The green building movement has been around for almost two decades now and we have learned a great deal. There is quite a bit of information out there about what green buildings are and what interventions should be considered, which technologies to evaluate, and which materials to include or exclude to create a green building.
Out of the 700 projects that have been Green Star certified by the GBCSA, there are only around 35 buildings that have achieved the highest 6-star rating – approximately 5% in total. If we aim to significantly advance the green building movement and also comply with the coming legislation, it will soon become the norm to design and build high performing 6-star buildings.
For the industry to achieve this, we need to critically look at how we are designing buildings and if we can find better approaches to building design. An innovative design approach is needed in which the team identifies and harnesses opportunities to achieve synergies across disciplines and building systems. Such an approach is called Integrated Design (ID), which is a method used for the design and operations of sustainable built environments:
“The Integrated Design Process (IDP) is a method for realising high performance buildings that contribute to sustainable communities. It is a collaborative process that focuses on the design, construction, operation and occupancy of a building over its complete lifecycle. The IDP is designed to allow the client and other stakeholders to develop and realise clearly defined and challenging functional, environmental and economic goals and objectives.” (Larsson, 2002)
What does this mean? In essence it means a process that aims to be collaborative, iterative, inclusive and flexible. It requires more time and effort upfront early in the design process where you have the greatest impact on the design and cost of the building. What it boils down to is getting everyone who will be involved in the project, from the design phase to construction to the actual day-to-day operations, together right from the start to collaborate.
Integrated design is an iterative process between all stakeholders on the project design team. Typically, in a conventional design process, professionals work independently of each other in their own silos and in a linear design process. The architect will come up with the designs, on which the engineers will base their designs or costings – a sort of “make it work” approach. This can lead to inefficiencies and cost increases that could be avoided if early decisions were influenced by all stakeholders.
A fundamental of the integrated design process would be a well-represented team with professionals from a wide range of backgrounds who bring essential knowledge to the design thinking. Also important to this process are a well-defined scope, vision, goals and objectives before the team even puts pencil to paper. ID creates a space where the exploration of multiple options or solutions is encouraged. The first option is not always the best solution (illustrated by the figure on page 29). Furthermore, ID is an iterative process with feedback cycles, where decisions and assumptions can be challenged and evaluated, to come up with potentially unconventional, but better, solutions.
Why would an integrated design process be better?
Integrated design is a goal-driven performance approach. The idea is that the team agrees on performance targets at the beginning of the project and all team members are responsible for achieving the goals collaboratively. This leads to the design of higher performing buildings.
Collaboration can create better performance. For example, the building orientation, window-to-wall ratio and glazed areas all have an impact on the amount of HVAC equipment. However, the engineers rarely sit with the architect to provide feedback on conceptual designs. Simple energy modelling and simulation could be used to find the optimum geometry of a building on a specific site considering daylight, glare, thermal and energy performance.
Better performance of buildings lowers the cost of the building over its lifespan. Green buildings have the reputation of being more expensive, but often these costs can be mitigated if all factors are considered in the conceptual design stage.
What challenges inhibit an Integrated Design Process?
In South Africa, many building projects are designed on a risk basis and the work needs to be completed as efficiently as possible. An integrated approach implies too much time and effort from the team members who are not being paid. Or the client only involves the quantity surveyor and architect in the feasibility stage and the full design team is only appointed at a later stage. By the time the project gets the go ahead, the design has advanced to such an extent that there is no room for exploration of ideas and synergies.
Architecture of buildings is still largely driven by aesthetics rather than building performance. The design is already approved by the client or sold to a prospective tenant without much input from the engineering team, which is only appointed to make the design work.
There is no time (and time is money) to implement an integrated design – it requires a commitment to more time from the client and the team in the early stages of the project as well as a few iterations.
The ID process challenges conventional design processes, and it challenges people to move outside their comfort zone and do things differently. It needs a strong leader to drive the process and get all the professionals to buy into the process.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification system includes an Integrated Design credit in its framework, which is a good way to get project teams to start implementing Integrated Design. The credit requires teams to look at setting performance targets before schematic design. The team is provided with a choice of two areas that need to be researched and evaluated as per given criteria:
- Energy-related systems
- Water-related systems
- Site selection
- Social equity
- Health and wellbeing
The team then has to summarise how it implemented an integrative process approach and describe the difference it made in terms of project team collaboration and project performance. This letter is facilitated by the appointed integrative process facilitator but must be a team effort, and it must be made available to all stakeholders in the process including the owner and facilities manager.
As climate change leads the global conversation around sustainability, and budgets become ever tighter, Integrated Design provides an effective method for clients to cut resource consumption, attain their green certification ambitions, and satisfy tenant requirements over the entire lifecycle of a building project.
Marloes Reinink is the owner of Solid Green Consulting. With an academic background in innovation and architecture, she has been working as a sustainable building consultant for over 16 years in South Africa and Africa. She founded Solid Green Consulting in 2010 and built the company to one of the leading sustainability consultancies in Africa; Solid Green has achieved its 100th green building certification in October 2020! Her passion is advocating and educating for a greener built environment and she has started a new venture, GreenED, an online education platform for education on sustainability in the built environment. Reinink is an active ambassador for the International Living Future Institute; an Living Future Accredited Professional and is a facilitator of the SA Collaborative Network for a Living Future.
● Publication: Roadmap for the integrated design process (BC Green Building Roundtable, 2007) http://www.greenspacencr.org/events/IDProadmap.pdf
● Book: The Integrated Design Guide to Green Building – Redefining the practice of sustainability. 2009. 7Group and Bill Reed.
● Article: The Integrated Design Process; History and Analysis – Larsson 2009 http://www.iisbe.org/system/files/private/IDP%20development%20-%20Larsson.pdf