Among the best uses of the city's IPD approach was development of the base-isolated foundation, Alameida says. He notes that the team was able to develop the base isolator design and the building design on parallel tracks, with help from the contractor. Prototype testing of the system took place earlier in the process than under traditional methods.

"We were able to design around proven performance rather than assumed performance," Alameida says. "That meant we could design the steel structure so that it was fine-tuned to the proven performance. We could reduce the overall steel structure by 3,000 tons. That ripples throughout the whole design because the weight of the structure is less."

Embracing Change

Employing IPD concepts through the CM/GC method also proved successful on the Public Safety Building, says Charles Higueras, DPW project manager. Charles Pankow Builders, Pasadena, was brought on the job early to work with the design team, which is led by HOK and Mark Cavegnero Associates Architects, San Francisco. Higueras says, "We can't get into contractual relationships that haven't yet been embraced by government entities, so we are as close as we can be [to IPD] in that respect, by encouraging the collaborative, cooperative culture, by bringing the builder in very early to have these conversations and to work throughout the life of the job in a more cooperative spirit."

Paul Woolford, senior vice president with HOK's San Francisco office and design director for the Public Safety Building, says the city has worked continually over the years to improve and advance project delivery, while at the same time being a strong advocate for good design.

The city also is embracing internal change. Fuad Sweiss, city engineer and deputy director for infrastructure design, says that until recently, DPW had a hierarchical structure. Sweiss recalls that when he joined the department in 2009, the engineering division had five bureaus: architecture, engineering, construction management, project management and permitting. "We realized there were so many problems between the different bureaus. They would point fingers at each other and act in silos," he says.

In 2011, the department merged the bureaus and created two groups: one for vertical building and the other for horizontal projects, typically heavy civil jobs. "A team is in charge of a project from inception to completion now," he says. "Someone from one bureau could no longer blame someone from another bureau. They are accountable as a team."

Recently, the city has made efforts to improve its working relationship with contractors. In December, Mayor Edwin Lee issued a directive "to require city departments to enter into new partnerships with private-sector contractors to help assure on-time and on-budget delivery of city projects." The directive also calls for more face-to-face meetings and streamlining communications to speed decisions and minimize disputes.

In addition, the directive has a provision to expedite payments to subcontractors. Nuru says DPW is developing a system that tracks payments better and enables an automated "escalation" of invoices that aren't paid promptly. Invoices that previously might have been turned around in 30 days can be paid now in eight days, he says. "Internally, we set goals to turn payments around faster and then we measure how well we turn those around, which translates into an employee's performance plan," he says.

The city works with construction industry groups to help create the directives. Kevin Rowe, district manager of the Associated General Contractors San Francisco Bay District, says the city's prompt pay system is a work in progress, but is a step in the right direction. "The city has done a great job in that they are really trying to improve the conditions of the construction community itself," Rowe says. "I applaud the city for coming forward and realizing they need to correct some internal issues before they can move forward."

Edgar Lopez, city architect and DPW deputy director for buildings, says the department's efforts to improve communication and integration are paying off. "We're changing attitudes and behaviors," he says. "We want to know if we are treating you fairly. Those are questions we weren't asking before. In order to be fair, you have to treat others like you'd want to be treated yourself and that has made a difference."