As the integrated project delivery (IPD) team behind the new Lawrence + Memorial (L+M) Hospital cancer center, in affiliation with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, progresses in Waterford, Conn., collaborative Lean planning that took place months ago has already proven its worth.

I recently caught up with the L+M team, which includes construction manager Suffolk Construction and architect TRO Jung|Brannen (TROJB), which are each sharing risk with L+M and other contractors as part of a formal IPD contract.

Joshua DiGloria, senior project manager for Suffolk, says work has progressed through steel and onto mechanical systems installation in the building floors. And even the downpours of Superstorm Sandy didn’t affect the team too much, thanks to early warnings that permitted those in the field to prepare adequately. Also to L+M’s benefit was an erosion control system that had been installed as well as a binder coat of paving already down in preparation for winter months, each doing their part to control runoff.

Also knocked out are exterior lighting and a good chunk of landscaping with trees and grass on the outskirts of the site planted so L+M can take advantage of the coming spring for them to mature before the slated completion in September 2013.

But working ahead, the team says, is part of an overall objective to “maximize time wherever it makes sense to do work,” DiGloria says.

“To take advantage of squeezing the schedule and being as Lean as we can is one of our goals, so every day is a good work day,” he adds.

And now that the steel work is completed, there are a lot more subcontractors on site, with plenty of handoffs that need to take place between them, so the team has instituted a “last planner” system. 

“For the past month and a half, we’ve started to educate the trades on Lean processes and we’ve brought in a Lean facilitator to help teach subcontractors and those who haven’t done it before, and it’s new to some of our team members, too,” DiGloria says.

The last planner system essentially dictates that both interior and exterior work has its own pull plans that are tracked each day to see if goals are being met and whether the handoffs that are supposed to happen the next day actually can happen. If they can’t, then a subcontractor can avoid bringing in a full crew and wasting time on site.

“It’s about letting others know if you’re ahead, or behind, or right on, and having a good commitment for that handoff,” DiGloria says.

And for ownership, Brenda Bullied, facilities project manager, L+M, says she’s seeing the overall Lean process success stem back to a three-day 3P event the planning team held at the start of the project, involving all three primary parties—owner, designer, construction manager. From that event emerged a basic floor plan for the building and a design that’s identical to what’s going up right now.

From an owner’s standpoint, that’s been a cultural challenge—to make sure that we don’t change these plans,” she says. “I think a lot of what my role is, is interfacing with the users and letting them know why we don’t want to change something. Sometimes changes are wanted in the moment, just because it might be a new phase or a new idea. So I spend a lot of time reviewing what our thought process was and why we’re doing what we’re doing, how this integrates with construction, schedule, and budget, and everything else.”

Thanks to the inclusive approach, which also involved dozens of employees from all departments, the design has already been vetted, meaning any changes taking place at this stage are pretty minor in scale.

“That’s really helped the project get off to good start, where TROJB can help us with just the construction details versus fielding a lot of unnecessary changes because the hospital wasn’t ready to go build something,” DiGloria says.

And while it took a good month or two for the team to be prepared for those three days—from building mockups to creating floor plans to gathering photos of similar projects—the time committed upfront paid off, especially with the early involvement of all team members. For example, Suffolk was on site with estimators to immediately project potential costs for any design elements proposed, so time wasn't spent on designing something that realistically couldn't be built.

To boot, Bullied says Dana-Farber’s own planning department has estimated the 3P process overall has shaved 6 to 9 months off the design schedules they’ve seen at previous satellite facility projects.

Healthcare Design will continue following L+M's IPD project through this blog series, with the next installment tackling an “ah-ha” moment the team had when it came to building trust. For the first blog in this series, please read “IPD Project Watch: Teamwork Pays Off.”