"If integrative design makes you think of blue sky brainstorming and unmet expectations,” remarks Alistair Jackson, principal at O’Brien & Company, “this is a new day and it’s time for a new mental model.”
Typically, building design involves a series of hand-offs from owner to architect to builder to occupant with each person in this series narrowly focused on their respective piece of the building development puzzle. While on the surface this can make the development process seem faster, it has the costly downside of hiding incompatible elements of the design until late in the process where changes are frequently both more expensive and time consuming.
Integrative design, by contrast, upends this piecemeal approach in favor of a collaborative one that brings key stakeholders to the table from the beginning. Integrative design makes sure that project team members from all disciplines work together early and throughout the project design process. Whereas conventional building design can hide incompatible elements integrative design’s holistic approach can help avoid problems before they’re entrenched—reducing costs and creating a better building in the process. In fact, at my organization, Enterprise Green Communities, many of our partners have found that a strong integrative design process can result in green buildings that are no more expensive than their conventional counterparts to build, yet far exceed them in performance.
The integrative process is about committing the project team to clearly understood outcome goals, which takes education and communication,” says Jackson. “Design strategies, construction delivery, and turnover to occupancy are all integrated and accountable to those goals—ensuring that the building you get is the building that will deliver on your financial, social and environmental intentions. Your process can be as big or as small as your resources and your bandwidth allows—it’s both what you do, and how you do what you do that counts!”
We believe so strongly in the benefits of integrative design that the newest iteration of our green building criteria, the 2015 Green Communities Criteria includes a redoubled focus on integrative design. Over the years we have found that the integrative design process facilitates the integration of green measures throughout the design process; the discovery of unique and site specific beneficial conditions on the project site; strategies that connect residents to the surrounding communities; along with the exploration and implementation of energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy technologies.
For example, on one project the developer initially did not want to spend the additional $15,000 for the inclusion of high performance windows in a multi-family housing project. As a standalone design measure the windows were costly. However, opting for high performance windows meant that the building would be more efficient (it would lose less heat) eliminating the need for a $25,000 perimeter heating system which are common in multifamily residential buildings located north of Washington, DC. Further, because the windows reduced heat gain (in summer) and heat loss (in winter), the HVAC central and distribution system could be downsized, saving an additional $10,000. Rather than a $15,000 cost, the windows represented a $20,000 savings—a fact that would have been lost if not for the integrative design process. And, these savings excludes additional cost savings from reduced energy use, and operations cost.
As Jamie Blosser, Associate at Atkin Olshin Schade Architects, former Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow and 2015 Loeb Fellow points out, "With its emphasis on health, preparedness and cost-effective performance, the 2015 Green Communities' newly polished Integrated Design criteria is leading the way on strategies for resilient housing. Deeply integrating these priorities early in the planning of a project will be a game changer for developers to protect their investment through adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change."
Kendra Pierre-Louis is a Program Officer for Enterprise Green Communities. You can follow Enterprise Green Communities on Twitter @E_HousingGreen.
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