Getting it together through integrated design

This piece is taken from our newsletter "Force of Nature" see more and subscribe here.

If we want to change the way that buildings are made, then we should unsurprisingly, change the way buildings are made. Most of the focus on building differently has to do with constructing more energy efficient buildings and sometimes paying attention to the embodied carbon in the materials used in the construction process. More and more though people working on green buildings are changing the process of putting a building together. 

The common way of getting a building made is, broadly speaking, to have the different parties work in isolation ( architect, structural engineer, electric engineer, etc), plans are made and builders bid on a plan, hire subcontractors and it moves forward.  Another approach is what is called "integrated design". As Natural Resources Canada explains "An integrated design process (IDP) involves a holistic approach to high performance building design and construction. It relies upon every member of the project team sharing a vision of sustainability, and working collaboratively to implement sustainability goals. This process enables the team to optimize systems, reduce operating and maintenance costs and minimize the need for incremental capital. IDP has been shown to produce more significant results than investing in capital equipment upgrades at later stages."

In IDP the whole team (owner, architect, engineers, builders) come together to plan and design a project. However, there is a particular need when undertaking green building. The Green Building Alliance argues that "The enhanced definition [of Integrated Design], however, includes the collaboration of what these various team members are working around:  climate, building design, use, and systems. Around 70% of the decisions associated with environmental impacts are made within the first 10% of the design process."

In some projects the goal is to go beyond those directly working on a building, to residents, neighbors, local businesses. If we are going to change our building standards our success will require changing the process of design and construction itself.  For more see this piece from Green Building Advisor and the video below which gives a strong overview of the importance of stakeholders working together from day one.