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LF Driscoll builds the Pavilion at Penn Medicine
The new Penn Medicine Pavillion will ultimately house 500 patient rooms and 47 operating rooms across its 17 floors and 1.5 million SF. Click to view the Pavilion at Penn Medicine, building by Structure Tone.
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Healthcare Pavilion at Penn Medicine

IPD in Action: Building the Pavilion at Penn Medicine

This spring, Penn Medicine announced what it calls the “largest capital project in Penn’s history,” and Philadelphia’s “most sophisticated and ambitious healthcare building project.”

The new Penn Medicine Pavilion will ultimately house 500 patient rooms and 47 operating rooms across its 17 floors and 1.5 million square feet. And while the $1.5-billion effort is already poised to take healthcare construction to new lengths, it’s also blazing new territory as one of the largest projects on the East Coast to design and build through an integrated project delivery (IPD) approach.

LF Driscoll is part of the PennFIRST IPD team building the project, which also includes Penn Medicine as owner, Foster+Partners and HDR as architectural designers, BR+A as engineering designer and Balfour Beatty as construction management partner, as well as a number of key trade contractor partners.
So what does it mean to design and build a project of this scale via IPD? “Integrated” is truly the name of the game, say those involved. Here’s how it works.

The business element
The contract itself is set up to not only encourage but demand a collaborative environment. Rather than each project team member signing a contract with the owner, the entire team is contracted together in a multiparty agreement where the success of each party relies on that of the others. “We’re all partners in this together,” says Ed Hanzel, project executive with LF Driscoll. “The contract describes what the process is and how we work through that from a business perspective.

This structure also allows the team to add key trade contractors and consultants through the same contract structure. In other words, these key contractors become invested, both literally and figuratively, in the project along with the main players, giving them the incentive to help find innovative, efficient or creative ways to reach the project’s goals.

The behavioral element
The attitude required to make it in an IPD environment is certainly one of the differentiators from more traditional construction approaches. “Everyone involved has to be fully committed, and you have to believe in the process,” Hanzel says. “If you don’t trust the other team members, it won’t work.

As part of the PennFIRST team, the members developed guiding principles and signed a “covenant” that defines the team’s values, principles and collaborative processes and holds all project team members to them. Through that promise, the team has committed to truly working collaboratively—from participating in team-building exercises, to taking personality compatibility tests, to following a well-developed process for team decision-making.

At the center of this team dynamic is perhaps its most critical feature: the colocation space, also known as “the colo.” The colo is essentially an office for the IPD team, similar in design and function to any of today’s collaboration-focused workplaces. For the Penn Medicine Pavilion, Penn Medicine helped facilitate renting 24,000sf of office space near the construction site to use for the colo, which is filled half with open-concept individual work stations and half with working areas ranging from large, open meeting rooms with moveable partitions to smaller conference rooms, huddle rooms, a “visualization, conceptualization and modeling” room and areas for small mock-ups.

Healthcare Pavilion at Penn Medicine

In “the colo”, members of the project team work side by side.

The advantage, says Hanzel and LF Driscoll project director, Matt Guinan, is that the entire project team is together, in the same space, making a truly integrated process possible. “We’re able to employ Lean project delivery tools to integrate planning, design, costs, scheduling logistics, construction planning—you name it—all together in real time,” says Guinan. “Different aspects of the project inform each other, which allows us to figure out the best way to do things.”

Take the concrete foundations, for example. As Hanzel explains, “We brought the concrete contractor into the colo to work with the engineers to design and detail the rebar in a way that would make fabrication and the assembly process much easier.

The team can also introduce construction safety earlier and more effectively through this integrated approach. “We host ‘Design for Safety’ workshops in the colo where our contractors come in to explain what design changes could make their jobs safer and make the building safer for the operations and maintenance staff in the future,” says Guinan. “That’s something we can’t do in a traditional approach.

The process element
Another benefit to the IPD approach is the cost control built into the process. At the beginning of the project, the team collectively develops a “project target cost” based on the owner’s budget and program. This target guides all the decisions made for the design and construction going forward. Also called “target value design,” this process allows the designers, construction managers and users to work together throughout to make changes and informed decisions that will keep the project from creeping beyond the target cost.

In a conventional approach, the owner tells the designer what they want, the designer designs toward that end, and the construction manager costs it. If the project costs are over budget the team goes back to the drawing board to value engineer the design to bring it into budget sometimes at the expense of building elements that are important to the owner. The project target cost theory proposes that by working together throughout the design, the team will develop a plan that fits the budget from the start—and throughout construction.

We’ve spent years wishing we could be involved in projects sooner so we could implement things that would make our side of the job easier and build a better end product for our clients,” says Hanzel. “In IPD, instead of taking a value engineering approach where we have to unravel something already completed, we can do that as we go. And we like that we can get our subs involved at that stage as well, so our expert contractors can work directly with designers. It’s good for everyone.

One perceived downside to IPD, however, is the pace of decision making. With so many parties involved in every decision, the risk of creating a very slow-going process seems high. But, says Guinan, that delay is already built into the process.

“The theory is to ‘go slow to go fast’. In other words, you’ll spend more time up front but you will plan the work better, which means it will move along more smoothly toward the end,” says Giunan.


The next frontier
Construction is well under way at the Penn Medicine Pavilion site and is, in fact, starting to overlap with design—as planned. The design was divided into packages to ensure the team can continue to make smart, informed design decisions as the project moves forward. As the below-ground and mill order/structural steel packages wrap up, the team will next deliver the core and shell package and multiple fit-out packages. And all the while, the PennFIRST team will be at the ready to adjust to changing needs.

“Since we’re able to make design decisions as we go, we can push out some decisions knowing that medical technologies may evolve just while we’re in construction,” says Hanzel. “But we’ve been able to set our general parameters and use our project target cost process to adjust to whatever our client needs.”

Project Details
Size: 1.5Msf/17 floors
Client: Penn Medicine
Completion: 2021
PennFIRST Partners: 
Penn Medicine
LF Driscoll
Balfour Beatty
Photography by Dan Schwalm.