Integrative Design Process
The integrative design process understands that buildings, their components, and their context are interrelated. Observe this principle by involving all stakeholders from project conception through delivery and beyond. Include all stakeholders to identify synergies that otherwise would go unnoticed to reduce the initial and operating costs and optimize the design for appearance, comfort, and energy efficiency. An integrated IEQ team can involve the workplace specialist, interior designer, facility manager, owner, occupant, maintenance staff and mechanical, lighting and acoustical engineers with a goal to maximize occupant comfort and health.
By establishing green cleaning contracts and purchasing agreements that specify environmentally-friendly cleaning and office materials, the facility manager plays an important role in improving overall indoor air quality. Administering occupant satisfaction surveys prior to and following any retrofit project will help identify IEQ categories of greater interest, saving money and time in bringing IEQ benefits to the space. Metering and building control systems provide the Facility Manager information on fluctuations in temperature, humidity, electricity and ventilation before it impacts occupant comfort and periodic occupancy surveys can ensure the targeted temperature, relative humidity, lighting, and other building environmental factors are providing the expected occupant satisfaction. The Facility Manager along with the Mechanical Engineer and Maintenance staff should ensure a process is in place to track and respond to occupant discomfort complaints during the integrative process. In addition, a robust tracking process throughout can ensure green maintenance procedures are implemented consistently.
Optimization of the HVAC system is critical in maintaining a healthy and productive indoor environment. The mechanical engineer is responsible for providing adequate levels of ventilation and filtration, which circulate air from within and outside the facility, as well as proper humidity and temperature levels during all seasons and times of day. All ASHRAE standards need to be met, with plans for retrocommissioning to ensure the space is safe and comfortable into the future. The mechanical engineer should work closely with the Architect and Interior Designer in providing thermal zones for customizability by occupants where desired. Additionally, the Mechanical Engineer should coordinate with the Acoustical Engineer to reduce and block HVAC mechanical sound from causing worker disruptions and potentially leverage the HVAC system as a source of background noise.
The owner wants to maximize the project’s return on investment as well as the overall building’s market value. As a result, the building owner should be made aware of the financial and social benefits of creating a high quality indoor environment. Increases in worker performance and property value coupled with a reduction in associated liability concerns of an unhealthy building can greatly offset any upfront investments in IEQ renovations.1 The owner will develop the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) with the integrative team at project kick-off to establish prioritization of critical design and operational criteria. The integrative team working in collaboration from project conception should be focused not only on optimizing comfort and environmental stability but also limiting life cycle costs of the building.
The occupant’s health and productivity is directly affected by the IEQ and therefore their well-being should be considered throughout the integrative design process. Controllability of the indoor environment can be beneficial not only to the worker’s performance but also create reductions in utility consumption if designed properly. Bring the building occupant to the integrative table to ensure successful participation by the occupant in maintaining good IEQ and the lighting and acoustic requirements are sufficient to meet the task needs of the space.
The lighting engineer, in cooperation with the rest of the integrative team, should ensure as much natural daylight permeates the space as possible. A lighting strategy that incorporates a combination of direct and indirect light fixtures, individual controls and occupancy/daylight sensors, and task lighting alternatives provides both an equally distributed illumination level and additional opportunities for occupant controllability. The lighting engineer is trained to prevent glare and direct exposure to sunlight as they contribute to a negative and uncomfortable indoor environment. An effective lighting strategy that limits solar heat gain and waste heat from electric lighting, and collaboration with the Mechanical Engineer, may permit a smaller sizing of HVAC equipment.
Interior space not only impacts materials and resource use, but also is critical to human performance through safe and healthy interiors that promote psychological and social well-being. The interior designer works within the integrative team to create interior spaces that aim to optimize opportunities to engage in social encounters balanced with private spaces, meaningful and interesting sensory and visual connections, natural sound levels, healthy material selection, and ability to maintain and control personal comfort. Creating the workplace to support human needs, in collaboration with the Architect, Mechanical, Acoustical and Lighting Engineers, will provide the greatest level of human comfort and satisfaction. See the GSA Workspace Solutions Library to find how interior design affects occupant satisfaction and building performance.
The workplace specialist role is important to have at the table, as he/she is tightly engaged with the human behavior aspect of creating a healthy and functional space. The workplace specialist should collaborate closely with the Facility Manager and Interior Designer to ensure the project is not only a nice space but also one focused on human interactions, health, and safety.
Maintenance personnel are critical in ensuring ongoing indoor environmental performance. Thorough green cleaning and purchasing plans should be easy to follow and implement, including schedules and guidelines for any necessary trainings or certifications.1 Maintenance personnel can provide input on making systems easier to maintain, such as convenient access to filters, valves, and motors or the use of non-absorbent materials, particularly in high traffic areas.
Occupant IEQ surveys often report significant dissatisfaction with building acoustical performance. The acoustical engineer is tasked with creating a productive acoustic environment through a combination of sound absorption technologies, blocking designs, and masking strategies. The acoustical engineer should work alongside the Interior Designer and Mechanical Engineer to identify opportunities to limit distractions, such as creating acoustical zones or providing steady background noise from HVAC equipment. Collaboration with the Architect may lead to room layouts that limit sound transfer.