The principles of integrated delivery–a collaborative, cross-discipline approach to building strategy, design, implementation, and use–have proven to be powerful enablers of creative and innovative design solutions. More recently, as the AEC industry focuses its attention on climate change and resilient design, those same principles are also helpful in enhancing building performance and human health and wellness.
As part of Gensler’s commitment to AIA 2030 and the Paris Pledge for Action–both of which move our industry toward a more sustainable, net-zero-energy and carbon-neutral future–our design teams do an amazing job each year of aggregating and estimating the net impact of our project work, which last year represented over a billion square feet of projects.
We are proud of our annual investment in self-reporting: in the latest AIA 2030 summary, Gensler alone accounted for 40% of the square footage of all projects reported to the AIA and over 70% of the interiors projects.
Our ability to meet these goals, of course, requires engagement and close collaboration with engineers who share our commitment, so we continue to seek out consultants and partners whose aspirations are strongly aligned with ours.
Simple and Scalable Strategies
Three simple strategies can help maximize sustainable performance and resilient design, all of which can easily be applied within an integrated delivery process:
1. Establish clear sustainability goals at project kickoff.
Initiate energy and other resource stewardship conversations at the start of the design process, documenting energy targets and sustainable goals early. To inform those conversations, employ energy models and simulations, leveraging advances in computational design to simulate and evaluate a broader range of design scenarios.
2. Expand the performance metrics collected on all projects.
Quantifying impact is the first step to reducing impact, and as designers we must commit to measuring a wider range of performance factors on every project. Prior to specifying products or materials, for example, it’s useful to create a more holistic picture by understanding their life cycle and embodied energy.
As an industry, we also need a stronger focus on occupancy, which remains a crucial but missing denominator in assessing sustainable performance. Measurements like Energy Use Intensity (EUI) and Lighting Power Density (LPD) are much more useful when they are measured per person instead of per square foot.
3. Include building operators in the design process.
Closing the gap between designed performance and actual performance demands closer collaboration with building operators. The goal is to deliver building operating systems that people know how to use effectively, and then build on that knowledge through transparent post-occupancy evaluations.
This enables collaborative design and operations teams to understand how projects actually perform and fine-tune and calibrate them on an ongoing basis.
The Changing Nature of Collaboration
Integrated delivery starts with mutual trust, respect, and personal commitments to collaboration. But that doesn’t mean putting everyone in a ‘big room’ and expecting it to happen naturally.
Co-locating an integrated team can certainly help reduce latency in project collaboration and decision-making. At the same time, the most effective big rooms are paired with a managed communication and visitation process that preserves appropriate heads-down time for team members. Striking the right balance between focus work and collaboration is essential.
And we’ve all seen young professionals messaging each other even when they’re sitting in nearby desks. Today, in terms of virtual collaboration and team co-location, it’s not either/or but both/and.
Design Impact on Every Project
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to integrated delivery and design resilience–all must be calibrated to local markets, geographies, climate zones, budgets, codes, regulations, and the aspirational goals of each client.
At the city/district scale, for example, some of the most under-utilized resilient strategies are those with significant impact but slower return on investment. Policymakers, developers, and urban designers must maintain a long-term perspective to sustainability, making decisions that will have significant effects over time.
On building projects, the greatest opportunities for improvement are linked to dramatic improvements in computing power and energy modeling. IoT, sensors, real-time performance monitoring, and cloud computing are all improving energy efficiency and building optimization.
For interior projects, a key focus is generating better real-time data on occupancy, utilization, and individual and team behavior. But generating data is just the beginning. The real impacts will come from leveraging that information to provide users with greater choice and control, increasing efficiency without sacrificing human experience and happiness.
At Gensler, we are working hard to ensure that every project we design and deliver strengthens the resilience of our clients’ organizations, communities and individuals through holistic design strategies that enhance health, well-being, longevity and sustainability.
The good news: we have found that combining integrated delivery principles with scalable approaches to resilient design are creating exciting new synergies and high-performance outcomes.
Featured Image: Shanghai Tower
Shanghai Tower is an example of combining integrated delivery and resilient design. The rotary plan and twisting shape of the building are not aesthetic conceits: the building’s unique form not only is culturally symbolic to China, but also resulted in a 24% reduction in structural material. The strongest lateral forces in supertall buildings come from the wind, not earthquakes, so the rounded, tapered form avoids presenting a flat face to any wind direction and produced significant structural savings. Biomimicry at its best!
Gensler’s 2017 Impact by Design publication, which summarizes the firm’s progress toward a carbon-neutral future and outlines simple strategies to enhance sustainable performance, was published during Climate Week NY 2017.