Q&A with Eric Lamb

DPR’s Eric Lamb Participates on Construction Panel at Harvard Business School Symposium

John Macomber, Professor in Real Estate at Harvard Business School, posed several questions to a panel of construction industry experts, including DPR’s Eric Lamb, at a symposium in October entitled, “Harvard Explores Integrated Project Delivery.” Panelists were asked to “go deep” on some conceptual construction phase issues. The following is an edited, condensed version of Lamb’s responses:

What are the opportunities and exposures with respect to extending IPD agreements to key subcontractors?
Extending IPD Agreements to key Subcontractors only enhances the entire project team’s ability to reduce waste, cost and time to market. Opportunities in several areas include: 1) detailed input into design scope and layout, 2) integration of prefabrication into design, 3) providing detailed cost as an input to design, and 4) providing visibility to delivery and costs in the Subcontractor supply chain. IPD is not for every sub firm or supplier. They have to “get it.” Exposures largely involve the early commitment to Subcontractors and spending more money upfront. However, our evidence over the last couple of years is clearly resulting in significant paybacks in value for projects that bring on the right Subcontractors earlier into the design process.

What about unanticipated items—a change, a concealed condition, a substitution?
It depends on when the change happens. We build virtually like we build physically: floor-by-floor and area-by-area. This requires that we lock-in the major design elements, carefully planning and managing the design. A user change during design is not free of impacts and cost, but it is certainly much easier and cheaper to incorporate than during construction. Plus we can understand the impact of changes better with BIM because we can see it.

More upfront input from stakeholders, and more design decisions earlier means more front end costs, but saves on back end. If possible, spend some time examining “concealed conditions” in the early stages using above-ceiling laser scans or live field inspections. This can reduce standby and redesign costs during the most costly phase of construction.

What does a GC firm have to do for investing, hiring and filtering opportunities if it expects to compete in the IPD world?
Organizations must prepare for a different world to succeed in it. By far the largest investment is training our staff and field forces to become effective facilitators of IPD, while thinking and practicing lean. We’ve found the best method is learning in action, which is another one of the reasons we are pursuing projects in which we can integrate the owner, design and construction into a single team.

For a more detailed account of Lamb’s discussion, please visit the case study here.