Sustainable Building Design from Start to Finish (Week 3)

For the last few weeks we talked about the conventional building project and the reasons for using a more integrated approach. We have built a business case and have justified the project, have identified and documented the needs, and have appointed a person or a team to head up the project and have hired a multi-disciplinary team that is ready to put pen to paper and we can start building right?

Stage 3: Design Development

Gradually a design emerges that embodies the interests and requirements of all participants, while also meeting overall area requirements and budgetary parameters. At this stage, schematic designs are produced. They show site location and organization, general building shape, orientation, distribution of program, and an outline of components and systems to be designed and/or specified for the final result. Depending on the size of the project, it is often useful to create a cost estimate performed for the design at this point.

Design Development enlarges the scale of consideration. Design Development is a time to firm up and validate choices. It concludes the WHAT phase of the project. During this phase, all key design decisions are finalized. Detailed Design under the integrative process comprises much of what is left to the Construction Documents phase under traditional practice, thus the Detailed Design phase involves significantly more effort than the traditional Design Development phase.

Greater detail is developed for all aspects of the building, and the collaborative process continues with the architect or prime consultant facilitating the various contributors. The conclusion of this phase is a detailed design on which all players agree and may be asked to sign off. During this phase, effort shifts from WHAT is being created to documenting HOW it will be implemented. Careful proofing and identifying of items such as building systems and cost implications should be done before proceeding with final materials, colors, and finishes.

Stage 4: Tender trade contracts

The development of contract documents involves interpreting the design development information into a format suitable for pricing, permitting, and construction. The goal of the contract documents is to complete the determination and documentation of how the design intent will be implemented, not to change or develop it. No set of contract documents can ever be perfect, but high quality can be achieved by scrutiny, accountability to the project goals, and careful coordination among the technical consultants on the design team. Decisions continue to be made at this stage, but changes in scope will become more expensive once pricing has begun; changes to the contract documents also invite confusion, errors, and added costs, although technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM) or Automated Building Systems are beginning to align references for all design team members. The Integrative process assumes early involvement of key trade contractors and vendors, so buyout of work packages they provide occurs through development of prices throughout the design phases, culminating at the conclusion of implementation documents. Accelerated project definition during Schematic and Design Development allows early commitment for procurement of long lead, custom, or prefabricated items. The Integrative “Bidding” phase is much shorter than under traditional delivery methods, since most work is already contracted for. Third party verification can begin at this stage and can validate the assumptions the design makes regarding how  sustainable the project will be. A tool that can be used here would be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Next week we will further investigate what it takes to build a sustainable or green building from start to finish.

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