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Linnean Solutions provides strategic advice to organizations based on environmental performance metrics.

A new model of design for all projects

The integrative design process engages all stakeholders and results in more cost effective designs that support the vision of the client

by Jim Newman, Linnean Solutions   — June 2018

Today, more than ever, the design and construction process needs to become more collaborative – emphasizing top-down and bottom-up creative processes that continuously engage key stakeholders during each stage. This has created a new model of project delivery that has led to more efficient, creative, robust, and sustainable projects. It is called integrative design, and understanding its techniques will allow for more sustainable projects and lowered costs.

The Integrative Design Process

The integrative design process is a management strategy that engages all stakeholders in a continuous, fluid dialogue at each stage of the design process. This dynamic engagement yields cost-effective designs, while maintaining and enhancing the vision of the client. The power of this strategy lies in its ability to translate ideas and goals across all stakeholders, create a holistic design, decrease inefficiencies and chances of error, and more readily and effectively adapt to unforeseen challenges and changes. This process persists at each stage of the project.

Initially the client would begin by hiring a team that includes an architect or landscape architect, a construction team, and key design subcontractors to manage the design and coordination. During the initial planning and programming phase, the initial stakeholders would be invited into the process to understand and realize the goals and parameters of the client. Concepts would be considered and shared amongst all stakeholders to create a feasible and creative solution.

Water Catchment System Example

An example of how this system could work can be seen in the construction of a water catchment system in a new or existing development. A developer who is seeking water efficiency could use an integrated design process to maximize the entire project’s sustainability, while being pragmatic with the cost.

In this process, the design team can push boundaries as a way to facilitate new ideas and to expand or to limit the desired scope of the project. Doing so will inform all those who are participating in the design process to the possibilities of exploration. The team can determine if the scope of the development is constrained to a rain catchment system on the roof for use within the landscape, or if the scope could be pushed to a greywater recycling system that will use constructed wetlands to clean and recycle rainwater. Whereas initially these possibilities may not have been explored, by utilizing an integrative design process, the efficiencies and practicality of a system may not have been realized.

This level of dialogue between the stakeholders continues in the schematic design phase, the design development phase, and the construction phase as a means to minimize inefficiencies. Keeping all parties involved will ensure that details are practical and fully understood, that developing challenges can be quickly acknowledged and accounted for, and that changes are agreed upon by all parties to allow for responsive strategies that can keep the project at budget and on time. By using the integrative design method, each obstacle is identified and overcome when it first develops- before it can become costly.

The Benefits of Integrative Design

Using this holistic method creates many benefits for your projects. Designs are often more robust because of the costs saved through efficiencies in time management and dissemination of knowledge between all involved stakeholders.

By using and integrative design management approach, your project is more likely to meet more of the criteria for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), SITES (the Sustainable Sites Initiative), and the LBC (Living Building Challenge). Even simply using the integrative design process will earn you a point for LEED accreditation under its New Construction rating system. In SITES, it is a prerequisite for SITES recognition.

Through integrative design, projects will be more holistic, more creative, and will be more time and cost efficient. Maximize your project by making sure to take advantage of this project management structure.

Linnean Solutions is on a mission to help organizations reduce their impact on the environment in real and trackable ways. We pursue this mission by giving specific resource-saving advice, and by providing financial and capital planning managers with tools to track and understand the environmental performance of their organizations in real time.

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