Five Tips for Putting Integrative Design into Action

Aug. 3, 2009

Integrative design is the way to create truly green, high-performance, healthy buildings. According to Bill Reed of Integrative Design Collaborative, “the shift from a fragmented worldview to a whole systems mental mode is the significant leap our culture must make – framing and understanding living system interrelationships in an integrated way.” The key to doing integrative design is “Everyone. Everything. Early.” Here are five tips for putting integrative design into action, taken from The Truth About Green Business (FT Press) by Gil Friend, noted sustainable business expert and CEO of Natural Logic Inc.

1. Kick off the integrative design process with a “design charette.”  This intensive, collaborative design session – with a full complement of stakeholders and every aspect of the project on the table – helps ensure that you work as a team, with full consideration of all relevant factors, right from the start. The charette is a good way to communicate and clarify green goals for the project, and to turn your group of specialists into a true team with common goals. Your list of people to invite to the team should include architects, engineers, finance, operations team, and legal. The charette should generate a compelling, shared story to guide the design team and the client.

2. Assess the site and your building needs. Or, more accurately, assess the needs of the people that will occupy the building. How will you use water, energy, living systems, and materials to meet those needs? (You’ll do some of this as preparation for the charette, and some during it.)

3. Set initial goals for your green building. But ,don’t limit yourself to a shopping list of features and technologies. Start with performance goals, including energy and water benchmarks, and let the lists follow, not drive, the process. Research other green building case studies for some inspiration. Think about how you can go beyond “doing less harm” to building something that actually enhances natural capital.

4. After the charette and buy-in from decision-makers, the design team should discuss how it will approach the actual building process. Continual, active communications among the various specialists is key; effective communication helps make sure the building is properly calibrated for all systems.

5. Schedule frequent team workshops after the initial charette and early phases of work. A standard building has one workshop, and the integrative design process can have upward of five.

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