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Whole Building Design - Explaining The Conept

The whole building design approach is a process to make your home eco-friendly in a cost-effective way. We explain the process here.


whole building design
When we talk about whole building design we are referring to a specific design process that views a building as a system rather than as a collection of components. If you look at a building as the sum of a bunch of different components and not as an integrated system it will significantly limit the "sustainability" of a design because it only allows for a process of substituting "green" features for conventional ones.

If however, you view a building as a system it encourages and supports full integration of decision making. This approach results in better performance overall building performance and it is also the best way to avoid unnecessary costs.

Based on existing national research most professionals agree that sustainable design should not add more than 2% to the cost of a building. In many cases it may not incur any additional cost if it is done thoughtfully. Research also shows that the sooner sustainability is introduced into a project, the more likely it can be achieved cost-effectively. Solid cost-control is a result of using a systems design approach.

When viewed holistically, opportunities for combining functions and multiplying the benefits achieved from a single strategy are much more apparent with this whole building systems approach.

Whole Building Design requires commitment from both the owner and the design team to utilize an interdisciplinary approach. Checking in at regular intervals during the design phase and during construction assures follow-through to this commitment. All contracts related to the building design and construction should reflect the project's commitment to whole building design.

Whole Building Design generally requires investing in design activities that increase the opportunity for integrated solutions that together provide better performance and life cycle savings. Integrated design activities most often include an eco-charette, life-cycle analysis, and modeling, testing, and evaluation studies.

If you are seriously interested in learing an efficient design process for sustainability, we recommend tht you read the book The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building: Redefining the Practice of Sustainability

Whole Building Design Guidelines

Description of an Eco-Charrette

What, exactly, is an eco-charrette? It's a meeting of the minds that generally lasts at least a half day and in some cases more than a day, in which all participants in a building design project focus on ideas to capture the most efficient use of energy and resources in new building being designed. The group generates goals and then develops strategies for accomplishing those goals. Eco-charrettes, commonly called sustainable design or environmental design charrettes, are becoming a common element in high performance building design. They have been used successfully to design some of the most progressive buildings in the Pacific Northwest.

The concept probably sounds like a project team kick-off meeting and although similar, the Eco-charette differs from a project team kick-off meeting because it focuses on sustainable design development goals, strategies, and integrated design solutions.

The eco-charrette process begins when someone launches a new building project. In many cases it begins before architects and engineers are hired as in the case where the project facilitator interviews a client prior to the eco-charrette to determine the client's environmental and energy efficiency goals for the project and the desired outcomes for the Eco-charette meeting. It is equally common for sustainability goals and objectives to be developed during the eco-charrette.

When the design team for the project has been selected, the entire team - architects, engineers, contractors, building user representatives, and owner - meet in the eco-charrette for at least a day, sometimes for several days, to devise strategies for realizing the project's goals for sustainability and energy efficiency. Multi-day charrettes can also be used to launch the architectural design of a project.

To achieve the greatest value from an eco-charrette, it should include all stakeholders - that means anyone who might build, approve, use, sell, or even attempt to block the project. It is a fact that when people are involved from the outset, they are more likely to feel ownership and consequently work for the success of the project.

The time spent in an eco-charrette is designed to be highly productive. It is not uncommon to see profound changes result from this meeting. Each participant brings specialized expertise or knowledge to contribute to achieving the goals. The eco-charrette enables a group of people to discover solutions for themselves. This group approach and the integration of ideas creates a sense of ownership and consensus. When you have concensus and an unified approach that addresses the building as a holistic system you have a formula for guaranteed success.

Life Cycle Cost Analysis

Typically, upfront or first cost is what drives designers and owners when determining whether to proceed with a specific building or construction strategy be it sustainable or not. However, it is performance over the long term of operation that ultimately determines a strategy's worth. In the Sustainable Building Technical Manual, it states that operations and maintenance costs equal 6% of overall business costs while initial building costs only cost 2%. Much of the operation and maintenance costs are tied in to personnel costs.

A Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) provides much more accurate data and a fuller context for decision making. There are a variety of methods for completing a Life cycle cost analysis. If you desire to learn more we recommend you read the Whole Building Design Guide from the National Institute of Building Sciences. There are several different software packages available to help you complete a LCCA. By incorporating life-cycle costs into the design mix, more informed decisions can be made.

Modeling, Testing, Evaluation

An integrated design process assumes a number of building solutions will be considered and that some degree of analysis and testing will occur to compare strategies and determine which ones are most appropriate to achieve the desired performance goals. Modeling (simulation or physical) of daylight, energy use, water use, and air-flow are all methods that can be used to conduct this analysis. Costs will vary depending on the complexity of the process selected.

Although modeling provides important design guidance, it does have limitations. Modeling is limited in its ability to provide projections. Testing or monitoring of pre and post conditions are also valuable learning tools for validating the current design and projecting those validations to future projects. Post-occupancy evaluations POE will become more important in the sustainable building world because they will provide direct feedback on how buildings actually perform.

What is LEED?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system developed by thhe US Green Building Council (USGBC) consisting of design and construction firms, government agencies, product suppliers, and environmental consultants.

The USGBC hopes the LEED rating system will promote integrated, whole-building design practices. There is strong support for whole building design because this integrated design approach consistently provides higher levels of creativity, better performance and lower overall costs.

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