Team integration and cohesion are better predictors of a building project's success than contract methodologies. Project delivery structures that reinforce early involvement of the major players—before the design is set—typically result in better outcomes than those that don't. The lines delineating project delivery strategies have blurred.

These are among the findings of a 170-page report, called Owner's Guide to Maximizing Success in Integrated Projects, released this month by the Charles Pankow Foundation. The $375,000 study, which looked at 204 buildings, was funded by $300,000 from Pankow and $75,000 from the Construction Industry Institute.

The study's principal investigator says the most surprising finding is that good outcomes do not depend on the delivery strategy. For projects studied, the delivery method did not turn out to be a statistically significant indicator of success, says Keith R. Molenaar, a professor in the construction engineering and management department of the University of Colorado Boulder. "Team integration and group cohesion are better indicators," he says.

Jobs with integrated teams had reduced schedule growth, enabled more intense schedules and led to more cohesive teams, says the study. Group cohesion led to reduced cost growth, higher quality and improved turnover experience.

Another surprise is that owners are mixing and matching delivery, procurement and contract payment methods to achieve team integration, says Molenaar.

A key finding is that no one delivery method is right for all projects, says the report. Early involvement of core team members, qualification-based team selection and transparency in cost accounting are more likely to result in success, adds Greg R. Gidez, director of design services for Hensel Phelps and a Pankow-study industry advisor.

The researchers are producing a step-by-step guide to help owners select an integrated-team delivery strategy for a project. The free guide will be released by early summer. Interested parties can sign up online under research grants on the Pankow homepage.