Using the Cloud to Meet Alternative Project Delivery Requirements

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Design professionals like you are delivering projects in ways that are evolving. Just look at the projects you’ve done in recent years. Most likely, you’ve increased the number of projects completed using alternative project delivery requirements such as joint ventures, design-build and integrated project delivery (IPD). At the same time, firms are working on a growing number of international projects. They’re also expanding and contracting project teams to suit workloads by including people in other offices. All of these trends pressure project teams to find easier ways to collaborate and share information outside the confines of a single office.

A survey of architects published by the AIA highlights how some of these trends are taking hold in the industry. Fixed-fee projects — most alternative delivery projects are fixed-fee, as are many traditional projects — account for nearly 40 percent of firm billings, with that number rising to more than 50 percent for firms with 100 or more employees. More than 30 percent of all firms execute or pursue international projects, and that number surges to 77 percent for firms with more than 50 employees. While traditional modes of delivery still account for more than 60 percent of the construction contract value of projects, alternative modes of delivery account for nearly 40 percent of contract values. Some type of design/build contract accounts for 16 percent of construction contract values, and that number continues to rise.

Several factors have driven the shift toward these alternatives from design-bid-build delivery. The shortened project timelines and aggressive budgets so common in the economic downturn of 2009 to 2011 became commonplace after the economy improved. Alternative delivery methods proved well-suited to meet the requirements of lean budgets and condensed schedules because they improved project collaboration earlier in the design process. See how three leading architecture firms use the cloud to meet alternative project delivery requirements: download the ebook.

The widespread use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) has helped to hasten the trend, with more than 70 percent of architects reporting that they’ve used some form of BIM. And in the U.S., more than 68 percent of owners recently surveyed require or encourage the use of BIM. That’s in part because the use of intelligent models enables the clear communication and collaboration that is so essential to alternative modes of project delivery.

The increasingly widespread use of cloud technology looks poised to further accelerate the trend. A report from the AIA notes that cloud technology is one of the key forces likely to drive change in the practice of architecture in the future.

Why does cloud technology enable alternative modes of project delivery? It has the potential to connect everyone on an extended project team to the latest project information. But not all forms of cloud-based collaboration are created equal. Some fail to deliver native support to the intelligent models so essential to the BIM process, making this type of cloud technology simply a tool for file exchange and management. Firms relying on alternative modes of project delivery are seeing more time and cost savings from technologies that provide a true hub for BIM-driven project activity.

To see how architecture firms like Gensler and Corgan use the cloud to meet alternative project delivery requirements, download the eBook.This white paper explores the role of cloud technology in alternative modes of project delivery and highlights how three leading firms are putting this technology into practice on their projects.

Defined: Leading Modes of Alternative Project Delivery

  • IPD (integrated project delivery): This method of project delivery integrates the efforts of the design team, contractor and owner more closely than does a traditional design-bid-build process. Reliant on BIM processes and close collaboration, IPD teams virtually explore projects before they are built and then continue the exploration throughout construction to speed processes, reduce the risk of error and trim costs.
  • Design/build: This brings the design and construction processes together under a single contract from the beginning. With these types of projects, which are often jointly led by separate architecture and construction firms, close collaboration helps to ensure success.
  • Joint venture: This involves a collaboration between two or more entities, such as two smaller architecture firms joining together to deliver a single large project. Again, collaboration is essential because the entities involved are jointly responsible for a quality outcome. Any of the above can be combined in a single project. For example, a design/build project could use an IPD mode of delivery and be a joint venture.

Overcoming Collaboration Obstacles

Even with BIM, the path to successful project completion using these alternative modes of project delivery has not always been smooth. That’s because collaboration between people working in multiple offices, across borders and in different firms requires planning and technology infrastructure. And until recently, available infrastructure didn’t support smooth information exchange — necessitating time-consuming manual coordination to avoid the risk of errors such as working from an outdated version of a model. A recent survey of industry participants found that 33 percent of respondents see cross-organizational online collaboration tools as potential productivity boosters.

Firms have used a variety of methods to keep extended project teams on track. Co-location is one option. Team members meet at a single location to work more closely. This might not unite the whole team, but co-location brings people from each participating entity together. The downside of co-location is cost; bringing a large team together in a single location is often quite expensive.

Whether teams rely on co-location or not, close collaboration requires some way of exchanging models. FTP sites, along with guidelines for when new files must be uploaded, have proven to be a popular option. But keeping track of the latest versions of models is challenging, as is communication, with simple questions leading to time-consuming flurries of emails and phone calls.

The cloud provides a secure simple way to exchange information. But many cloud services lack the capabilities needed to support building models; they’re just methods of sharing information. More sophisticated, industry-focused cloud solutions have recently come to the fore.

Many leading firms are moving away from cloud-based collaboration tools that aren’t suited to leveraging design models. Instead, they’re embracing cloud-based collaboration methods that support building projects and that deliver the capabilities needed on projects with alternative project delivery requirements.

To see how architecture firms like Gensler and Corgan use the cloud to meet alternative project delivery requirements, click here to download the e-book.