’t IPD to spread project risks, often at the behest of the client. We’re even seeing these firms subject to variable compensation based on performance. The desire for greater accountability and quality control is accelerating a trend toward greater collaboration and shared risk and responsibility – these are natural qualifiers for any IPD project.

There are also projects for which the contracts follow a traditional delivery model but use an Integrated Design Process (IDP). On such projects, there is no consultant risk and reward sharing, but the project is organized in a way that enables the whole team to be aligned on key project decisions to ensure the greatest overall good for the project, the client, and the project team. Entuitive has experienced the benefits of this type of team cooperation first-hand on projects like the University of Lethbridge Destinations.

The University of Lethbridge Destinations Project is an example of an Integrated Design Process. Image c/o KPMB.

Co-Location and Virtual Project Delivery

With the impact of COVID-19, we’ve been tested across the AEC community in terms of how much we can accomplish remotely. However, trends toward co-location and virtual collaboration were in place on many projects prior to the pandemic. It’s becoming increasingly common, and we’ll likely see more consulting disciplines coming together virtually to design and execute as a single entity for intensive phases of work, including with virtual “Big Rooms” for IPD projects.

Entuitive is a flat, international organization with a One Company culture that allows us to draw on expertise from across our seven offices to deliver the highest quality work for our clients. We’ve always leveraged technology to enable virtual collaboration both among our teams internally and with our clients and external project teams. With COVID, we’ve kicked it up a notch, offering services like Virtual Site Reviews to aid in ongoing construction when members of our team couldn’t visit a site in person.

Greater Innovation & Openness

With IPD projects, there is a mandate for openness and a greater opportunity to explore more options, including new options like modular construction. Since informed decisions are made by all players and impact all players, more options are brought to the table and explored from all sides – cost, constructability, schedule, impact on architecture, coordination across disciplines, etc. When we approach projects by looking at systems rather than components, we get a more holistic view of the project and work together to optimize how systems interact.

This openness can also support a push toward sustainability – more sustainable initiatives are put on the table, and while clients understand that these can be pricier at the start, over time, the savings add up over the lifecycle of the structure. An integrated project team can jointly quantify the return on investment of implementing various strategies, fully equipping clients to make the best possible decisions.

What Makes a Successful IPD Project?

At its core, a successful IPD project is about selecting the right team – all team members need to be able to communicate and collaborate and be capable of working in new ways that require new skills. The team also needs to align with the initial project objectives and be invested in a successful outcome.

One question we have been considering is how to really improve the IPD process to ensure that all partners are being sufficiently rewarded for taking on the additional risks in order to ensure the correct alignment of interests of all parties.

The Manulife Global Headquarters in Toronto is another IPD project we’ve worked on.

Because IPD projects can be time-intensive, it’s also important to follow IPD/LEAN processes that set a rhythm on a project and also to engage in consistent planning and scheduling. This will ensure the right time and resources are dedicated to the project to ensure its success.

Finally, at this stage in IPD’s development, being the right kind of project certainly helps. While IPD is a growing trend, there are certain sectors that are best suited to this type of approach. For instance, municipalities, governments, institutions, universities, colleges, healthcare facilities, airports, and private owners who develop and hold their properties are natural candidates.

At Entuitive, we think of ourselves as “creative, collaborative, and advanced,” and so, we also think of ourselves as a natural candidate for successful IPD projects. We currently have IPD projects underway across Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, some of which were featured in this article. These projects include:

  • Town of Okotoks Arts and Learning Campus

  • Garth Worthington School (Chappelle School)

  • Nordik Spas

  • City of Kamloops: Canada Games Pool and Tournament Capital Centre

  • First Nations Technical Institute

  • Humber College Lakeshore Campus

  • Alberta Block – Edmonton

  • Good Samaritan Edmonton Village

  • Manulife GHQ

As members of the IPDA, we’re excited to work with your team on upcoming projects across Canada and the United States.


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