A lot can happen during any construction project to produce an end result that doesn’t quite align with the design that was originally created. From staff pushing for a change of course to tightening budgets calling for value engineering, there are simply no guarantees.

But for the new Lawrence + Memorial (L+M) Hospital cancer center in Waterford, Conn., the project team got awfully close, says Brenda Bullied, director of facilities innovation and planning for L+M.

I’ve been tracking the L+M project for the past year, holding regular calls with Bullied and fellow project management team (PMT) members Josh DiGloria, senior project manager for Suffolk Construction, and Pamela Mace, senior associate/project manager with TRO Jung|Brannen, to see precisely what the realities are—the highs and lows—of working under an integrated project delivery (IPD) contract.

So as the team approached its October opening, of course I wanted to know how it all came together in the end.

Bullied shared how the very same patient advocates and cancer survivors who two years ago took part in a 3P event to kick off the design stage of the project returned to see the finished building and offered the usual positive remarks you might expect to hear. But more than that, they said it’s just what they’d expected.

“There are no surprises. This is how they thought it was going to be,” Bullied recounted. “I don’t think you often have that in construction.”

From that first 3P event to 3-D visualization models, the team worked diligently to present to patients, staff, the community, and any other interested parties what the facility was going to be and integrate feedback into the design. And that effort to engage didn’t stop, all the way up to the point that the 3-D model became a brick-and-mortar building that could be toured.

“It allowed everyone to be part of the process,” Mace said. But it came with a price, too: time.

“There are a lot of discussions and a lot of things people need to be ready for and anticipate and question. It’s tiring. But when the staff that’s going to treat cancer patients says, ‘This is perfect for what I need to treat my patients,’ it’s worth that effort for everyone involved,” DiGloria said.

So I had to ask, “Just how does having an IPD contract achieve this exactly?”

The team admitted it’s not necessarily about the contract itself. Instead, the contract provides a structure—the rules, if you will. But beyond that, there’s a heck of a lot of personal responsibility that has to come into play for the PMT members. “You’re always thinking about the project, you’re always trying to be a team,” Mace said.

“Everyone has to put that time in and has to be committed to those team goals to make it successful,” DiGloria added. “There’s the structure versus are you really going to put the time in? Do you really care that the cancer center is open on time or that the color is perfect for the staff? There is still a personal side where you need to have the team members who have that desire.”

And while the project came with its tough spots (difficult conversations between the three at-risk parties on a variety of project challenges), the delivery method provided a different avenue to pursue to solve them (working together to find a solution rather than hanging one team member out to dry).

“It doesn’t eliminate many issues; it’s how you deal with them,” Bullied said.