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Applying Lean Principles to Reduce Costs and Waste in Design and Build Projects

Lean is a method for process improvement. The principles are standardized and can be applied to any process – including institutional design.

First developed by Toyota to eliminate waste in its production, lean principles have since been used in various applications from improving quality of outcome and productivity on production lines, to project management, to design and build of complex public projects.

We first wrote about Lean and how we can increase efficiency for the occupants and key stakeholders of a building by implementing Lean concepts and principles in our blog: Architecture and Lean: Increasing Efficiency Through Institutional Design. We explored how Lean principles, which are dedicated to achieving an optimal workflow, can influence institutional design within healthcare to a support workplace processes and productivity to a positive outcome.

Refined for healthcare, Lean tools aim to reduce wait times and waste, and to increase value-add activities in the care of patients. Recently, we have been involved in the application of Lean within the context of design on several P3 projects, as well as redevelopment projects. For the new Critical Care Tower for Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey, BC, we worked with a Lean consultant to improve staff working conditions on the patient floors. Our design, based on the Lean analysis, reduced walking distances for staff by 50% and optimized the design to support traffic flow.

Since Lean is based on standard guiding principles, it is applicable for any type of institutional design project, and the benefits and cost savings extend beyond the end users. When Lean principles are implemented in conjunction with Integrated Design Process (IDP), the project itself will save costs and time associated with reduced change- orders and waste. This collaborative approach helps to clearly define expectations and anticipated results in the early stages, as well as significantly reduce exposure to costly extras that might otherwise be incurred during construction. Success is realized through the effective and efficient management of resources and processes.

A study released last year, believed to be one of the largest on Lean construction, found significant waste reduction and cost savings when lean strategies were used. A total of 35 completed construction projects, with a construction value more than $584 million, were reviewed. The 15 projects completed with Lean practices saved over $13.6 million in reduced change-order rates when compared to the 20 projects that did not use Lean practices. The study was presented at the 2014 International Group for Lean Construction Conference in Oslo, Norway. Click the title to access the original paper: Metrics of Public Owner Success in Lean Design, Construction and Facilities Operations and Maintenance.

Throughout our many years of project work, we have never incurred major cost overruns. Our track record in capital cost control is exceptional. Industry norms anticipate a 3% contingency for new construction projects and 5% to 10% for renovations. We have consistently outperformed the norm by utilizing proven processes like Lean, an Integrated Design Approach, and a unique, in-house cost control process. Our track record average is 1.5% for new construction and 3% for renovations.

When Lean strategies and practices are incorporated in institutional design projects, the benefits are realized not only during the design and build, but also afterwards by the occupants and those who maintain the property. If you are interested in learning more about our approach in institutional design, we would be delighted to hear from you.


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