Integrated Design, Don’t Forget the Contractor

Community Greenhouse FoundationThe Foundation receives inquires almost daily from governmental organizations, private sector companies and the general public related to funding, programs, resources and general guidance. The approval of the Recovery Act/Stimulus package is loaded with incentives which should move sustainable development and “green building” more into the mainstream.

Unfortunately, a majority of governmental agencies and private sector companies who can tap into resources from the Recovery Act/Stimulus package don’t understand that one of the key methods that projects should be utilizing is an “integrated design” process.

The “integrated” design approach brings all the members of the building/development stakeholder community, and the technical planning, design, and construction team to look at the project objectives, and building materials, systems, and assemblies from many different perspectives. This approach is a deviation from the typical planning and design process of relying on the expertise of specialists who work in their respective specialties somewhat isolated from each other. In easy terms, “bring the whole team together before the game” not at half time.

Over the last ten years of facilitating the movement to sustainable development and construction practices in both the private and public sector, a glaring fact has come to my attention. There always seems to be someone missing from the table at the start of most projects, the party responsible to build the building. In the last month we have seen a “spike” of inquiries related to the integrated design process and this trend has continued.

The integrated design process has demonstrated to be one of the best practices to utilize when developing a sustainable green project, yet most owners/stakeholders tend to forget to see the importance of having the “sticks and bricks” party at the table early. Architects and engineers seem to be always at the table, yet neither builds the building. Some of these professionals do understand that the general contractor is a major key to the project being successful and more importantly built on budget.

One of the goals of utilizing an integrated design process is to be able to take all the systems, materials and natural environment into consideration combined with the stake holder’s requirements into consideration very early in the process with the end result to reduce operational cost and environmental impact of the building. In relationship to achieving LEED certification the contractor has a major role and in most cases plays and integrate role in documentation to receive points. Labor, material selection, installation procedures, scheduling all fall directly on the contractors lap which tells us that the contractor is a critical team member to have at the table early.

There are no studies to date that the Foundation is aware of to put a cost (+/-) when having a contractor involved very early in the integrated design process, but common sense tells us it would have a positive impact on the project. The party who in the end is charged with constructing these high performance buildings could be the most important resource in the beginning, common sense again.

For more information on Community Greenhouse Foundation and their mission of facilitating green development, visit or contact Richard Evans at