A building is so much more than the sum of its parts. Green building recognizes that to create a building where all of the systems work together to optimize performance, the whole development team has to work together from start to finish. An integrated design process brings the full team: owners, developers, architects, engineers, builders, subcontractors, consultants, operations staff, and, when appropriate, government representatives and residents, to the table to choose the right package of methods and technologies to create a truly high-performance building. This collaboration and coordination throughout the project save time and money by sharing knowledge and reducing call-backs. Integrated design is the key to bringing the costs of a green project in line with a business-as-usual budget.
Because integrated design is essential to realizing the goals of green affordable housing and to reigning in the costs, an integrated approach should be at the center of green building policy. Requiring or incentivizing individual green building technologies, products, or methods cannot take the place of strong support for integrated design.
Innovative techniques and green alternatives can become beneficial add-ons, with corresponding added cost; however, when these techniques and features are built into the building's design from day one, they yield even better results and can pay for themselves. For example, when architects orient windows to take advantage of the wind and sun, heating and cooling loads decrease. Combined with high-performance windows and alternative framing techniques that allow builders to install more insulation, a developer can save money up front by buying smaller HVAC equipment and devoting less space to ductwork.
Work to make the governmental review and permitting process encourage, not impede, an integrated approach.
Encourage the developer to hold an early-stage design meeting with the owner, architect, builder, construction manager, engineers, landscape architect, finance partners, green consultant, development consultant, and building operations staff.
When the whole team uses its combined expertise to design the building and to define project goals and strategies for greening, a developer gets:
Integrated design allows your team to reexamine all of its usual building methods and to explore innovative new design ideas and green alternatives. A small investment in thorough analysis at the start reaps rewards for the cost of construction and operation.
Environmental Building News Integrated Design article, November 2004 (PDF)
Roadmap to the Integrated Design Process (PDF 17MB) from Green Buildings BC
A charrette guide from BetterBricks
Take integrated design to the community level with these green infrastructure approaches from the Playbook for Green Buildings + Neighborhoods.