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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. Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) considerations include appearance, visual and thermal comfort, acoustics, health, and energy efficiency. IEQ is optimized when coordinated with other building systems, including Lighting, HVAC, Solid Waste and Submetering. Collection areas for solid waste and recycling may require additional ventilation and exhaust to maintain adequate IEQ. Daylight, task lighting, filtration, ventilation, temperature, relative humidity and occupant control all contribute to occupant comfort and submetering can inform occupant comfort and control measures based on usage.

The integrative design process brings key players to the table to consider and integrate IEQ with the systems and operations of the building. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and based on the common objective to balance high performance with low operating costs and achieve a high level of occupant satisfaction.

Facility Manager

The facility manager plays an important role in maintaining a high-quality indoor environment by implementing green cleaning policies and environmentally preferable purchasing, educating occupants about building systems and performance, and administering periodic occupant satisfaction surveys to monitor whether the targeted temperature, relative humidity, lighting, ventilation and acoustics are providing the expected occupant satisfaction. The facility manager in close coordination with operations and maintenance personnel should ensure a process is in place to track and respond to occupant discomfort complaints and to ensure green cleaning policies and environmentally preferable purchasing procedures are implemented consistently.

Mechanical Engineer

The mechanical engineer is responsible for sizing the heating and cooling equipment based on both internal heat loads and heat loss through the building envelope, which may be facilitated by energy modeling. Optimization of the HVAC system is critical in maintaining a high-quality indoor environment, including 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. The HVAC design benefits from the mechanical engineer’s close coordination with the architect and interior designer on appropriate thermal zones and with the acoustical consultant on sound and vibration control. Commissioning ensures the HVAC system is installed, inspected, tested, and operated as designed.


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. A high-quality indoor environment can have social benefits such as occupant comfort, health and satisfaction, as well as financial benefits such as high worker performance and market value.¹


1. Indoor Air Quality Scientific Findings Research Bank



The occupant sets expectations for functionality and performance and, through their engagement and behavior, affects IEQ. This may be from particulates tracked into the building on occupants’ shoes or noise and odors caused by daily activities. The occupant’s health and productivity is also directly affected by the building’s IEQ and lighting, thermal comfort and acoustics should be considered throughout the integrative design process. Engaging occupants for their input on and contribution to building performance goals, including energy efficiency and IEQ, and providing education about occupant control features can yield significant benefits to both occupant performance and resource use.

Lighting Designer

The lighting designer, in close coordination with the architect and interior designer, 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 control. The lighting designer is trained to prevent glare and direct exposure to sunlight, which 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 Designer

The interior designer works within the integrative team to create interior spaces that optimize opportunities for social interaction balanced with private spaces, deliver meaningful and interesting sensory and visual connections, ensure appropriate sound levels, use healthy materials, and maintain and control personal comfort. See the GSA Workspace Solutions Library to learn how interior design affects occupant satisfaction and building performance.

Workplace Specialist

The workplace specialist is highly engaged with the human behavior aspect of creating a healthy and functional space. Collaborating with the lighting designer, interior designer, acoustical consultant and mechanical engineer, the workplace specialist defines and establishes IEQ quality and performance criteria for the daily activities of the occupants and evaluates lighting, mechanical, and other IEQ systems for health, comfort, and productivity.

Operations and Maintenance Personnel

Operations and maintenance personnel are critical to ensuring a high-quality indoor environment. Thorough green cleaning and purchasing plans should be easy to follow and implement, including schedules and guidelines for any necessary trainings or certifications.1 Operations and 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.

1. Facilities Management Institute

Acoustical Engineer

The acoustical consultant is tasked with creating a productive acoustic environment through a combination of sound absorption technologies, blocking designs, and masking strategies. The acoustical consultant coordinates closely with the architect, interior designer and mechanical engineer to design room layouts that limit sound transfer and to identify opportunities to limit distractions, such as creating acoustical zones or providing steady background noise from HVAC equipment.

Electrical Engineer

The electrical engineer is responsible for the overall design of the electrical system, including power, data, communications, security, fire protection and lighting. The electrical engineer coordinates closely with the lighting designer to ensure illumination of all interior and exterior spaces and achievement of overall lighting goals. The electrical engineer also coordinates closely with the mechanical engineer to ensure that the electrical system provides the appropriate power to HVAC equipment and controls and that the HVAC system is designed to accommodate the heat load of electrical systems. 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.

Custodial Personnel

Custodial personnel are responsible for the implementation of green cleaning programs, including compliance with equipment and procurement requirements, which are critical to a high-quality indoor environment. It is critical that custodial personnel are trained on proper cleaning protocols, use of equipment and products, and health and safety precautions.

Facility Manager Mechanical Engineer Owner Occupant Lighting Designer Interior Designer Workplace Specialist Operations and Maintenance Personnel Acoustical Engineer Electrical Engineer Custodial Personnel


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