Green Building 101: What is an integrated process?
Need a quick refresher on green building basics? This is our "Green Building 101" series that we'll publish throughout the month. We'll visit topics that form the foundation of our understanding of green building today..
What is an integrated process?
As it relates to green building, an integrated process is a method used for the design and operations of sustainable built environments. 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.
Why is this important for buildings?
Conventional planning, design, building, and operations processes often fail to recognize that buildings are part of larger, complex systems. As a result, solving for one problem may create other problems elsewhere in the system.
In contrast, an integrated process is highly collaborative. This approach requires the whole project team to think of the entire building and all of its systems together, emphasizing connections and improving communication among professionals and stakeholders throughout the life of a project. It breaks down disciplinary boundaries and rejects linear planning and design processes that can lead to inefficient solutions. Although the term integrated design is most often applied to new construction or renovations, an integrated process is applicable to any phase in the life cycle of a building.
Even though an integrated-design approach requires more efforts at the front-end – a lot of time and energy will be invested upfront early in the design phase where you have maximum flexibility to impact the design and coordinate everything with your LEED goal objectives. Integrated design is one of the keys to completely a successful LEED project.
This sounds like project management. What's the big deal?
Practitioners of an integrated process must develop new skills that might not have been required in their past professional work: critical thinking and questioning, collaboration, teamwork and communication, and a deep understanding of natural processes. An integrated process is a different way of thinking and working, and it creates a team from professionals who have traditionally worked as separate entities.
The integrated process requires more time and collaboration during the early conceptual and design phases than conventional practices. Time must be spent building the team, setting goals, and doing analysis before any decisions are made or implemented. This upfront investment of time, however, reduces the time it takes to produce construction documents. Because the goals have been thoroughly explored and woven throughout the process, projects can be executed more thoughtfully, take advantage of building system synergies, and better meet the needs of their occupants or communities, and ultimately save money, too.