integrative designA two weeks ago, Karen Tucker, Director of Customer Development at iLiv, posted the following question on the  U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Linkedin Group:

Green Building and LEED: How are we (designers, owners, engineers, etc.) handling the evolutionary process toward integrative design? What are your thoughts?  Share them with us in the comments section.


Mark Yerkes, Partner- Construction Manager at T.J. Harris Incorporated

“Personally I am still not seeing clients push for this to much, many are still hunkered down waiting to see how the economy is going to perform. On the design and construct side, everyone has parred back to bare bones and will find it hard to adjust once things start moving again. I read the AIA contract for Integrated design and found it very unwieldy. The Consensus Doc was better and I will be advising my clients to use their document if integrated design is desired. “

Krystyna Bukowiecki LEED AP, Architectural Design Professional, Senior Designer, Culture Creative, potter

“Our clients are small to medium size private investors. Most of them don’t have the knowledge to suggest integrated approach. It is the architect’s responsibility to inform the client of the benefits of integrated design. Many steps in the design process can be undertaken without adding to project cost, and in many cases the clients agree to additional up front costs once they understand that at the end they will have a better building, cheaper in energy costs, healthier to occupants and overall more sustainable.

LEED is another matter. Obtaining LEED certification is a rather involved process, with very specific additional costs, so it is not often that a small private investor will pursue LEED. However more and more municipalities require LEED certification for new buildings and we see some of this activity picking up. “

Mark Robertson, Owner, MESA Landscape Architects

“Great question. I think we still have a long way to go to expect clients to understand the Integrated Design process. Most rely on the design professional to lead the process and therefore I believe it is up to us to utilize the process and educate the client as we move forward with projects. The process is just like the various systems in a project. The client relies on the deign team to know the best solutions and it is our responsibility to educate about the process and the value it brings to the overall project similar to other design decisions. I have experienced this lack of understanding or knowledge of ID by clients across the country, although some regions are better informed than others.

Furthermore, I am not convinced the design industry fully understands it much less practices integrated design. I see a lot of lip service to the idea, but with few exceptions actually see it practiced. I hear reference to multi-disciplinary but this should not be confused with integrated and collaborative design. I am amazed at how often I hear those leading projects describe themselves as utilizing an integrated design process but in actuality what is happening is substitution of words rather than actual practice of the concept.

I would really like to hear a clear explanation on why this basic service should require additional fees. I am not clear why additional costs should be expected for what is really the most appropriate design process. This is how we should approach every project regardless if it is a LEED project or not. Integrated Design makes all parties more aware of the project needs and goals and helps inform the entire team. This process should help eliminate some of the changes down the road due to lack of project understanding.

Why should good design thinking cost more? In my opinion we are paid to provide appropriate design thinking and ideas as part of our basic services.”

Alex de Parry, President/CEO at Ann Arbor Builders

Getting LEED certification is an expensive process and can add 5 to 10 percent to a project’s cost. This can sometimes make a project financially unfeasible, especially for smaller projects.

Patrick Doss-Smith, LEED AP Marketing Representative at Pride Energy Solutions

I agree with Mr Robertson. Further, let us not confuse LEED or any other checklist approach with the integrated design process. The very essence of the idea is more design time equals less construction time due to fewer changes, RFI’s etc. As we all know, this will result in less cost, not more. If the architects and engineers cannot take it upon themselves to learn the best way of designing a building before they need to actually do it then they should bear the cost. Moreover, contractors need to take the place beside the designers, where they can do the most good. I would not expect my mechanic to request that I pay extra for him to go back to school to learn how to fix my car. Integrated Design is a new way of designing and we must, as an industry, get up to speed as fast as possible. I have been a technician for 14 years and I am tired of hearing about architects who are not prepared to educate their clients about the best way to design a building. Yes, the client can and should direct what to build but it is our job to direct how to build. So, step up to the plate folks. This game is far from over!

Joe Richmond, Permit Expediter at SK8 Architectural Design Solutions

I see it from a few different angles. Firstly, I believe that in order to push integrated design, one has to fully understand integrated design and the alternatives. This can achieved with maximum results with practice. so as with any growing there come pains that go with it. Self sacrifice is usually the safest way to protect your clients as well as to have testimony to the advantages and disadvantages of the process. Unfortunately many do not wish to take the risk involved (fear of loss). So they wait for the closest person to them to take the plunge. This is my hypothesis as to why it is taking so long. Fortunately for those who have taken the plunge and figured out the the way to maximize the benefits will be far ahead of the rest of those that do not. My two cents

Raquel Bedell, Director of Communications at Build2Sustain

This is a great topic. I think that the problem is two-fold. One, the way LEED is structured now is not conducive for it being a baseline standard for building in the future. I think it works best as an optional incentive program, as it is now. Secondly, I think that the integrated design approach is probably one of the most important things, but that Mark is right in the fact that the industry itself is still not quite sure exactly how to do it best, much less clients. The need for best practices in green building is extremely important. It’s still a relatively new industry and things are being worked out, but the more professionals open up their process to the public and have conversations like this with each other, the faster we will be able to establish said best practices.

Karen Tucker, Director of Customer Development at iLiv,

I’d like to quote one of my favourite books, “The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building” (7 Group and Bill Reed):

“Given the magnitude of the challenges that we face, it will take nothing less than a massive transformation to get us out of this mess. How might that transformation occur? Where in our current design process exists the point at which we might intervene to create large-scale change?”

I’m curious to find out how folks are pushing the change right now. I’ve been talking to firms who have been using mind maps and have built ‘task matrixes’ in Excel, and have found other software firms trying to tackle the problem through methods like structuring a tool around LEED credits or a standardized spreadsheet. Are these tools helping at all?

Raquel, you said LEED is not structured for the future. What do you mean? Why do you think it works better as an “optional incentive program”. I agree — that’s exactly what it is, but it was built as a guideline and as a means to encourage sustainability. Everyone seems to agree that the education process is a huge part of encouraging IDP for clients, as well as design firms. Is LEED not sufficient? What else can/do we use?

Joseph Wyatt, LEED-AP, Director of Facilities at Duke Farms Foundation

As an owner rep. what I am founding very interesting is the push back from the A&E on the concept of intergaration of design and BIM; they can could not see the beneift (they like their Silos). We are located int the Philadelphia/New York area, is this a geographical issue?

Raquel Bedell, Director of Communications at Build2Sustain

Karen, I don’t mean to sound as if I am disparaging LEED in any way. LEED has done a good job of encouraging sustainability. What I was referring to was that there has been talk of possibly making LEED a requirement for buildings in the future, and I think the way it is structured, it is ill suited to being a baseline. I think there should be a baseline requirement for all buildings to be more energy efficient and the like, but LEED works best as an added incentive. Right now buildings invest in LEED to differentiate themselves in the market. They like the publicity they get for achieving LEED silver or gold status. That’s a good thing as it keeps companies with the means pushing for greater and greater sustainability. Requiring it of everyone takes that element away.

Denis Du Bois CEO, P5 Group (Cleantech and IT marketing) and Energy Priorities

Joseph’s comment is interesting, and consistent with what I’ve been hearing in AEC. Owner reps are learning about ID and BIM, then hitting a wall. Even where A’s or E’s build a BIM, they won’t share it down the line. BIM seems to bring ID-resistance to a head by formalizing the process. No more just talking the talk.

Before LEED and BIM, we knew it was better for a sustainable building project to have all the heads at the table from the beginning. Autodesk is highlighting the role of BIM in the Building Museum remodel/retrofit. Energy costs (and therefore energy modeling) are in also gaining attention.

Will the current emphasis on retrofits and energy create more motivation for the silos to work together?

Tom Powers, Project Manager at Wight & Company

There is an additional front end cost to “Integrated Design” versus typical “silo design”. One big cost comes from the additional man power provided by a construction/contracting representative (aka General Contractor) who typically would not be at the design table. Typically a design firm does not have the General Contractor experience in-house that is necessary for truly integrated design.

We call these services from a construction/contracting representative “pre-construction services”. Typically pre-construction services are not provided for free. The services are only free when the construction/contracting agent feels they will get an inside track on the eventual bidding, construction management, or possibly be awarded a design-build contract. In the future I expect we will see more teaming of A/E firms with their prefered contractors to sell integrated design upfront. While this does not necessarily relate to more A/E fee, there are more upfront professional fees for the “pre-construction services”.

When the construction/contracting agent services are not provided for free we typically explain to the client the value of having these pre-construction services at the table during design. 9 times out of 10 the client see’s the value and agrees to pay for the additional “pre-construction” manpower.

I have also seen private clients that have preferred contractors already, they then select these preferred contractors to provide these pre-construction services, which makes the whole process even easier.

Frank Dalene, CEO Telemark Inc, CFO Hamptons Luxury Homes Inc, CEO Carbon Factor Inc, and Co-Founder Hamptons Green Alliance

The thinking that the best price is achieved through a bid process needs to change. The bid process is generally performed when there is a defined scope of work which occurs after design.

There needs to be a paradigm shift by owners, architects and contractors from the design-bid-build approach to the AIA defined, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) approach.

We are having success in negotiated contracts and cost-plus-a-fee contracts to achieve the best price. As a builder/contractor we are able to execute a cost-plus-a-fee contract with the owner. We are also able to make commitments to trade contractors during design phase. There are no additional fees because there is a commitment to the contractors to perform the work. Contractors generally spend time bidding work they never get. The owner, architect, builder and trade contractors on the team make a commitment to the budget. The collaboration and teamwork with the IPD approach is refreshing compared to the adversarial relationships in the design-bid-build approach.

There are real cost and time savings during construction due to collaboration during the design process. We are on track to break the record for most LEED points as a result of IPD. In three weeks we make a presentation to the local AIA chapter recommending IPD as a viable approach. The biggest hurdle we face is the belief that there needs to be a bid process to get to the best price. We disagree.

John Hatzung, Architect / Project Manager specializing in equipment-intensive, retail food, distribution and processing facilities

Integrated design has been around for quite a while in some sectors like retail food, which can be highly complex with tight schedules and stringent quality requirements. These conditions foster close relationships between designers and builders who specialize in this work.

Multiple projects and negotiated contracts allow the costs of the initial collaborative work to be spread out, but my experience is that this initial work pays for itself at the other end. Experienced development directors know and accept this idea, but first- or one-time project owners are often resistant and want to bid.

Patrick Doss-Smith, LEED AP Marketing Representative at Pride Energy Solutions

I’d like to echo a few comments from above. First, this is indeed a good discussion. Second, I’ve just downloaded the AIA IDP documents and am impressed with the thourough handling of the topic. It is good to see that these folks are being proactive, it’s what I’ve come to expect from the AIA. Lastly, I agree with Mr. Powers’ conclusion but I am told that the additional upfront design time, and the necessary additional manpower is typically recouped during the construction phase simply by having fewer mistakes, change orders and less administration time. This seems intuitive but as a technician I’ve not had the opportunity to see a cost analysis regarding this part of the process. Does anyone know of any studies which confirm or refute these assertions.

Frank Dalene, CEO Telemark Inc, CFO Hamptons Luxury Homes Inc, CEO Carbon Factor Inc, and Co-Founder Hamptons Green Alliance

I don’t know of a study but I will speak based on experience of building ultra-luxury homes in the Hamptons for over thirty years. The homes are sometimes large, detailed, complex and one-off designs that are well suited for integrated design. It is correct that integrated design has been around for a long time; even some fast track projects incorporate integrated design to some extent. I don’t know if our experience will translate to other construction types such as large commercial or institutional buildings.

In construction nothing is ever free however the pre-construction work we do during integrated design is normally done during bid and construction phase of the design-bid-build approach and is generally covered in our fee. In a design-bid-build approach we loose a certain percentage of the projects we bid and the work of bidding is generally in our fee spread over the projects we win. Whatever additional time we may spend during integrated design we believe is covered in our normal fee with the added incentive that we are spending less time answering RFIs and addressing change orders from below. There is also less misinterpretation of design documents and less mistakes which translates to less risk. If a cost-plus-a-fee contract is used then all cost savings realized during construction as a result of integrated design is passed on to the owner. Since the dynamics of every project is different it will be difficult to draw conclusions of actual cost savings in relation to another approach.

If a commitment is made in the beginning to build the project we do not charge an additional fee however we may bill a portion of our fee for the pre-construction work. The advantage of making a commitment in the beginning is that we are able to make commitments to certain trade contractors and have them participate in the integrated design process. The advantage of teamwork between all parties is huge and more important when integrating new technologies used in green building.

If no commitment is made to build the project then we charge a pre-construction fee which is reimbursed if we are awarded the job. Again there is no additional fee if we are awarded the job however if we are not awarded the job there will be an additional cost to the owner. The disadvantage in not making a commitment in the beginning is that there is no true integration with the trades.

What are your thoughts?  Share them with us in the comments section below.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine, Monster.com, About.com Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine, HR.com, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.