The Fine Print…
The design of buildings now requires the integration of many kinds of information into an elegant, useful and durable whole. An Integrated Design Process includes the active and continuing participation of users and community members, planning officials, building regulations oversight, building technologists, contractors, cost consultants, civil engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, structural engineers, specifications specialists and lately consultants from many specialised fields, dealing with the issues that have resulted from new building regulatory requirements.
The best buildings result from continuous, organised collaboration among all players. (Please view the Design Disciplines further down to learn more about the role of design disciplines in the whole building process.)
The integrated design process enables project team members to work together from the project outset to develop and/or apply solutions that have multiple benefits.
The Integrated Design Process
Preparation for the project can be led by many players, but generally the client/owner first identifies the need for building on the basis of quantifiable requirements for space and budgetary capacity to meet them. This earliest phase often includes a needs assessment: This assessment can describe existing space use, estimate realistic spatial and technical requirements and arrive at a programme around which a design process can be started. For significant projects, a construction manager (and/or a project manager), an Architect and a or several building system provider(s) should be engaged to conduct the needs assessment; it may also be appropriate for this team to produce a master plan that places individual design activities in context. Regardless of a project’s scope, research (for example, any problems with the site? This could be a critical cost factor…) and programming is a crucial first step in developing a successful design.
No later than the completion of these tasks should the client engage the Architect or other prime design consultant who will oversee the integrated design process and its final implementation. Criteria for selection may include the client’s affinity for a specific Architectural language, the provider’s experience with the building type and with the advent of sustainability requirements, a candidate’s ability to achieve high environmental performance in historic or new buildings.
In consultation with a team that includes a potentially preferred contractor, engineers, landscape Architect, environmental graphic designer, artist, sustainability consultant and other specialists, the Architect or prime consultant in conjunction with the project manager and building system provider establishes core design principles. The design team also may produce alternative conceptual approaches to the client’s needs and graphics to visualise the discussion. Such suggestions are meant to stimulate thought, not necessarily to describe the final outcome. Note the importance of the team format at this stage: full involvement of team members is critical, as individual insights can prevent costly changes down the road. Continual collaboration between stakeholders also helps prevent expensive mistakes.
Within a day for smaller projects gradually a conceptual design emerges that embodies the interests and requirements of all participants, while also meeting the overall area requirements and budgetary parameters. At this stage, initial schematic designs are produced. They show site location and organisation, general building shape, distribution of an approved programme and an outline of components and systems to be designed and/or specified for the final result. Depending on the size of the project, it is often useful to have an intermediate cost estimate performed by a QS (Quantity Surveyor) at this point, ensuring the QS looks at costs from a project cost exercise perspective, thereby safeguarding the process to date without accidentally creating cost overruns.
Design Development enlarges the scale of consideration. Greater detail is developed for all aspects of the building and the collaborative process continues with the Architect or prime consultant facilitating the various contributors. Many times this is done ‘in the cloud’ or by e-mail, while sharing files, drawings and requirements. Specifications must be strictly specified with regards to product and/or performance of the structure, taking Planning requirements and Building Regulations (and lately Marketing Considerations) into account, with agreements in place by third-party consultants that create pre-certification documentation for Planning. Note: Explicit specifications are critical to ensure a structure’s performance after the Construction Phase, otherwise further costs (replacement of equipment, certification, testing, labour, time over-runs) to meet requirements may be incurred.
Depending upon the complexity or innovations used in achieving the client’s goals, a leading Corporate Approved Inspector approved by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) for providing Building Control services on all types of construction projects may be formally appointed at this time, thereby alleviating the necessity of educating a local building inspector on topics they may not be familiar with. The conclusion of this phase is a detailed design on which all players agree and upon which they may be asked to sign off on.
The development of Contract Documents involves translating the Design Development information into formats suitable for pricing, permitting, and construction. No set of contract documents can ever be perfect, but high quality can be achieved by scrutiny, accountability to the initial program needs, and careful coordination among the technical consultants on the design team while ensuring the Documents meet current legal specifications. Depending upon the complexity of the project, a Contract Expert firm or individual may be formally appointed, ensuring the varied aspects of construction (civils, services, erection, aesthetics… etc.) and performance (the Code for Sustainable Homes [while it still lasts], SAP, SBEM, EPC’s, BREEAM etc.) are complied with integrally to the contract and to the Design Team’s expectations. Decisions continue to be made at this stage, but changes in scope will become more expensive once pricing has begun; changes to the contract documents also invite confusion, errors and added costs, although new technology like Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the use of building systems are beginning to synchronise references and reduce costs for all of the design team members. Project cost estimates by an estimator (QS) may be made again at this point, prior to or simultaneous with bidding, in order to assure compliance with the budget and to check the bids. Bids taken at this point may be used as a basis for selecting a sub-contracted builder.
As the general contractor begin physical work on the project, the Construction Phase begins. Designers and other members of the team must remain fully involved, even if only by phone. Decisions previously made may require clarification, suppliers’ information must be reviewed for compliance with the Contract Documents and substitutions must be evaluated. When changes affect the operation of the building, it is especially important to involve the user/client in their review as this can – and normally do – create cost over-runs. User requirements may change too and enacting those alterations require broad consultation among the consultants and sub-consultants, new pricing and incorporation into the Contract Documents and the building.
The design team is responsible for assuring the building meets the requirements of the Contract Documents. Meanwhile, success at meeting the requirements of the original program can be assessed by the construction management team or third parties in a process known as Commissioning. Here the full range of functions in the building is evaluated and the design and construction team can be called upon to make changes and adjustments as needed.
After the building is fully operational, it is often useful to conduct a Case Study to assess how the building meets the original and emerging requirements for its use. (In an effort to reflect the objectives and goals of Case Studies as they are practiced, different terms have been used for Case Studies including post-occupancy evaluations (POEs), environmental design evaluations, environmental audits, building-in-use assessments, building evaluation, facility assessment and building performance evaluations.) Such information is especially useful when further construction of the same type is contemplated by the same user. Mistakes can be prevented and successes repeated.
The figure below describes a simplification of the standard operation of the integrated project team. To assure the best result, all parties must adhere to the following principles:
1. clear and continuous communication
2. rigorous attention to detail and
3. active collaboration among all team members throughout all phases of the project
The Integrated, Multidisciplinary Project Team
In this day and age of rising costs in labour, materials, health and safety (e.g., adding time to site work unless planned properly) and meeting new regulatory requirements, Clients tend to go with a proven Building System to ensure a greater likelihood of meeting expectations and designates a Team to manage the process. Team Members in a process like this may include the following:
The Owner’s Representative must speak for the owner and be prepared to devote the time to advocate fully, to defend, to clarify and to develop the owner’s interests. This person may be the owner, come from within the organisation commissioning the project or may be hired as a consultant or simply be the project’s Architect, but should be involved from the outset.
The Construction Manager is hired on a fee basis to determine the logistics and costs of the construction process. This person can be an Architect, a general contractor or a consulting Construction Manager. It is highly beneficial for this person to be involved from the beginning of the project.
The Architect acts as the lead in most building projects – coordinating sub-consultants, dealing with Planning and championing the program, inviting community input at pertinent moments and assuring compliance with the budget. To that effect, in some cases the Architect hires some or all of the sub-consultants. Thereafter, he or she provides progressively more precise and detailed suggestions for the form of the solution and manages the production of the contract documents. The Architect usually participates in the construction phase of the project, assessing compliance with the contract documents via inspections, submissions approvals and evaluations by the sub-consultants. The Architect also assists in the evaluation of requests for payment by the builder and other professionals, being most familiar with the approved progress of the project.
The Civil Engineer is essential for understanding the land, soil, and regulatory aspects of any construction project; early involvement is essential and the civil engineer is frequently hired directly by the owner in advance of the design team. The civil engineer normally prepares his or her own contract documents which needs to be approved by the Architect (sometimes through the Construction Manager) and assesses work compliance with the contract documents.
The Landscape Architect is often part of the civil engineer’s resources, but can also be involved as an independent consultant. In either case, the landscape Architect should be involved early in the project to assess natural systems, how they will be affected by the project and the best ways to accommodate the project to those systems.
Consulting Structural, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers can be engaged by the Architect or they may be engaged separately by the owner. They are responsible for a building’s structural, heating, ventilation and/or air-conditioning systems, as well as the power, signal and illumination aspects of the project. Each produces his or her own portions of the contract documents and should be involved in assessing the respective part of the work for compliance with those documents.
Specialised Consultants should be involved as needed by the special requirements of the project. These may include specifications writers, materials and component specialists, sustainability consultants, artists, environmental graphic designer and technical experts in specialties like kitchens, audio-visual systems, materials handling and parking. The size, complexity and specialisation of the project will suggest the kinds of additional experts who will be needed. Like all contributors to the integrated design process, their suggestions and requirements should be incorporated at the earliest phases of design.
The best buildings in history are the result of high degrees of consistency at all levels of their realisation.
Frank Lloyd Wright referred to this process as ‘organic design’ – he used the phrase to refer to the integral relationship in good Architecture between the parts and the whole – and declared it the Architect’s obligation to assure consistency at every level of detail. Yet consistency is predicated on collaboration: buildings are considered ‘good’ when all members of the design team are working towards and realises the same ambitions.
Every building project has a unique set of program goals and technical requirements that demand assembling all the stakeholders and a team of professionals in various design disciplines. Each design discipline has a different set of skills, professional standards and issues that drive how they operate in the building process. Traditionally, many disciplines provide a specialised technical service that is not always well coordinated with other aspects of the project. ‘Whole building’ or integrated (building) design as a process requires the various stakeholders and disciplines to coordinate and interact as early as possible in the process, and throughout the life cycle of the project to achieve a holistic solution that yield envisaged multiple benefits.
- Information Technologies Engineering
Information Technology (IT) engineers deal with the design and integration of multiple systems of structured cable and wireless information technologies relating to buildings and building occupants:
- Building systems-HVAC and/or MVHR, lighting, day-lighting control, energy monitoring, security access and fire/smoke detection and alarm.
- Telecommunications-voice, data, graphics and audio/video.
The emerging development of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has the potential to integrate the design, fabrication, construction and Operations and Management (O&M) databases over the life-cycle of the building development.
- Architect’s Role
Today, the required legal, technical and cultural knowledge base has such breadth and depth that it is no longer in the best interest of the project for one discipline to hold, implement and be responsible for all building-related knowledge, as did the Master Builder of old. Professional malpractice concerns have led liability insurance companies to encourage, even implicitly force, Architects to limit activities to design. For example, ‘construction supervision’ became ‘construction observation’, moving the Architect further away from the risks associated with construction activities.
According to some industry analysts, the Architect’s role has been further limited by the idea that buildings are commodities, consisting of assemblies of standard materials and systems best understood by their suppliers and constructors. New forms of project delivery, including ‘design/build’, ‘bridging’ and ‘construction management’, come out of a belief that Architects are no longer able to stay abreast of complex information in order to lead the design process on the owner’s behalf.
However, this standardised approach to efficient building design is not necessarily synonymous with the requirements for whole building design. Integrated, high-performance design requires both efficiency and innovation.
It requires an integrated design process in which the users, owners and project participants are all integral team members.
The architectural profession emphasises comprehensive training in the arts and sciences, as well as a holistic approach to design problems. Architectural education teaches both abstract and concrete problem-solving. Its core skills are learned and re-learned, in an iterative process that incorporates history, theory, technology and other social and cultural factors. Architects are both specialists and generalists, which ideally enables them to communicate effectively with other specialists while maintaining the ‘big-picture’ view of the project goals.
- The New Composite Master Builder (i.e. the Integrated Design Process Leader)
With ‘whole building’ design, the project team can be guided once again by a collective vision. This structure, along with the process by which the design team works together, has been termed by Bill Reed as the ‘Composite Master Builder’. The term recasts the historical single Master Builder as a diverse group of professionals working together towards a common end. The intention is to bring all of the specialists together, allowing them to function as if they were of one mind. The process avoids, as Mario Salvadori says, the ‘reciprocal ignorance’ of the specialists in the design and building field.
The legal obligations of the profession, comprehensive training in holistic problem-solving, and an understanding of broad cultural design concerns make Architects ideally suited for the leadership of integrated design process teams.
- Interior Design
Interior design concerns itself with more than just the visual or ambient enhancement of an interior space; it seeks to optimise and harmonise the uses to which the built environment will be put. Thus, to quote Wikipedia, it is “practical, aesthetic, and conducive to intended purposes, such as raising productivity, selling merchandise, or improving life style.” Interior design is a practice that responds to changes in the economy, organisation, technology, demographics and business goals of an organisation, or simply a family.
As a human activity, interior design is centuries old. As a coherent profession identified by the label “interior designer,” it is relatively recent. Many experts trace its beginnings to the early 20th century and the rise of interior decoration as a career separate from architecture. In the early decades, this practice focused largely on the residential arena. By the 1940s, the terms “interior design” and “interior designer” were used primarily by those individuals providing services to a small but growing number of business clients. After World War II, non-residential design-offices, hotels, retail establishments, and schools grew in importance as the country rebounded economically. Interior design is generally divided into two categories, residential and contract or commercial. Today, interior design is becoming increasingly specialised as buildings and materials get more complex technologically and regulations and standards are more demanding.
Dependent upon the project and the clientele, when working in 3-D most software programmes allow the potential of seeing how an intended interior design will work inside a proposed structure.
- Landscape Architecture
Landscape architecture is the comprehensive discipline of land analysis, planning, design, management, preservation and rehabilitation. The profession of landscape architecture has been built on the principles of dedication to the public safety, health and welfare; and recognition and protection of the land and its resources.
3-D design allows one to see how one’s design will fit within the landscape.
- Lighting Design
While observing lines of dirt and debris frozen in a glacier, the British physicist John Tyndall noted in 1860 that more light on an object did not necessarily increase its visibility. Despite this observation, cheap and abundant electricity led to lighting design in the mid twentieth century that meant little more than sizing branch circuits large enough to safely deliver power to the light bulbs. A philosophy of, “More light, better sight” summarised the approach to architectural lighting. Lighting control was unnecessary as illuminated (but empty) commercial buildings defined the night-time city skylines.
Recognising perhaps what John Tyndall observed over 155 years ago, the relatively new lighting design profession takes a more refined approach to providing visibility for the occupants and enhancing architectural forms rather than flooding a space with light. This approach also represents an enormous business opportunity in the form of energy savings especially in new and potentially in retrofit construction. Ironically, much of this in commercial building occupancy takes place during daytime hours when daylight could provide for some or all of the lighting requirements without any electricity use at all. Contemporary electric lighting design captures this electricity savings opportunity while improving visibility in the built environment.
3-D design allows one to visualise lighting effects throughout a residence or commercial building.
Architecture and Urban Planning are related endeavours that focus on different geographic scales. Architecture works at the scale of the individual building and immediate site, while planning works at the scale of neighbourhoods, municipalities and regions. In addition, planning has developed many specialisations that focus on different aspects of the larger built environment, such as affordable housing, transportation, economic development, protection of natural resources, land use planning and community development.
The Planning Departments throughout the country emerged from a need to overcome the disease, squalor and poverty that were urban side effects of the industrial revolution. Planners therefore are concerned with a wide range of social, political, environmental and economic factors beyond those that are the immediate concerns of building owners.
An important function of planning is to engage the public in the process of developing a vision for how they want their community and its surrounding region to evolve over time, what attributes are important to protect and where new development should be encouraged. In the last two decades, the environmental aspect has taken on such a prominent role that we now find Planning pitted against the Designer / Builder / Developer for many more different reasons than in the past, and this is where it is critical that appropriate communication is maintained so agreements can be attained. The Planning aspect of a building / development can take up to 20% of the allotted time in the Integrated Design Process, when the Council is amenable to the development. If there is friction, this percentage can increase dramatically.
Schematic drawings are normally fine to get Outline Planning Permission, but Detailed Planning Permission can be tricky as it is open to interpretation by individuals within the Planning Department. This is why it is very important to work within their policies, and get to know the Planning/Building Control Surveyor, to get assent.
The Department for Communities and Local Government decides national planning policy for England. National planning policy is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. Responsibility for planning permission lies with local planning authorities (usually, the planning department of the district or borough council).
Obviously, before making a planning application it is important to check with the local planning authority; potentially to find out when planning meetings are held and what the procedures are if looking at development sites that fall outside of the local planning policy.
Planning applications can be ‘detailed’ or ‘outline’:
- Outline planning applications can be used to find out whether a proposed development is acceptable to the local planning authority, before substantial costs are incurred developing a detailed design. Outline planning applications allow the submission of outline proposals, the details of which may be agreed as “reserved matters” applications at a later stage
- Detailed planning applications submit all the details of the proposed development at the same time
A detailed planning application might include:
- Ownership certificates
- Notices to all owners of the application site
- Agricultural land declaration
A location plan identifying:
- The land to which the application relates, with the application site edged in red and adjoining land owned by the applicant edged in blue
- Roads and buildings on adjoining land
- Land required for access to the site
- Visibility of and from the site
- Car parking
- Open areas
A site plan which must show the direction of north, site boundaries and existing buildings on the site and may show:
- Buildings, roads and footpaths on adjoining land
- Public rights of way
- The position of trees
- Hard surfaces
- Boundary treatment
A design and access statement explaining the principles behind the proposed design:
- How much development is proposed? For residential development, this is the number of units and for other developments, the proposed floor space for each proposed use.
- The relationship between buildings and spaces within the site
- Accessibility for users, such as travel distances and gradients
- The impact of the layout on energy consumption and thermal comfort
- Crime prevention measures
- The height, width and length of buildings and the reasons for particular heights
- The size of key features of buildings such as entrances and facades
- The purpose of landscaping
- Its relationship to the surrounding area
- A schedule of planting and hard landscaping
Appearance of the development:
- How it will relate to its surroundings
- How the texture, contrast, tone and lighting of the site have been developed in relation to accessibility
- How local context has influenced the design
- Analysis of any consultation process and its influence on the development
- Proposed uses of the site
- Accessibility to and between these different uses and their relationship to surrounding sites
Access (access to the development, not the internal accessibility of buildings):
- Access to buildings, spaces and transport
- Results of any consultation
- Access for emergency services if appropriate
Please NOTE: The National Planning Policy Framework makes clear that there should be a presumption in favour of sustainable development. This should be reflected in design and access statements and 3-D assists in this regard.
Permissions may be the subject of planning conditions, where, rather than refusing a planning application, a local planning authority might grant permission, but might for example restrict the use of the site or require additional approvals for specific aspects of the development. Permissions may also be subject to planning obligations (also known as Section 106 Agreements) which are used to mitigate or compensate for negative impacts of development that might otherwise make them unacceptable. Planning obligations should become less common with the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy.
Please also NOTE: …since 24 February 2014, homes that are owner-occupied and built or commissioned by individuals, families or groups of individuals for their own use are exempt from the levy. (Permitted developments [not requiring a planning application] can usually be started by providing the planning department of a council with a Notice of Works (check locally for their preferred method of contact and advisement), and until 30 May, 2019 permitted extensions can be larger than what one might expect, depending on the existing building and site. Please view http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/permission/house, and press on the #9 tab for further information. It is important to NOTE that your permitted development allowance is limited on listed buildings, properties in conservation areas, where the allowance has already been used and in some cases as a result of restrictions placed in the permission for the property to be built.)
If planning permission is refused, the applicant may lodge an appeal which will then usually be decided by an inspector acting for the Planning Inspectorate. If it falls within the National and Local Planning Framework, and is very ‘green’ without seriously contentious issues, this is a practical way of overcoming disagreements with a local council, and is the Government’s way of assisting development throughout the country.
Generally, construction of the development must begin within three years of the application being approved.
- Structural Engineering
Every part of a building is subject to the effects of outside forces—gravity, storms, wind, rain, floods, land movement, earthquakes and temperature changes, to name a few. The scientific and industrial revolutions introduced analytical approaches based on testing and materials behaviour that allowed designers to go beyond empirical limitations and predict the behaviour of building systems and components that existed only in their imaginations. This gave rise to the formalisation and specialisation of the modern engineering profession, which in turn led to safer, more accurate and cost-effective designs. Today the individual responsible for ensuring that buildings will remain standing while carrying out their intended functions is the structural engineer.
- Plumbing, Electrical, Fire Protection and MVHR Engineering
The Plumbing Engineer is involved with systems that overlap into the mechanical, civil and chemical engineering disciplines. The Plumbing Engineer is in a key position to influence sustainable water efficiency, energy, fire protection and pollution systems of a facility. The Electrical Engineer ensures that our way of life does not come to a grinding halt. Modern society requires smart, simple, safe, reliable and economical electric power infrastructure for social, political and economic activities. Fire Protection Engineers are part and parcel of the approval specifications of any Certified Building System. As part of a holistically controlled environment design solution, the Heating Engineer or MVHR solution provider is responsible for addressing seven major processes, which means they need to work closely with the Plumbing Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Building System Provider and the Architect’s Design Team. These seven processes are:
- Heating – the addition of thermal energy to maintain space or process conditions in response to thermal heat loss
- Cooling – the removal of thermal energy to maintain space or process conditions in response to thermal heat gain
- Humidifying – the addition of water vapour to maintain space or process moisture content
- Dehumidifying – the removal of water vapour to maintain space or process moisture content
- Cleaning – the process of removing particulate and bio-contaminants from the conditioned space.
- Ventilating – the process of providing suitable quantities of fresh outside air for maintaining air quality and building pressurisation.
- Effectiveness – the process of achieving the desired thermal energy transfer, humidity control, filtration, and delivery of ventilated air to the breathing zone of the occupied space in accordance with required needs.
- Building Regulations
Building Regulations impose a set of minimum standards on people carrying out certain specified works in or about buildings. They are primarily for the purposes of public health and safety, the conservation of fuel and power and access and use of buildings. Building Control ensures, through the checking of plans and the inspection of work, that these requirements are met.
Matters covered by the Building Regulations and Approved Documents include:
- Structural stability: foundations, floors, walls and roofs
- Fire safety: means of escape, detection and early warning, signs and lighting, fire spread and fire service access
- Site contamination and moisture: clearance and treatment, contaminants, subsoil drainage, floors, walls and roofs
- Cavity or whole insulation: prevention of toxic fumes
- Sound insulation: between buildings and parts of buildings, within a dwelling, reverberation in common parts of flats and rooms for residential purposes andacoustic conditions in schools
- Ventilation: air supply and extraction
- Sanitary provisions: toilets, washing facilities, bathrooms and hot water storage
- Drainage: foul drainage, rainwater drainage, building over sewers, separate drainage systems and solid waste storage
- Combustion appliances: air supply, discharge of gases, protection of building, protection of liquid fuel systems and protection against pollution
- Stairs, etc.: stairs and ramps, protection from falling and vehicle barriers
- Conservation of fuel and power: CO² emissions, thermal insulation, space heating and hot water storage controls, insulation of vessels, pipes and ducts, lighting, solar overheating and energy efficiency
- Access to and use of buildings: access to buildings, access into buildings, horizontal and vertical circulation, facilities such as audience, spectators, refreshments, sleeping accommodation, switches and controls, communication aids and toilets and dwellings
glazing: safety in relations to impact, opening and cleaning
- Electrical safety: design, installation, inspection and testing in dwellings.
Up-front visualisation and goal setting are critical while remaining flexible for adjustment. Some of the emerging issues in the discipline of the Integrated Design Process include: facility programming to make early predictions to aid in early capital budgeting; client/owners are increasingly requiring further verification that the design complies with the Integrated Design Process and new technologies are generating a need for types of space for new capital equipment which have no precedents (basic and specific knowledge of these technologies is required to determine the standards and guidelines to assist integrated design processes). As more clients require confirmation of measures for building energy and resource conservation standards the Integrated Design Process needs to reflect these requirements in goals, costs, scheduling and complete oversight.
The supply of Integrated Design Process teams with more than just adequate knowledge is much smaller than the demand. More professionals need to consider this sub-discipline as a career path.