The Design Process

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The design of a new building is a process for moving from the general to the specific and has a number of well-defined steps. While green building advocates suggest that the traditional design steps (and the typical compartmentalization of design that tends to occur within those steps) is the largest barrier to good buildings, the climate change advocate needs to understand them nonetheless, since they are still widely practiced. Each step has a series of decisions that affect the final outcome. Here we provide a brief summary.

Programming Building programming is the process of defining the needs that the building will meet. Then the needs are translated into categories of spaces, space requirements, project goals, and preliminary budgets. Climate change action, energy action, and green design goals are critical to articulate in this phase of the work.

Schematic Design The schematic design phase is the preliminary design phase of the project. In this phase the building is located on the site, its size and shape are determined, and the general layout is established. The early design work is where the most opportunities for efficiency are gained or lost, so it is critical to think carefully about design decisions early in the process. Again, budgeting is often a part of this phase.

In a conventional design, much of the work in the schematic design phase is driven by the architect, with the engineers participating to discuss what is needed to make the building stand up (structural) and be comfortable (mechanical). However, this early design phase is a logical place to think about the building as a system of interconnected, rather than separate, design pieces. A design charrette (a meeting of the team to discuss the building and its goals, and to create ways to meet the goals) can be instrumental for bridging this gap at this early phase of the process. But the project manager and the team will need to work hard throughout to overcome what is usually a linear design process "in which the differing disciplines each do their piece of the work in isolation and then hand the design on to the next specialist. This compartmentaliza-tion is hard to overcome, and undermines both design integration and building performance."14 Early design efforts are likely to get the best results if the team works together collaboratively.

Design Development Design development is the phase when the design is fleshed out and many more of the building details are determined. As designs and ideas are "test fit," there are often changes. At this stage, traditionally the engineers begin to develop their design; however, they often rely heavily on past designs and standard rules of thumb, rather than on finding creative ways to solve problems unique to a particular building. Often the engineers ask to be involved during this phase of the project or later, but at this point many opportunities have been lost. Once a basic design has been shaped, it sometimes customary to engage a general contractor as part of the team to find cost-effective construction options as well.

As we have discussed earlier, an integrated design approach can help ensure that the building is designed as a system. Systems thinking needs to be combined with an integrated design team approach that helps to overcome the compartmentalized design solutions to problems. Buildings should be outcomes of a strategy to meet objectives, rather than an embodiment of individual design elements that are pieced together. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute says, "If you just optimize a component like thermal insulation by itself, you 'pessimize' the building by not doing a life cycle comparison that counts all the system's capital and operating costs."15 Lovins also likes to say that multiple components interact in ways that are not obvious when you are looking at them separately. Energy systems are the most likely to benefit from systems thinking—often they can be smaller and simpler if the rest of the building is designed with low-energy building goals in mind.

Building energy models, daylighting models, and other simulations usually begin during design development. Energy modeling is critical for determining the trade-offs in the building—whether or not there are opportunities to improve the building envelope and downsize the mechanical systems, for example. Energy-performance modeling is now a standard tool of many design firms that include architects and engineers.

Value Engineering During design development, cost estimates are developed (some buildings have preliminary cost estimates during schematic design as well). Cost cutting can often occur during this phase, and often the process of "value engineering" starts. This process can frequently be detrimental to energy measures, especially those that are incremental rather than integrated design changes. However, a value-engineering process can be strengthened if it looks beyond first cost and beyond the cost of single measures to include operating costs, life-cycle costs, and the interconnections of systems.

Construction Documents Construction documents are the building plans and corresponding narrative specifications that describe how every part of the building will function and how these parts will fit together. During the preparation of the construction documents many details of the building are finalized; however, the general design parameters are usually established much earlier. Nonetheless, there are many opportunities to affect the specific technologies selected, if not the larger design, during this phase of the project. For example, the types of lighting or location and type of lighting controls will be determined in this project phase. The chiller, boiler, and ventilation design will also be finalized.

The construction documents fully describe everything from the building's goals to specific products, installation techniques, and other methods. These documents should conform with any college or university construction standards or requirements (see chapter 7).

Bidding and Selection of Contractors Once the construction documents are finalized, the university will typically receive final bids from contractors, although some institutions work more closely with a contractor through the design to establish the budget along the way and ensure the building's constructability early in the process. Especially in public institutions, the bids are limited to the exact contents of the documents. In some institutions, particularly private institutions, there may be earlier involvement of a contractor during the process. The goal is to create more credible bids and to link the design and construction more closely. This can be beneficial for ensuring cost-effective design and for identifying alternative construction techniques to better meet building and budget goals.

The bidding documents and contract documents should also include specific reference to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED (see chapter 7), if LEED is a criterion, as well as to energy efficiency. Even the advertisement for bidders and the invitation to the bidders' conference should reflect that intention. The bidders' meetings should explain the LEED requirements and the energy-efficiency goals, both in the instructions and in the meeting. Once a winning bid is accepted, the contract is awarded. In the contract, LEED requirements should be incorporated into the supplementary conditions and linked into the contract.

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