©2013 Green Building Advisor. From The Taunton Press, Inc., publisher of Fine Homebuilding Magazine.
Charrettes as a simpler fix
Would you rather replace the gasket on a leaky faucet or wet-vac your flooded basement? Most people would choose to replace the gasket — it’s a simpler problem, a cheaper fix and a much smaller headache. That, in a nutshell, is integrative design — project teams coming together early in the design process to identify potential opportunities and risks, and address them before they become costly.
Beyond just saving time and money, integrative design allows teams to brainstorm and design in real time: electrical engineers informing the architect, operations and maintenance (O&M) staff informing the HVAC engineer, and residents informing the landscape architect. These real-time interactive design sessions, called charrettes, facilitate better coordination among contractors and engineers, and often result in more comfortable and well-designed buildings. Charrettes are also the perfect time to consider green building options that enhance the quality of life for residents and save resources.
Saving time and money: an example
In case you still think integrative design planning is a luxury rather than a necessity, here’s an example of how this kind of planning can make a huge impact:
A group wants to build a multistory residential development in a suburban location. The developer has few requirements, but wants to keep the price tag low. During the charrette, the architect asks participants to rethink the building’s solar orientation. They decide to do this by making the primary hallway run east to west. This small change allows the mechanical engineer to scale down the HVAC system slightly because of the increased natural ventilation.
Then, a member of the O&M staff suggests adding shading devices over the windows to further reduce the load on the HVAC system. The landscape architect concludes that changing the solar orientation of the building will create a more scenic approach, allowing him to design a larger retention pond and maybe even recycle the site’s rainwater. The building becomes more comfortable because of the natural ventilation and solar shading, more efficient and less costly to run because of the smaller HVAC system — and all of this was made possible by reconsidering something as simple as solar orientation.
The end result
What’s the end result of an integrative design session like the one described above? See the Living Building Eco-Charrette Report  by Green Building Services to learn more.
And here are some resources for planning and conducting your integrative design session:
What’s your experience in integrative design? If you have facilitated or participated in charrettes, how have you implemented feedback from these sessions? If you are new to charrettes, what questions do you have?