How an integrated project delivery approach benefits corrections construction projects

For years, industry professionals have promoted the benefits of employing a higher level of collaboration to deliver successful construction projects. Evolving primarily from Design-Build or Design-Assist approaches, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is now recognized as a proven method to maximize team member collaboration and deliver exceptionally smooth projects, resulting in greater overall customer satisfaction.

Enhanced collaborative methods, such as IPD, are driven by the desire to deliver projects faster, more efficiently, and with higher quality. The success of this approach is premised on engaging key professional and trade team members, early in the pre-construction phase, enabling their individual and collective expertise to significantly enhance design considerations, manage costs, and expedite a project’s schedule.

For corrections projects, two of these key partners are the Detention Equipment Contractor (DEC) and the Security Electronics Integrator (SEI).

As a detention facility operator, the reliability and quality of specialty equipment and the performance of electronic security systems will play major roles in determining the long term success of a new facility. When employing traditional delivery methods, such as General Contracting or Construction Management, DEC and SEI systems decisions are often limited to your architect and construction professionals – and that’s only if both are engaged in your project’s early planning stages, which isn’t always the case.

In today’s corrections building industry, where the number of reliable detention suppliers and consultants is limited compared to other trade partners, identifying and bringing qualified DEC and SEI partners on board early results in gaining invaluable insights up front, leading to minimizing future change orders (cost savings) once construction is underway.

In addition, the ability of these consultants to recommend items such as trending hardware systems, detention furnishings, camera monitoring locations and current technologies, enable the architect to spend more time on overall design thought and balance considerations, and less time researching the pros and cons of highly specialized industry line items.

As well as enhancing design input and gaining up front DEC/SEI expertise, costs for these specialized detention categories will be established earlier and more accurately as part of the estimating process. This enhanced input and transparency will allow for value-based decisions on criteria that’s far more reliable than lowest bid day prices.

Early collaboration with specialty contractors also leads to schedule benefits. In a traditional delivery approach, the design professional usually reviews and details detention equipment and electronic security systems prior to the completion of bid documents. After the bid period, and most likely after construction has started, DEC and SEI partners are required to submit detailed shop drawings that identify each component of their systems for validation by the design professional. Only after this review is completed can schedule-critical items be ordered. By engaging specialty detention contractors early, their respective systems and recommendations can be agreed upon, early in the design phase, facilitating timely purchases of critical furnishings and technologies resulting in the avoidance of costly schedule delays.

So, if the benefits of a collaborative approach clearly outweigh traditional delivery methods, why aren’t more corrections projects being delivered this way? The answer: This approach is not yet in alignment with most public procurement policies.

The two factors most often standing in the way of pursuing a more collaborative approach to delivering public projects include:

  1. Collaborative delivery methods, such as IPD, are based on the value-driven, early selection of key professionals and trade partners, not on standard public policies of awarding contracts to the lowest bidders.
  2. Because public entities tend to overlook the benefits of acquiring early specialty supplier and trade contractor input, project budget estimates have to remain flexible until all equipment/systems are selected, usually well into the design phase, at which time confirming a project’s estimated budget and start date are often already behind schedule.

Without question, effective collaboration will eventually gain the acceptance of public entities and the support of their respective governing boards. We are confident that collaborative approaches will eventually replace traditional project delivery methods.

The key will be for government bodies to embrace change by developing collaborative professional and trades partner qualifications based on demonstrated abilities to add value to the overall project, not just on price.

And, most important of all, then allowing them to continue working collaboratively to guide their project on a predictable course to overall success.


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