The construction methods of old, where every artisan conducted their work in isolation, are a thing of the past. The linear approach to building prevents participants from sharing common design goals and objectives. Working in isolation means that key players may not be aware of the effect their elements have on the rest of the structure and they cannot streamline efficiency or share building resources.
As the functionality of buildings become more integrated and harmonious in order to be more efficient, so construction has evolved to follow suit. Integrated design is a process where all the participants in a build will plan, design and work together from conception to completion; working in sync to construct a building where all design elements work together to be more efficient in energy, resources and construction time.
The concept of integrated design may sound intuitive, but when you consider that the build must consolidate input from code officials, consultants, civil and mechanical engineers, building technologists, specifications specialists, architects and structural engineers, the logistics become a far more complex beast. Still, the best buildings result from a symbiosis of all the key players and design elements. All participants in the build must work together as a team.
This teamwork starts with a ‘charrette‘, a French word for ‘cart’ used to describe the process of collecting student’s work at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Today a charrette is a series of meetings where participants exchange ideas and come up with a green building recipe that meets efficiency and budget constraints. The novelty of green builds still makes them fairly cutting edge as each build must find unique solutions to the terrain, weather, requirements and functions of the building. Designers must come up with innovative ideas and use new materials to create a building that meets efficiency standards, looks great, is functional, stays within the budget and can be completed on time.
All this meeting and planning can actually save fistfuls of cash on the build. For example, if the framers and structural crews work together, they can utilize advanced framing techniques that reduce the number of structural members, leaving extra space for insulation. Increased insulation enables the HVAC team to use smaller systems. In energy efficient building, integrating the building envelope, HVAC and framing is essential to reducing costs and ensuring proper functionality.
Most charrettes will be determined by the size and complexity of the build, but they should contain discussions on the most efficient way to utilize resources. Efficiency goals should be set from the start. Energy Star and local green building guidelines must be considered. This is especially pertinent where builds must meet LEED standards or qualify for federal grants.
Water conservation and rainwater collection must also be discussed. The indoor air quality must be controlled and a healthy living and working space created. The environmental impact of the building as a whole must be investigated. Once complete the owners of the building must be properly educated on how to use it properly. No matter how efficient the building is, if the occupants are wasteful with energy and water, the building will not meet its efficiency goals.
Communication must continue throughout the build to keep costs down and quality up. This process does take a special set of project management skills. To this end, there are several free QM tools that assist in keeping all participants on a build informed, registering goals and milestones, ‘ownership’ of projects and the ability to share files and information easily. Listed below are a number of free online tools used to orchestrate successful integrated design builds: