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Which Project Integration Strategies Deliver High Performance Projects?

Project Team

Raymond Levitt, Daniel Hall, Howard Ashcraft


Project Owners are increasingly turning to project integration strategies such as colocation, shared risk/reward contracts, and virtual design and construction (VDC) to achieve High Performance (HP) buildings. However, research that explains which combinations of project integration strategies are most effective for HP outcomes is limited. To achieve HP outcomes, which strategies should owners use?

To answer this, researchers will measure the degree to which project integration strategies are used on eight healthcare projects. Researchers will then score the HP of these facilities in four categories: operability, usability, sustainability and buildability. From the results, owners will be able to understand which sets of project integration strategies are linked with HP outcomes. Building on methodology implemented in previous work, researchers will use fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) – a systematic and empirical approach well-suited for construction projects - to generate a theory about which sets of project integration strategies belong to a set of HP outcomes.

Project Background

Research Motivation

Project Owners are seeking High Performance (HP) buildings. A High Performance building is defined by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 as “a building that integrates and optimizes all major high-performance building attributes, including energy efficiency, durability, life-cycle performance, and occupant productivity” [1].

In other words, HP buildings must meet each of the four focus areas – buildability, operability, usability, and sustainability – emphasized at the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering. The project must be buildable, as measured by metrics of cost, schedule, and quality. It must be operable, as measured by the cost of maintaining the facility for the duration of its lifecycle. It must be usable, enabling productivity, efficiency and well-being of those who will inhabit the building. Finally, it must be sustainable, minimizing the use of resources such as energy and water. Buildings that succeed in all four of these areas can be considered HP projects.

Traditional methods of construction project organization have not always resulted in HP buildings. The reason is a construction industry characterized by extreme fragmentation between project stakeholders and a strong tendency to focus on minimizing first cost vs. maximizing lifecycle value. This fragmentation is often cited as the cause of poor project outcomes. In response, project owners increasingly are turning to project integration strategies to achieve HP buildings. Project integration strategies can be understood as specific mechanisms to integrate the information, organization, or processes of project teams. These project integration strategies can be formal (i.e. contractually stipulated) or informal (i.e. encouraged by project culture and normative team behaviors). Project integration strategy examples include colocation, shared risk/reward contracts, lean construction methods, and use of shared building information models (BIM) for virtual design and construction (VDC).

Research Objectives

The aim of this proposal is address the relationship between project integration strategies and HP outcomes in a holistic way. This research will study HP from the perspective of the project owner. Unlike the project team which is primarily focused on the buildability metrics (cost, schedule, quality), project owners are equally concerned with HP for usability, operability, and sustainability. The two primary research questions of this proposal are:

  1. What is the impact of various combinations of integrated information, integrated organization, and integrated process strategies on the usability, operability and sustainability performance of complex projects in the built environment?
  2. Which project integration strategies or sets of project integration strategies should owners use and how should they use them?

Expected Results

In theory, the use of project integration strategies will contribute to improved buildability, usability, operability, and sustainability. We hypothesize a link between certain sets of project integration strategies with HP outcomes. For operability, we hypothesize that a high score in VDC implementation and early involvement of key stakeholders will link with improved operability performance. VDC methods can implement an effective handoff using a Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) database. The early presence of operations and maintenance personnel in the design room should also improve operability. For usability, we hypothesize that projects with high levels of owner involvement – who can advocate for the future users of the facility – and extensive use of lean design thinking –  to eliminate waste in the path of travel of occupants – will improve usability outcomes. For sustainability, we hypothesize high scoring projects will involve the early involvement of key trade contractors who have knowledge of important energy and water systems. Sustainable projects should also have colocation among the project team to quickly exchange and globally optimize information required for the energy and water systems. Looking at combined HP as a whole, many of these project integration strategies overlap. In addition to the above strategies, we hypothesize that all four categories of HP will have the presence of shared risk / shared reward contracts that incentivize the good of the overall project over smaller, more fragmented pieces.  

[1] United States Congress. (2005). “Energy policy act of 2005.” Public Law, 109(58), 42

Original Research Proposal 

2016 Project Proposal

Final Project Report


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