Integrated Design Process

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The following article was published by Chad Edwards, RA, LEED AP, an Associate at Emersion Design and serves on the USGBC Cincinnati Regional Chapter Board of Directors.

The built and natural environments are inextricably and vitally linked. To create a high performance / sustainable facility, a collaborative design approach is essential for a successful outcome. The Integrated Design Process fosters knowledge-sharing among significant stakeholders during the development of a holistic design and leads to increased project value.

These stakeholders should be comprised of the owner group, key users, facilities directors, programmers, real estate managers, architects, commissioning agents, civil engineers, planners, mechanical engineers, interior designers, structural engineers, construction managers, electrical engineers, plumbing designers, landscape architects, and / or key specialty consultants. The General Contractor and / or the Construction Manager should also be included in this process to encourage the sharing of cost, scheduling and construction knowledge. This will also familiarize the contractor with the construction intent resulting in a more accurate bid and more efficient construction period.

During the traditional approach, design and construction professionals work somewhat independently on their respective area of expertise. One of two things can happen when consultants are added to the design process midstream. The new team member shares expertise that changes the project late in the process, requiring more time, effort and money to back track; or more commonly, the team decides not to pursue the new approach. In either case, the project and the owner suffer a consequence. ‘Value Engineering’ during design and construction becomes the norm, which leads to value loss.
The Integrated Design Process deviates from this traditional approach as it leverages the collective expertise as early as the pre-design phase, where the highest potentials and greatest values are realized. ‘Value’ engineering tends to generate project cuts, which successfully lessen the construction costs, but usually lessen the true value. The Integrated Design Process is vital to a successful work process, which can lessen the damages of ‘value’ engineering.

By bringing all the stakeholders to the design process early, intensive analysis and in-depth investigations can discover complementary and innovative project goals and design strategies when change costs less. This Integrated Design Team establishes project goals together while engaging in a productive exchange of ideas. The team understands, applies and tests these goals throughout the design process.

Stakeholders share their knowledge in multi-day charrette (brainstorming) formats; trade-offs and connections are recognized. Problems are reframed and better solutions are generated by creating an innovative and collaborative environment where each opinion matters. The entire team establishes and meets the project goals, objectives and major solutions. These charrettes frequently become rather lively and informal without jurisdiction. They are investigatory by nature, thoughtfully critiqued and leverage the expertise and resources of the team. Connections are made that typically are not immediately understood, such as how paint color impacts the mechanical load or how building orientation affects human productivity. Sometimes the most effective solutions have the lowest construction cost implications and might be undiscovered in a traditional design process.

By utilizing the Integrated Design Process, deep curiosity, thorough analysis and strategic, technical problem solving prevail, leading to a more comprehensive, cost effective and sustainable facility.

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