Integrated Project Delivery: Two Key Ingredients

January 20, 2017

Integrated Project Delivery is a highly collaborative team-based delivery model built on two important and related concepts: trust and identity.


Trust is such a fundamental foundation of success in IPD that it is the first item listed in the Principles of Integrated Project Delivery, the original IPD manual:

“Integrated Project Delivery is built on collaboration, which in turn is built on trust. Effectively structured, trust-based collaboration encourages parties to focus on project outcomes rather than their individual goals. Without trust-based collaboration, IPD will falter and participants will remain in the adverse and antagonistic relationships that plague the construction industry today." (Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide, AIA California Council, 2007)

Teams built on trust where each team member supports the others and want them to succeed share a common goal to deliver a project more effectively for each other’s benefit. When problems arise, teams built on deep trust mobilize to collectively eliminate the issue.

The emphasis on trust is reinforced by the shared rewards system (where everyone shares the same profit pool) a fundamental tool of IPD. The shared reward pool is a single common pool of money from which all losses or profits for the project are held and only distributed when the project is successfully completed.  Everyone’s savings are shared equally for mutual benefit and reward. The shared pool helps reinforce the team’s values, and sense of trust that no one is benefitting more than agreed.

So, a high functioning team is built on a foundation of trust, and this trust reinforces the sense of common purpose that IPD aspires to.


The second ingredient for success in IPD is more subtle and more deeply ingrained, that of identity. In any multi-party endeavor each party come to the table with an already established identity, which often includes certain preconceived behaviors, knowledge and ‘turf’ in which people feel they operate most comfortably.

For example, an architect is most comfortable in the role of designer and design intent so that is the turf on which they are most comfortable, while a contractor is used to the notion that their turf is more concerned with schedule and budget. Identity is often not a conscious choice, but an instinctual draw to the turf on which one is most familiar. Though they may collaborate in a true spirit of trust, they still carry different identities into that trusting relationship.

It is possible however to argue that, in true IPD, what is needed is for groups to rethink and expand their previous identity, and collectively create a new, common identity shared by all team members equally. True IPD is not just a tighter binding of members, it implies a fundamentally different mindset aimed at creating a common value system one where each team member feel free to contribute to, and impact each other’s realms.

This does not mean a free-for-all where all parties are equally implementing each other’s duties; the unique skills of each individual are still needed for the diverse set of tasks in a typical building project. But it’s possible that what is required for IPD is a blurring of identities, one where team members feel enabled, and can expand their previous understanding of their identity.

In a recent paper (OneDesign), I argued that one of the most intractable problems with the building design process is that it is segmented into roles and identities which subdivide the problem in ways that harm the overall integrated outcome. The solution is for team members to move beyond their segmented identity as a professional with a limited scope, and to embrace a more holistic identity that they all belong to an industry, the building industry. This is the essence of the challenge for IPD to move beyond a segmented approach, even a great approach based on trust, and into a continuum where the players are passionate and involved about every stage of the process.