Howard W. Ashcraft, Jr.: 'IPD is light years ahead of traditional delivery'

Howard W. Ashcraft, Jr.
, is a Fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers, an honorary member of the AIA California Council, and a member of the Integrated Project Delivery task force. He serves on the American Arbitration Association panel for Large and Complex Construction Cases for California and Nevada and on the Legal Counsel Forum of the American Council of Engineering Companies, and has been admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. He holds a bachelor's degree from Stanford and a JD degree from Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley.

BD+C: Is IPD the answer to aligning incentives with project success?

Howard Ashcraft: It's a quantum improvement over traditional delivery processes. You want to align people down to the individual holding the hammer. IPD doesn't go down to that level, but it's light years ahead of the traditional delivery process.

BD+C: You wrote the IPD contracts on Autodesk's office projects. What efficiency gains did you see on those projects?

HA: In the San Francisco project, the RFI turnaround averaged well under an hour because of this discussion. It was in the realm of 20 minutes with instant responses that allowed people to move forward much more swiftly. In Waltham, Mass., final project management decisions were made at a low level and that allowed them to move the project forward in really tough times. There were tight schedules on both projects, but they met them. In both situations the architects began to understand how the contractors needed their information to develop costing information. They started to visually draw for the contractor, which saved time in the erection process.

BD+C: Can the IPD process work without a committed owner?

HA: No. It is designed to have an owner who is intimately involved with the project. If you go back to Construction Industry Institute studies, most will indicate that the owner is the biggest factor in project success. Getting an owner who is active is a major thing, for IPD but also for delivering a better project overall.

BD+C: Is the U.S. legal system ready for IPD and BIM?

HA: The contracts are still evolving. We need to get the contracts optimized for use in BIM and IPD, and that will take care of the legal structure. There are some subsidiary issues having to do with professional licensing, third-party liability, and insurance that have not yet been nailed down, but I don't think those are huge impediments to adoption of IPD. The bigger impediment is that people have been used to doing things, in terms of contractual relationships, a given way for a long time. They have to unlearn a lot.

BD+C: Do architects and engineers need to "own" their risk more often?

HA: The needle has swung too far in the direction of insulating oneself from liability and separating oneself from the other parties in the construction process. That really has not been a successful strategy. The needle needs to swing more toward accepting responsibility for the entire process and making sure that the bad events—cost overruns, failures, and the like—don't occur.

BD+C: Are you satisfied with how the AIA and the AGC are addressing BIM and IPD in their new contract documents?

HA: No. I'm very pleased that they've issued the contract documents, but I don't think the current documents are 100% there yet. They've validated the concept of IPD, but we need to keep making the documents better.

BD+C: Is it good for government agencies and states to require BIM?

HA: Yes. Requiring BIM will get a lot more people involved in something they ought to be involved in. The difficulty is it's very hard to come up with a blanket specification for BIM that's applicable to all projects. You run the risk of being too generic and not requiring enough detail, or requiring detail you don't need. The GSA and the Army Corps of Engineers have struggled with that. But there's no doubt in my mind that few projects of any complexity can't be delivered better on a BIM platform.

BD+C: Will all projects eventually be delivered electronically?

HA: All projects of any complexity. There are some people out there still sketching with a pencil, but not many. Even if you only use BIM to catch the low-hanging fruit like conflict resolution, it pays for itself.

BD+C: How important is joint decision making?

HA: There are two issues: communication and decision making. Increasing communication is important to get information directly flowing in both directions. Decision making takes it to a whole different level, because in IPD we're asking people to assume certain risks: scheduling costs, quality, etc. It's difficult to do that without giving people control over that risk, and that means joint decision making. We've had subcontractors say, "Since everyone was asking my opinion, I really wanted to see this project succeed."


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