The Lean Construction in Europe is a series that features Lean practitioners working in Europe. In this series, William Power interviews lean leaders and shares lessons learned. This series highlights how people are currently applying Lean in their projects and how they are progressing on their lean journey. The goal of this series is to connect people with the lean practices that they are currently using. We want to share stories about what they are learning and how they are improving their practice.
1. Hello Jesús. How many years are you involved in construction, and can you tell us how your career has evolved?
Hello Willie and thanks for giving me the chance to share with the Lean Construction Community in Europe. It has been almost two decades now since I finished Architecture studies in my city, Valencia, in Spain and worked for few years as architectural designer in my country and abroad (USA, Middle East) until the global crisis came in 2007 and everything I was working on stopped. I was among the many that travelled abroad to continue my career and I joined a construction and development company working on large scale projects in Africa. I became project manager for the construction of a large university campus project in the middle of the tropical forest. I spent over 8 years travelling across sub–Saharan Africa managing construction projects and expanding our reach until I became the CEO of the Group. Then I decided to slow down the travelling and spend more time at home, taking some time to complete my to-do list that had grown for a decade.
I submitted my MBA thesis, became PMP certified, opened my first company (a real estate crowdfunding platform that failed), made a Master in BIM Management, and did quite a few other trainings. I joined an ambitious project to develop an entire highly sustainable neighborhood with more than 1.500 residential units (unfortunately never happened) and after that I, along with a couple of partners, founded Vivare, a company focused on changing the way we have been managing construction projects.
2. When did you come across the concepts of Lean applied in construction and how did it change your approach?
Working as designer, contractor, and developer gave me a good understanding of the interests and difficulties each player has when trying to do their respective jobs. When I came back home after my African journey, I was looking for solutions and answers to the issues and challenges I faced in the first decade of my career. Then I started reading about Lean Construction, took courses, met people that were leading the path in Spain, and I found the answers I was looking for. I was decided to continue my career managing projects (which basically consists of managing people and their expectations) in the AECO sector and I found that Lean Construction, and particularly Integrated Project Delivery, was the approach checking all the boxes of those problems I wanted to solve, offering better value to my clients while providing the scenario I wished I could have found when I was on any of the other seats around the table.
3. You mentioned IPD – what does IPD look like in a contract in Spain?
In Spain, like in most European countries, IPD is still in its infancy. Implementing Integrated Project Delivery requires an integral cultural transformation in all companies involved, from those funding the projects, developing them, architects, engineers, as well as contractors and trades. It needs a reset on the way we think, removing mistrust, and embracing real collaboration and transparency… and that is a lot to say in an industry so used to confrontation. There have been attempts at real IPD projects and contracts, but we know of very few that really match with what an IPD should include. In fact, “IPD-ish” or lighter collaborative approaches have become quite common, but aspects like open books, sharing risks and rewards or agreed common goals are not part of them. In our case, we took the contract model a good friend adapted for the Spanish market, based on the CCDC 30, the Canadian Standard contract for IPD, with hints from the American Consensus Docs 300 as well. It means the contracts we are using contain all the key points you would expect from a ‘full IPD’ contract: mutual goals, early stakeholders’ involvement, open books, shared risk and rewards and Lean Construction as an operating system. We tailored it also to balance multiple goals, in our case cost, schedule, quality and sustainability.
Malvarrosa Hotel, a project under construction managed by us with IPD contract.
4. How have Clients, the Design Team, and Contractors aligned with IPD? Was there hesitancy or resistance and how did you address this challenge?
Fortunately, it all starts with the owner or financier, and we have found just a few to start creating some successful cases to spread the word and starting scaling from there. I must say they are not ‘regular developers’ but either newcomers or clients that are not as contaminated with old fashioned practices as most real estate companies. After several meetings and attempts, we realized that until we manage to create a success story (or few), the ‘classic’ developers will not buy in. So that is what we are doing, one project at a time. Finding partners among designers and contractors has never been a challenge. Of course, we knew which type of companies to look for that would fit in an IPD Team, with very few exceptions, all the architects and construction companies approached have been always very receptive and those we were lucky enough to work with have shown that, once offered the necessary onboarding and training, they would prefer not to work ‘as usual’ anymore.
6. Is there appetite in Spanish construction for the methodologies of LC, for example 5S, Last Planner® System, Takt, Target Value Design and Choosing by Advantages?
Last Planner System has been the spearhead of Lean Construction in Spain for the last decade, growing especially among construction companies and more recently demanded by the development companies as well. Due to its relative success, those already introduced and practicing LPS have in many cases tried a more Lean-comprehensive approach. Definitely 5S, Takt or Value Stream Mapping have been implemented in many of them. We have even seen some good examples of Lean Construction applications in public works, but it is still rare. In our case, we introduce the full pack in our projects, progressively, starting with LPS in design, CBA and A3 for decision making and of course TVD from the very first day to meet the project goals agreed with all parties.
A pull planning session for one of our projects
7. What do you feel could help the advancement of LC in Spain? Are sufficient training courses available? Are modules promoted in university programs? Is there a national body for the promotion of LC?
There are universities that have been at the forefront of the Lean Construction spread in Spain, thanks to few academics that spent time at Berkley University. Today, most construction related degrees contain LC content, with different intensity degrees, and Masters Courses as well. I am myself part of the faculty of a Construction Project Management Master with a lot of LC content. There have been national and regional institutions promoting Lean Construction in recent years. The national institution of quantity surveyors has published several Lean Construction guides that helped to spread the word. Of course, the translation of Lean Construction Blog content into Spanish has made LC content more accessible to the Spanish-speaking construction sectors globally. Today there is no LC chapter operational in Spain, and the Spanish Group for Lean Construction created by the early pioneers has been inactive in recent years.
8. So, what is next for you and Vivare?
We are trying to build a record of successful IPD projects, not just on our own but also with some other pioneers in Spain, to serve as a platform for growth and improvement for our sector. I have recently been collaborating with some colleagues to set up a body for IPD promotion in Spain, inspired by IPDA in Canada and we are looking at translating some key books about the topic, to make them available to the entire Spanish speaking Community. In April 2024, I will be speaking in Berlin at the PMI Global Summit on the topic of why Project Managers have the opportunity to lead the chance for better in our industry.