Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery

Integrated project delivery profile


Project Team

Owners: Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, University of Wisconsin

Architects: Ballinger, Uihlein/Wilson Architects

Construction Manager: A joint venture between J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. and M.A. Mortenson Company

Mechanical/Electrical: AEI/Affiliated Engineers Inc.

Piping: PSJ Engineering

Structural/Site/Civil: GRAEF

Telecommunications: Intelligent Network Solutions

Landscape: Olin Partnership, GRAEF

The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (“Discovery”), on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, has two owners and houses two major transdisciplinary research organizations. With a concentrated schedule, aggressive goals for sustainability, a paradigm-changing collaborative research model, and an urgent mission to accelerate new knowledge improving human health, the project compelled consideration of alternative modes of project delivery.

Recently honored as R&D Magazine’s 2012 Lab of the Year, Discovery fosters and supports fluid interdisciplinary teaming with social ergonomics strategies and laboratory flexibility. Research now being conducted at Discovery includes systems biology, epigenetics, BIONATES, regenerative medicine, virology, pharmaceutical informatics, and health care systems, environments, and treatment technologies optimization. Discovery systems performance targets a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 50% reduction in water use in building operation, as compared to recently constructed research laboratory buildings elsewhere on the campus.

The lab spaces of the 300,000-sq-ft Discovery building are organized in a nonlinear concentric pod configuration, creating thermal buffers and optimizing daylighting. Highly reconfigurable plug-and-play utilities accommodate lab modification and support the sustainability-related objective of a 100-year building. Technologies and strategies to reduce energy consumption include exhaust heat recovery, chilled beam, LED task lighting, daylight harvesting, geosource heat exchange, hybrid natural ventilation, and solar generation of domestic hot water. An integrated system of building controls and automation monitors and records the energy- and water-efficiency of the facility, tracking the use of water and of energy for lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, equipment, and plug load at the building and individual lab levels.

The owner briefly considered a fast-track approach given the project’s accelerated schedule but realized that fast-tracking alone wouldn’t require the extent of team collaboration needed to successfully execute the functionally intricate, large-scale, sustainability-focused design. With its basis of shared risk and reward, integrated project delivery (IPD) was seen as the best way to establish a collaborative culture among owners, designers, and builders for the duration of the project, and as most effectively translating the expenditure of resources into owner value.

In a conventional project delivery, the designer and builder contract individually with the owner, effectively creating jurisdictional boundaries. The Discovery project team developed its integrated project agreement (IPA) in negotiations including owners (a single owners’ representative/project manager), designers, and builders. The parties established and agreed to honor operational protocols optimizing coordination, transparency, and accountability. The team adopted a target value approach, agreeing to design to a set budget rather than pricing a developing design at a series of project milestones and eliminating elements exceeding the owner’s budget. This would require ongoing cost estimating, beginning with establishing the target value, thus including the CM/GC and subcontractors in very early design participation. A project contingency fund was established to cover unanticipated developments impacting project scope. This safety net provided change management and covered mistakes, failures of coordination, and workmanship issues.

The CM/GC joined six trades to their contract, replacing their hard bid contingencies with incentives distributed at three points in the project, with potential distribution down to the craft level. As the project timeline illustrates, the IPA wasn’t completed until well into design and at the outset of site preparation. It should be noted that many of the Discovery team members had worked together on previous projects; most had extensive experience with complex collaborative undertakings; they benefited from an experienced, highly effective, and significantly autonomous project manager; and they shared a sincere commitment to the project’s mission. Consequently, the protracted development of the IPA was simply another collaborative exercise, benefitting from an evolving culture of protocols, terminology, trust, and understanding.

The project’s broadly integrated concept development phase convened meetings of “cluster teams” that consisted of owner, designers, and construction representatives, addressing six critical components of the project: site, structure, enclosure, interior construction, lab casework, and MEP/IT. BIM was established as the central design and building tool (the CM/GC was given “right of reliance” on the BIM design models), enhancing collaboration, integrating the project team, and controlling waste by helping the team identify and resolve problems and conflicts early. The team established a “big room” design workshop strategy space in a building adjacent to the project site, to facilitate continuity in information flow.

The Discovery building was conservatively estimated to have been completed a year sooner than would have been possible using a conventional design-bid-build approach. Savings realized from unused “safety net” contingency, the removal of subcontractors’ hard bid contingency, and through the precision of target value design were reinvested in the project to additionally provide within the original target value: all lab fit-out in the facility; expansion in size and capacity of the server farm; the earth heat exchange system, solar generation of domestic hot water, LED task lighting, and systems integration; a TelePresence room; and the RFID system for research project asset management.

While the Discovery project stands as a landmark achievement for all the members of the project team, some lessons were learned. The MEP cluster would have benefited from supplemental subgroups. The prominence of the building’s complex engineered MEP systems (50% of overall project value) resulted in an unwieldy number of participants included in the MEP cluster (30); an ideal cluster team size is eight individuals. Supplementing the respective disciplines with subgroups would have focused and simplified management of these areas throughout the course of the project.

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