Integrated Design Process: A lower overall cost and a better end product

The use of an Integrated Design Process has been growing around the globe. In today’s world of technology and information sharing, owners are finding that there are many benefits to this process, most notably a lower overall cost and a better end product.

The design of a building, or most any project for that matter, requires the integration of a multitude of information, all which must be seamlessly integrated into the end product. An integrated process, sometimes call a “Whole Building Process”, is one which includes the participation of users, Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Code Officials, Estimators, Specifications Writers, and Consultants from many other specialized fields. The best buildings are created as a result of active and ongoing, collaboration of all the players.

Generally the end user identifies the need for a building. An experienced architect can perform a Facilities Audit to identify existing space use and the need for expansion in specific areas. Depending on the size and scope of the project, engineers and a construction manager may be used to assist in this process.

Once the Preliminary assessment is complete, the architect, in collaboration with his or her team of consultants, may produce initial design concept for the project or portions of it. These concepts are meant to provoke thought and debate, not necessarily to outline the final product. Sub-consultant participation is critical at this stage their individual experiences and knowledge can prevent costly changes down the road.

A design will develop which meets the requirements of all participants while also meeting the overall requirements established by the project budget. This stage will establish items such as site location and organization, building form, space allocation and adjacency, and an outline specification. This is often a good opportunity to have a cost estimate performed.

The next step is to establish greater detail for all aspects of the building the collaboration continues with the architect coordinating the various team members. Greater detail is developed. The product of this phase is a detailed design on which all players agree.

The preparation of construction documents involves translating the previously gathered information into formats for pricing, permitting, and construction. No set of construction documents are ever perfect, but higher quality control can be achieved through constant communication, adhering to the program needs by the design team and the client, along with careful coordination among all the consultants on the team. Decisions continue to be made with the contributions of all players. One last cost estimate should be performed at this point to ensure that the project has stayed within budget.

Throughout the construction phase, all members of the team must remain fully involved. Clarifications will be required. The end users requirements may change, these changes require collaboration among the entire team.

To ensure that the building is functioning as intended, a process known as commissioning should be undertaken. All of the functions of the building are tested and the team can be needed to make adjustments as needed.

To ensure a successful project it is imperative that, constant communication, attention to detail and active collaboration among all team members occur throughout the project. Strict adherence to these 3 principles will enable the best possible result.