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 your 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.

It's All Connected

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, you reduce heating and cooling loads. Combined with high-performance windows and alternative framing techniques that allow builders to install more insulation, you can save money up front by buying smaller HVAC equipment and devoting less space to ductwork.

Team Design for Better Results

To start, bring together the owner, architect, builder, construction manager, engineers, landscape architect, finance partners, green consultant, development consultant, and building operations staff.

  • Hold meetings early with all the major stakeholders, including resident representatives. (The Involve section discusses bringing the community into the design process.)
  • Tour the site.
  • Set goals and a desired "level of green" early on. Then make sure that everyone is on board.

When the whole team uses its combined expertise to design the building and to define project goals and strategies for greening, you get:

  • A more complete, well-vetted design that everyone can support;
  • The opportunity to see the pros and cons of green features for design, construction, and maintenance;
  • Greater understanding and better execution of the important details, like careful air-sealing;
  • Better estimates;
  • A check against potential high cost items by contractors who would supply and install them;
  • Improved communication between team members, who would otherwise work in very hierarchical relationships;
  • Shorter approval times and fewer change orders and plan revisions;
  • Insight into where extra attention, additional training, or outside expertise will be needed.

Choose the Best for Your Building

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.

  • You can evaluate each proposed green alternative in relation to the whole building and choose the best set of options for your project.
  • Up-front analysis allows you to set the bar high with strong targets for energy efficiency and environmental performance.
  • Building social, environmental, and health goals into the project design reduces the chance that they will value-engineered out later.
  • Best use of energy modeling that allows designers to preview and improve the performance of interdependent features such as orientation, daylighting, alternative building shell design, and mechanical systems. Computer simulations quickly evaluate alternative designs and technologies to identify cost-effective options.


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

Learn more about your role, whether plumber or landscape architect with the Whole Building Design Guide's Design Disciplines.