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Integrative Design Process

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The integrative design process understands that buildings, their components, their use and their place and surroundings are interrelated. Whole-building systems observe this principle by involving all stakeholders from project conception through delivery, and beyond. Engaging all stakeholders in the design process to create a cross-disciplinary team and using a systems thinking approach helps to identify synergies and benefits that might otherwise go unnoticed, resulting in reduced initial and operating costs and optimizing performance. Water considerations include indoor and outdoor water consumption, sanitation, hygiene, and reliability. Water performance is optimized when coordinated with other building systems, including HVAC, Planted Roof and Submetering. Water systems may consume significant energy while some HVAC systems can consume significant quantities of water. Non-potable water may be considered for planted roofs and landscaping. Submetering can inform water and energy efficiency measured based on usage. 

The integrative design process brings key players to the table to consider and integrate water with the operations and other systems of the buildings. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and based on the common objective to balance high performance with low operating costs and conserve resources.

Facility Manager

The facility manager can dramatically impact the performance of water systems and improve overall efficiency by measuring and monitoring water use, evaluating plumbing fixture types and irrigation operations, and implementing simple water saving measures.

Mechanical Engineer

The mechanical engineer must consider the quality and quantity of water required for the functionality of the HVAC system, how to optimize and size the HVAC system to use less water, and opportunities such as how much air handling unit condensate might be available for harvesting.


The Owner's Project Requirements (OPR) establish prioritization of critical design and operational criteria. The owner determines the project scope and budget, takes over on-going maintenance at project completion, and wants to maximize the project's return on investment as well as the building's market value. Implementing cost-effective water conservation strategies can increase the building's value by reducing the cost to use and dispose of water, as well as lower operating costs through energy savings and reduced equipment repairs.


The occupant sets expectations for functionality and performance and, through their engagement and behavior, affects water use and efficiency. Engaging occupants for their input on and contribution to water conservation goals and providing education about proper operation of water-saving technologies can encourage reduced water use and monitoring and reporting of operations and maintenance issues. Water temperature and quantity should be adequate for comfort, but heated and delivered as efficiently as possible. Water delivery, especially if redistributed from on-site or through reclaimed sources, must be safe for human interaction.

Plumbing Engineer

The plumbing engineer is responsible for ensuring that water, whether potable or non-potable, provides its intended benefit throughout the building. The plumbing engineer should work closely with the mechanical engineer, operations and maintenance personnel, and the landscape architect, to optimize pipe, pump, and fixture efficiency and ensure proper functionality of water components both inside and outside the facility.

Landscape Architect

The landscape architect is responsible for creating an aesthetically pleasing landscape while requiring the least amount of supplemental water for irrigation. Knowledge of hydrology, or how rainwater and stormwater will flow on site, can be leveraged to create strategies that not only protect the building from potential water hazards but utilizes these natural sources to offset potable water consumption. The landscape architect’s understanding of native or climate-adaptive plants is essential during plant selection. Through xeriscaping and strategic placement of external building features such as ponds or courtyards, the amount of water needed for irrigation can be limited or offset altogether.

Operations and Maintenance Personnel

Operations and maintenance personnel provide important input on the operation and maintenance of water systems, including how to maximize water conservation; the design and placement of equipment, piping, and access points that support the prevention, identification, and repair of leaks; and commissioning to ensure requirements and goals are met far beyond initial installation. Grounds crews and custodial personnel should be consulted on cleaning plans and water-saving procedures, such as sweeping sidewalks rather than using a hose.

Civil Engineer

The civil engineer oversees the water related aspects of the building site design, including how water is supplied, stored, controlled, and discharged from the site. The civil engineer should work closely with the landscape architect to create a safe and water-efficient landscape that utilizes a combination of control systems, including retention ponds, bioswales and rain gardens. Similar roles focused on site hydrology strategies to conserve water could include permaculturalist and ecologist.

Officials and Providers

Water consumption is regulated at the state level and local jurisdictions may have incentive programs promoting water conservation strategies that could significantly reduce upfront financial investment. Local officials and water providers can serve as water subject matter experts and give insight into the big-picture water goals for the community.

Electrical Engineer

The electrical engineer is responsible for the overall design of the electrical system, including power, data, communications, security, fire protection and lighting. This includes pumps and other electrical equipment that support domestic hot water and other elements of the water system. The electrical engineer coordinates closely with the plumbing engineer to ensure electrical support of all water system functions. As more building systems are electrified and as energy generation and storage systems, as well as new demand loads such as electric vehicle charging, are added at the building level, the electrical engineer’s role in ensuring the adequacy of electrical systems and developing load balancing and energy reduction strategies becomes even more critical.

Facility Manager Mechanical Engineer Owner Occupant Plumbing Engineer Landscape Architect Operations and Maintenance Personnel Civil Engineer Officials and Providers Electrical Engineer


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