Integrative process | U.S. Green Building Council
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LEED ID+C: Commercial Interiors | v4 - LEED v4

Integrative process

Possible 2 points

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Behind the Intent

The integrative process takes a comprehensive approach to building systems and equipment. Project team members look for synergies among systems and components, the mutual advantages that can help achieve high levels of building performance, human comfort, and environmental benefits. The process should involve rigorous questioning and coordination and challenge typical project assumptions. Team members collaborate to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of every system.

The Integrative Process credit goes beyond checklists and encourages integration during early design stages, when clarifying the owner’s aspirations, performance goals, and project needs will be most effective in improving performance. An integrative process comprises three phases.

The first—discovery—is also the most important and can be seen as an expansion of what is conventionally called predesign. Actions taken during discovery are essential to achieving a project’s environmental goals cost-effectively. The second phase, design and construction, begins with what is conventionally called schematic design. Unlike its conventional counterpart, however, in the integrative process, design will incorporate all of the collective understandings of system interactions that were found during discovery. The third phase is the period of occupancy, operations, and performance feedback. Here, the integrative process measures performance and sets up feedback mechanisms. Feedback is critical to determining success in achieving performance targets, informing building operations, and taking corrective actions when targets are missed.

A fully integrative process accounts for the interactions among all building and site systems; this credit serves as an introduction, rewarding project teams that apply an integrative approach to energy and water systems. By understanding building system interrelationships, project teams will ideally discover special opportunities for innovative design, increased building performance, and greater environmental benefits that will earn more LEED points. By identifying synergies between systems, teams will save time and money in both the short and the long term and optimize resource use. Finally, the integrative process can avoid the delays and costs resulting from design changes during the construction document phase and can reduce change orders during construction.

Through the integrative process, project teams can more effectively use LEED as a comprehensive tool for identifying interrelated issues and developing synergistic strategies. When applied properly, the integrative process reveals the degree to which LEED credits are related, rather than individual items on a checklist.

Step-by-Step Guidance

Discovery Steps

Step 1. Become familiar with integrative process

Review the Integrative Process (IP) ANSI Consensus National Standard Guide© 2.0 for Design and Construction of Sustainable Buildings and Communities, which provides step-by-step guidance and a methodology for improving building design, construction, and operations through a replicable, integrative process. Although this standard encourages project teams to engage in a comprehensive integrative process, the credit requirements address only the discovery phase, whose steps are similar to those described in the ANSI guide for engaging energy and water-related systems.

Step 2. Collect information about potential project sites

Identify and collect data for at least two potential project sites.

  • Refer to the credit requirements for specific features and qualities to consider.
  • Determine whether potential project sites have nonpotable water sources, which may contribute to achievement of Option 1.
Step 3. Evaluate project sites

Use the project goals and requirements to select the building site that will provide the most opportunities and fewest barriers to meeting the qualitative and performance aspirations for the project. Complete the site analysis worksheet, describing how the base building analysis informed site selection for the project’s tenant improvement and informed the owner’s project requirements and basis of design. Consider completing as many of the following steps as possible for all potential project sites to determine the most advantageous project location.

Step 4. Conduct preliminary energy research and analysis (In concert with Step 5)

Complete energy-related research and analysis to support effective and informed discussions about potential integrative design opportunities (see Further Explanation, Recommended Preliminary Data Collection). Obtain the following for all base buildings under consideration for a tenant location, as appropriate:

  • Collect information about the local climate, site conditions, energy sources, transportation options, and potential building features.
  • Use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Target Finder tool or other data sources to benchmark energy performance for the project’s type, scope, occupancy, and location.
  • Develop a “simple box” energy model (assuming a simplified building form) to generate a basic distribution of energy uses and identify dominant energy loads.
  • Use this conceptual energy model to analyze design alternatives for potential load reduction strategies (see Further Explanation, Recommended Preliminary Energy Analysis and Example – Light Level Analysis).
Step 5. Conduct preliminary water research and analysis (in concert with Step 4)

Complete water-related research and analysis to support effective and informed discussions about potential integrative design opportunities. Obtain the following for all base buildings under consideration for a tenant location, as appropriate:

  • Collect information about waste treatment infrastructure, water sources, and potential building features (see Further Explanation, Recommended Preliminary Data Collection).
  • Assess expected water demand for indoor water using the methodology for WE Prerequisite Indoor Water Use Reduction.
  • Gather data to quantify the project’s potential nonpotable supply sources, such as captured rainwater, graywater from flow fixtures, or condensate from HVAC cooling equipment.
  • Conduct a preliminary water budget analysis to quantify how fixture and equipment selection and nonpotable supply sources may offset potable water use for the water demands.
  • Step 6. Convene goal-setting workshop

    Engage the project owner in a primary project team workshop to determine the project goals, including budget, schedule, functional programmatic requirements, scope, quality, performance, and occupants’ expectations. Understanding the owner’s goals promotes creative problem solving and encourages interaction. This workshop should accomplish the following:

    • Introduce all project team members to the fundamentals of the integrative process.
    • Share initial background research and analysis findings from Steps 2 through 5.
    • Elicit the owner’s and stakeholders’ values and aspirations.
    • Clarify functional and programmatic goals.
    • Establish initial principles, benchmarks, metrics, and performance targets.
    • Identify targeted LEED credits.
    • Review the potential project sites.
    • Generate potential integrative strategies for achieving performance targets.
    • Determine the questions that must be answered to support project decisions.
    • Identify initial responsibilities and deliverables.
    • Initiate documentation of the owner’s project requirements (OPR).

    All principal project team members should be present at the goal-setting workshop.

    Step 7. Evaluate Possible Energy Strategies (in concert with Step 8)

    Evaluate the proposed goals and performance targets for feasibility by exploring possible strategies for the project’s energy-related systems. Evaluate strategies against the initial performance targets and targeted LEED credits. It is recommended that project teams engage this initial early research and analysis by evaluating each subsystem described in the ANSI Consensus National Standard Guide© 2.0 for Design and Construction of Sustainable Buildings and Communities.

    Conduct preliminary comparative energy modeling using the “simple box” energy model before completing schematic design to evaluate energy load reduction strategies (see Further Explanation, Recommended Preliminary Energy Analysis and Example—Determining Load Reduction Strategies). Consider the following aspects, as appropriate:

    • Building envelope attributes. Wall and roof insulation, thermal mass, window size and orientation, exterior shading devices, window performance (U-values, solar heat gain coefficient, visible light transmittance).
    • Lighting levels. Lighting power density, lighting needs in workspaces, reflectance values for ceiling and wall surfaces, high-efficiency lighting fixtures and controls, daylighting.
    • Thermal comfort ranges. Temperature setpoints and thermal comfort parameters.
    • Plug and process loads. Equipment and purchasing policies, other programmatic solutions, layout options.
    • Programmatic and operational parameters. Hours of operation, space allotment per person, shared program spaces, teleworking policies.

    Assess at least two optional strategies for the above aspects.

    Step 8. Evaluate possible water strategies (in concert with Step 7)

    Evaluate the proposed goals and performance targets for feasibility by exploring possible strategies for the project’s water-related systems. Conduct a preliminary water budget analysis using research on potential water-use reduction strategies (Step 5).

    For all base buildings under consideration, consider the preliminary baseline and design case water consumption based on the tenants’ use of assumed plumbing fixture flow and flush rates (using the methodology for WE Prerequisite Indoor Water Use Reduction).

    Gather data (in addition to that for Step 5) to assess and quantify the project’s potential nonpotable supply sources, such as captured rainwater, graywater from flow fixtures, and condensate produced by initially assumed HVAC cooling equipment.

    Assess and quantify how potential nonpotable supply sources can be used to offset potable water use for the water demands calculated above. Identify at least one on-site nonpotable water source that could supply a portion of the demand components.

    Implementation Steps

    Step 9. Document how analysis informed design

    Describe how the analysis informed the selection of a building site (for the project’s tenant improvement) and informed the OPR and basis of design (BOD) and site selection (for the interior design project).

    • Address how the tenant space, base building, and site meet the project goals for the following, as applicable.
      • Building’s site attributes, such as wildlife habitat, open space, recreational areas, and proximity to surrounding uses and alternative transportation options
      • Occupants’ daily commuting needs
      • Mechanical and electrical systems
      • Indoor environmental quality and occupants’ well-being
      • Other systems
    • Document energy-related research and analysis from the discovery phase. Describe how the energy-related analysis informed design decisions in the project’s OPR and BOD, including the following, as applicable:
      • Building envelope and façade conditions
      • Elimination and/or significant downsizing of building systems (e.g., HVAC, lighting controls, exterior materials, interior finishes, and functional program elements)
      • Methods planned to gather feedback on energy performance and occupants’ satisfaction during operation
      • Other systems
    • Provide narrative explanations of the energy evaluation in the energy analysis section of the Integrative Process worksheet.
    • Document water-related research and analysis from the discovery phase. Describe how the water-related analysis informed building and site design decisions
      in the project’s OPR and BOD, including the following, as applicable:

      • Plumbing systems
      • Sewage conveyance and/or on-site treatment systems
      • Process water systems
      • Methods planned to gather feedback on the performance and efficiency of water-related systems during operation
      • Other systems
    • Provide narrative explanations of the water evaluation in the water analysis section of the Integrative Process worksheet.
    Step 10. Consider options for gathering feedback

    Occupants’ feedback is critical to ensuring that the project is operating as the design intended. Project teams should discuss with the owner the methods that are most feasible.

  • Methodology. Surveys are commonly used for point-in-time analyses of multiple indicators. Depending on the project’s size, some teams may find that short meetings can serve the same purpose. A public whiteboard or suggestion box accessible to occupants and responded to appropriately is a simple way to solicit information on building performance and occupants’ satisfaction, though it may be useful to provide prompting questions to ensure that important topics are not overlooked.
  • Sample size. There are no requirements for sample size, but understanding the needs and satisfaction of a large number of occupants will not only help identify the full spectrum of issues but also help in prioritizing responses.
  • Frequency. There are no requirements for the frequency of obtaining feedback, but providing frequent, convenient opportunities for occupants to provide comments will benefit the project.

Required documentation

Documentation All Projects
Integrative Process worksheet (site and energy analysis tabs, water tab optional) x
Narrative explaining methods to gather feedback x

Recommended Preliminary Data Collection

To understand the likely energy load distribution by end use, use a “simple box” energy model (Figure 1) to identify initial annual energy consumption percentages of total energy use for each of the following end uses:

  • Space heating
  • Space cooling
  • Ventilation
  • Domestic hot water
  • Lighting
  • Miscellaneous equipment
  • Other, as applicable

Typical energy consumption by end use for a project depends on building type, occupancy, climate, and other project-specific conditions.

Figure 1. Example energy load distribution graph

Local climate data include annual and hourly dry-bulb temperature, wet-bulb depression, relative humidity, comfort hours, and average annual and monthly rainfall for the project site.

For Steps 4 and 5, gather information including solar and wind capacity, heating and cooling degree days, seasonal wind velocity and direction, precipitation, microclimate, available energy sources, utility providers, energy and peak load costs, potential financial incentives, and other issues likely to affect energy-related systems.

For Step 5, consider the location (distance from site), capacity, and type and level of treatment for the sewage system serving the site, including any sewage plant facilities. Include data on average water treatment cost.

For Step 5, consider the location, capacity, and type of water sources serving the site, such as reservoirs, aquifers, wells, lakes, rivers, nonpotable sources, and municipal supply. Include monthly and annual rainfall data and the average cost of potable (and/or nonpotable) water.

Recommended Preliminary Energy Analysis

An energy analysis can be used to evaluate potential energy strategies, such as insulation levels and window performance levels. This will not only inform potential load reduction strategies but also help the tenant determine whether the base building is appropriate.

Building envelope performance. Consider the following aspects of all base buildings under consideration for a tenant location:

  • Solar heat gain coefficients, overall U-value of glazing systems, performance criteria for windows in low, medium, and high ranges
  • R-value (insulation) of walls, roofs, and conditioned below-grade structures in low, medium, and high ranges
  • Effect of orientation on energy loads
  • Effect of percentage of exterior glazing (e.g., 30%, 50%, and 70%) on energy loads

Lighting levels. Consider at least two options for reasonable reductions in lighting power density, including one aimed at a significant reduction from ASHRAE standards.

Thermal comfort ranges. Consider options for expanding the thermal comfort range.

Plug and process load needs. Consider at least two options for reasonable reductions in plug load density, including one aimed at a significant reduction from ASHRAE standards.

Programmatic and operational parameters. Consider options aimed at reducing tenant space, hours of occupancy, and/or number of occupants.

Example 1. Light level analysis1

During the early stages of a Schools project, the team was able to reduce the number of lighting fixtures in classrooms by 25% compared with standard practice by selecting a paint color whose light reflectance value was 75%, instead of 64% for the initial proposed paint selection, while maintaining adequate illuminance (roughly 50 footcandles) on work surfaces.

The reduction in the number of light fixtures has multiple benefits, beyond the initial savings in fixture purchases and installation: the cost of electrical energy for lighting falls by 25% over the life of the building, and since lighting produces heat, the costs for cooling (roughly 1 watt of energy for every 3 watts of lighting) are reduced.

1Adapted from 7group and Bill G. Reed, The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building: Redefining the Practice of Sustainability (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009).

Example 2. Determining load reduction strategies

Determining effective load reduction strategies is the first step in creating an energy-efficient building. Early focus on load reduction is important because once the space programming is completed and the building is constructed, changing certain components that affect loads becomes difficult and expensive, especially for a building dominated by external or building envelope loads.

An example of a dominant external load is a fully glazed western façade in a mixed climate like New York City. This type of façade creates large loads for both cooling and heating, resulting in excessive energy use and oversizing of HVAC systems. Example strategies to decrease envelope loads include increasing insulated opaque wall area (balanced with daylighting strategies), increasing the insulating value of the glazing and window frame system, and summer solar shading.

On the other end of the spectrum are large buildings with dominant internal loads, like hospitals. Internal loads are often cooling loads, created by a combination of heat-producing lighting, equipment, and occupants. Conditioning of outside air is another big internal load. Load reduction strategies include decreasing lighting power, providing daylighting, reducing plug loads, using economizers for free cooling, and reducing the amount of ventilation air during periods of partial occupancy with CO2 sensors.

In both cases, significant energy load reduction can be achieved. The concept model can provide feedback on which combination of strategies is likely to be the most effective and guide the design team in preparation for modeling HVAC systems. This allows HVAC systems to be properly sized and equipment efficiency improved in subsequent models; the team may be able to downsize or even eliminate equipment. The integrated approach can thus save both energy and capital costs of construction.

Example Worksheet Documentation

Provide a brief explanation of how the analysis informed tenant space selection.

The project team was considering two sites for the tenant space. One was a suburban location where most of the staff would need to drive to work, and the other was downtown, close to the office’s current location. The client had not considered bringing the staff into the space selection process and viewed the move mainly as a rent reduction strategy. After forming a focus group and convening it to discuss location alternatives, the client discovered that a majority of the staff appreciated having an office close to public transportation, and many also took advantage of the childcare services in the vicinity. Some parents walked to a daycare center at lunch to visit their young children, and they wanted to be close by in case their children got sick.

Although the suburban location would have saved the company several thousand dollars per year in rental cost, the current employees would have been leaving work more often and for longer periods if they were far from their children, and those who did not own cars would likely have quit their jobs, taking their years of experience with them; both results would have been costly to the company. This engagement process established that finding a downtown location close to services and alternative transit was a very high priority.


Group Approach

All projects in the group may be documented as one.

Campus Approach

Ineligible. Each LEED project pay pursue the credit individually.

Changes from LEED 2009

This is a new credit.

Exemplary performance

Not available.

Getting Started with Integrative Process

Why Integrative Process?