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Green Building 101: What is an integrated process?

Published on Written by Posted in LEED

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.

Ready to learn more?

Make a beeline for the Core Concepts Guide, or watch our two-part webinar series, Integrative Process.

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    Tiffany Coyle made 10 contributions in the last 6 months

Tiffany Coyle

U.S. Green Building Council
USGBC Articles can be accessed in the USGBC app for iOS or Android on your iPhone, iPad or Android device.
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7 commentsLeave a comment

Marketing Engineer, Green Building Research Institute (GBRI)
I would like to recommend GBRI - USGBC Education Partner for LEED Green Associate Exam. You can have a look at
Vice President of Business Development, Signal Point Systems
Can you define the acronym LEED? Please
Senior Interior Designer, Hager Design International, Inc.
LEED...check this link for the acronym...
Executive Director, Sustainable Performance Institute
This is an important (I would say the most important) element to achieve high performance but inexperienced readers may miss two key points that are inferred. 1. High levels of collaboration in the early part of the project is just the first step - too many projects think the kick-off, sustainability or LEED charrette "is" integrative design and its only the beginning. Ongoing structured feedback loops throughout the project are equally important. 2. The most important deliverable from the early charrette (aside from clear project goals) is the project workplan. Either a standalone deliverable, or integrated in the project schedule, this workplan is a roadmap for critical path decision making that focuses on performance goals. Energy, water, indoor air quality, etc. Once the goals are set, the team collectively must design and choreograph who is doing what when and qualitative expectations of those feedback loops. If you don't leave your early charrette process with a roadmap, you can't bet on the success down the line. (This roadmap also helps clarify scopes and overall schedule).
U.S. Green Building Council
Excellent points Barbra!
Mechanical / Electrical Project Manager, AL-ZAMIL COMPANY
where can I found practice exam for LEED green associate??
Senior Interior Designer, Hager Design International, Inc.
I used this site to help pass my LEED Green Associate exam.

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