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There is No ‘I’ in Teamwork

Sometimes cliches are just so right on. For example, the statement, “There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is in win,” has been bantered around for so long that it’s difficult to know who actually originated it. But when it comes to the construction industry, this statement offers a success potential that has not always been achieved, much to the chagrin of HVAC contractors, engineers, building owners, and architects alike.

In the U.S., the construction industry has long used the bid delivery process, that was once the only way to win government project work. This process was rife with issues, especially when things went wrong. Who was responsible? Who paid? The answers often were hammered out in court, and the only winners were the lawyers.

In the late 1970s, another delivery process grew popular: Design/Build. From my perspective, this was the birth of the cross-functional team in the HVACR industry. The team consisted of a general contractor, design/consulting engineer and/or the Design/Build mechanical contractor. The goal of this process was “single-source responsibility,” and although the work tended not to be priced the cheapest, it was guaranteed. Commercial Contractor of the Year (1984) Wallace Lee wrote in the January, 1985 issue of Contracting Business that Design/Build is a team approach and the team is composed of “people who have worked together on many projects, who have experienced various types of projects, and who have resolved project problems together. In selecting this team, the owner becomes part of the team.”

Wallace had it so right 27 years ago.

Today there’s a method called integrated project delivery (IPD) that was actually created by The American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2007. IPD was developed to harness team power contractually—to create a collaborative alliance of people, systems, and practices for designing and constructing buildings that results in increased value to building owners.

In other words, IPD formalizes the team concept in the construction industry.

But some potential members of this team seem to feel that unless their specialty is in control, the team won’t work and the project delivery will fall short of its goals.

I’m referring to a blog post by Liz Sullivan, a Denver-area architectural specifications writer. It’s titled “Integrated Project Delivery: What Do Architects Gain? More Importantly, What Do Architects GIVE UP? (” Sullivan says, “Architecture firms should not wade into these IPD waters without fully understanding what they’re getting into, and what they’re giving up.

“They need to understand that they are giving up the chance to work by themselves on the early phases of the design of buildings.

“They need to understand that they will never have a one-on-one relationship with the owner on an IPD project.

“They need to understand that they won’t be the party passing communications between the owner and the contractor.

“They need to understand that although the contractor will have heavy input on the design, the design professional will still have professional liability for the design.”

I’m thinking that Ms. Sullivan doesn’t understand the meaning of teamwork. To her credit, she does call out the need for the architectural industry to improve its professionalism to thrive under IPD. I believe this is also true for design/consulting engineers and the HVAC contractor trades as well.

However, that professionalism can be more easily accomplished by working TOGETHER, as a team, to deliver to building owners projects that are on budget, on time, with energy efficiencies and other green requirements as dictated by our standards and laws today.

There is no ‘I’ in team, and the sooner we all stop circling the wagons and operating under the fear that “team” marginalizes our professions, the better for everyone. Wallace Lee had it right back in the 1980s. If the team is in charge, then everyone wins.

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