The Success of Collaboration
The Success of Collaboration
By: Damon Chandler
In February 2016, Southland Industries had just finished up a full HVAC, mechanical piping, plumbing, and process piping design-build scope for a research and development lab in South San Francisco. While the project’s contract structure encouraged collaboration and transparency among all team members, challenges were still waiting for the team each day. Looking back one year later makes it easier to identify lessons learned and understand both the challenges the team was able to overcome and their relationship to future projects.
Previous working relationships among some of the project team members proved to be key for the entire team. The project’s general contractor, subcontractors, and designers were able to set the tone for the project early on, which helped to streamline handoffs for the execution. Having experience working with many of the members on this project allowed the team to hone in on everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and carry forward lessons learned from previous projects. Together, the team was able to share the burden of deploying new technologies while working through steep learning curves. The collaborative environment, coupled with a highly engaged, visible, and vocal owner throughout the project’s lifecycle was not only ideal, but ultimately proved to be what was needed and best for the project.
The project presented various challenges that the team was able to work through. Initially, the schedule presented a major challenge. Early pull planning highlighted “out of sequence” activities driven by a modular construction component, which was a requirement of the owner. The team was forced to release the design in a sequence that would support early procurement of certain elements, as well as the fabrication of the modular units. The planning surrounding this process needed to be pulled forward, which did not align with the assumptions made early on in the design development phase.
In addition to the schedule, the modular assemblies and construction tolerances associated with introducing the modular units into the existing facility presented a problem of its own. Safety, the first priority for the entire team, was used to challenge most of the conceptual plans for the development of the modular units. That being the case, Southland's shop and field teams spent countless hours strategizing before finally creating innovative solutions that addressed fabrication, material handling, logistics, and installation.
Throughout the entirety of the project, the team used building information modeling (BIM). Design, coordination, constructability and facility reviews, sequencing, staging and logistic planning all interconnected to BIM. This, coupled with open and consistent communication and a cohesive flow between the shop, field, and project management, properly equipped the team to resolve the project’s challenges and ensured a safe, timely delivery for the client.
Within the current state of the industry, the overlap of design and construction and the increasing popularity of integrated forms of agreement (IFOA) or shared risk and reward contracts is creating a shift in the way projects are delivered. The state of this project made it very clear that true collaboration is needed in order to be successful. Without the IFOA contract structure, the team could have easily drifted apart, reverted to the more traditional silo method, and not overcome the hurdles they faced. However, by remaining positive, respecting one another, understanding the owner’s expectations, and sharing the risk, the perfect recipe for a complex assignment was achieved. Southland is embracing this type of collaboration and many of our team members thrive in the collaborative environment. This same attitude is needed in order to move forward with other trade partners within the industry to make the same transition.