Two steps ahead with Lean


GH Phipps is always thinking two-steps ahead when it comes to saving our clients time and money.

In commercial and institutional projects alike, our clients’ goals typically follow the standard three-legged stool model: time, money and quality. The nuanced difference in commercial work becomes clearer when considering HOW general contractors philosophically view the building process and how, in turn, they successfully deliver on each leg. 

For our commercial clients, we like to begin two-steps ahead with asking the right questions when we learn of an upcoming project. In other words, prioritizing: speed-to-market, long-term project financial quality and performance goals, development and program plans, design, equipment or structural intents, and the list goes on.

Why is this important? Understanding a project’s priorities enables clients to better tap into the experience of the construction partner to anticipate schedule concerns or identify cost-saving ideas while maintaining project integrity. With today’s construction complexities in navigating the number of choices of materials, methods and equipment selection, we understand that this process can be overwhelming. There is a lot of opportunity for value that occurs as well as, unfortunately, an opportunity for needless waste in time and financial performance of the investment. We have adopted and embraced Lean practices to help us help our clients with insight, not only in practical project management, but also in avoiding those pitfalls. We want everyone on the project team to avoid waste, while simultaneously adding value for our clients’ dollars. 

It begins with bringing together the right people and buying into that singular, but monumentally important two-part charge – avoiding waste and creating value.

Starting at the beginning

We use several Lean methods in our commercial construction process – from Big Room Meetings, Target Value Design, Choose by Advantages, to Last Planner System and Plus deltas for process improvements. Moreover, we prescribe to whatever tools serve the project and client best. Our mantra is – right people, right tools.

For example, we may use the “Big Room” concept to drive owners, designers, trade partners to share a physical space, get on the same page and vet the major goals – into a simple and concise format, sometimes called a charter. Other times, we may simply summarize our objectives into the brief A3 format. The best delivered projects are the ones where all the stakeholders and project team have clear and understood alignment of goals and objectives from the start. 

Instead of merely offering Lean Construction as the latest buzz-word, GH Phipps adopts Lean methods and uses the practical applications to address the three-legged paradox. When we say we’re thinking two-steps ahead, we really mean it – and Lean principles help propel us there. 

Learn more

Erik Petersen, Director of Client Relations, has kept his finger on the pulse of how commercial clients are partnering with builders like GH Phipps to see their projects get to market sooner and with more cost certainty. He has noticed the effect of Lean’s impact on commercial project viability, Petersen adds “when Lean principles are aligned with the goals of (minimizing waste and adding value) we’re finding quicker enabling of design and investment decisions. Constructability decisions based on how each element, in turn, affect the speed of completion, overall integrity and financial performance of the building. For example, if (you) look at the success we’ve seen at Lakehouse, the commercial owner/developer can rest-assured they’re getting the right ‘builder mentality’ in that Lean processes work, and we’re pretty darn good at getting clients what they’re after.” 

Our Lean Journey

GH Phipps was among the founding companies of LCI Colorado Community of Practice (CoP) which organized in February of 2010. GH Phipps sponsored several of that organizations early events and had core group representation through 2014. The mission of LCI Colorado CoP is to develop Lean capability in this market.

GH Phipps formally began our Lean journey in 2013. Several senior managers read The Toyota Way and came together over a period of 8 weeks in a Study Action Team (SAT) to discuss the book and discuss how that could apply to creating a Lean organization at GH Phipps. By definition: “Lean/Integrated Project Delivery is a response to customer and supply chain dissatisfaction with the results in the building industry. Construction labor efficiency and productivity has decreased, while all other non-farming labor efficiency has doubled or more since the 1960s,” as stated by the Lean Construction Institute (LCI). “Currently, 70% of [construction] projects are over budget and delivered late.” 

More about LCI

The Lean Construction Institute (LCI) was founded in 1997 in an effort to improve the Construction and Design industries through Lean project approaches to design and delivery. The organization’s vast member base — comprised of owners, members of the architectural and engineering design community, general contractors and trade contractors — works diligently to develop and manage projects through the creation of relationships, the exchange of shared knowledge and the collective commitment to common goals. These reorganizational efforts and initiatives have proven to create significant improvements in project schedules, ultimately upgrading workflow reliability and convenience, and resulting in significantly reduced waste across the board.

GH Phipps and the True Builder Mentality


Inside every city — from snow-capped mountain towns to bustling urban metropolis’ to sleepy, homegrown rural communities and everything in-between — live the cherished landmarks that call it home.

These buildings and structures symbolize not only a visual point of reference and comforting familiarity for visitors and residents alike, but stand as a treasured reminder of the area’s rich and unique history, culture, challenges and triumphs across time. At GH Phipps, we’re honored to play the critical role of building, revitalizing and preserving the greater Denver area with quality and integrity at top-of-mind, and with the hands-on, all-encompassing approach that we refer to as the True Builder Mentality.

We pride ourselves on tackling each day with this not-so-commonly known or referenced method, beginning at the ground level of each and every project, big or small. This comprehensive approach means that each day, our team puts its hands to work as builders, in addition to overseeing administrative levels like the preconstruction, budget planning, and cost-control phases — with the help of our talented and diverse project team of designers, clients and trade partners.

This all-hands method gives us the advantage of having the internal capacity to self-perform all necessary aspects of various construction projects — from concrete to HVAC to framing services and beyond — that are typically needed to be outsourced from additional, outside companies. This asset both sets us apart from the rest and puts us ahead of the curve, equipping us with the tools to reduce and conserve both time and costs for each project, ultimately creating space for a more holistic approach to our work at all levels. Collectively, this approach helps us to maximize efficiency, and quickly determine how these various elements and levels of our work will affect the overall time needed for completion, integrity and financial performance of the building process.

With over 65 years of experience in the commercial construction industry, GH Phipps has seen seemingly everything there is to see, giving us the unique opportunity to learn, grow and evolve alongside new commercial standards and industry trends that continue to emerge. The same applies just as much to our hiring and training processes, and ensures a cohesive methodology when it comes to forging and maintaining relationships with our teammates, clients and partners. (But don’t take our word for it; simply ask our repeat clients — who continue to comprise more than 75 percent of our portfolio!)

Our methodology has resulted in a broad spectrum of complex building experiences and clients. From more than 800 large and 4,000 small healthcare projects (totaling 15 million square feet of facilities valued at $3 billion,) to our work on iconic civic structures like the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and the Colorado State Capitol, to our 28 projects (and counting) that are meeting or on track to be LEED certified, our dedication to the True Builder Method continues to provide us with the autonomy and resources with which to sharpen and refine our brand strategies to better serve our clients and partners for centuries to come.