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The Cost of Design

Integrative design processes are the most important aspect of successful green building, whether they are guided by the LEED rating system or another system, codes, incentives or a visionary owner.

In any case, the “integrative” part is pivotal.

The systems need to be optimized in tandem, not in their separate silos of control and importance.  When the glazing and window locations are being planned, the heating and cooling systems should be discussed.  When the ceiling heights move up or down, this may affect the furniture planning (bunk beds or not?) and the use of ceiling mounted radiant panels.  All of this information MUST become interrelated in our discussions.  Most importantly, this integration means that more voices must be in on the work earlier.  The ultimate goal is that more decisions are made and refined earlier in design.

How should this affect fees?

More money needs to go into the fees earlier; to encourage and support the valuable investigatory and goal defining work in the first 20% or so of the project time.  With proper fees, the engineer will have the ability and the responsibility to work with the architect early in defining the systems and spaces together, instead of waiting for the “final design” to sandwich in effective heating and cooling systems.  Architects will be compelled to manage the programmatic needs, material choices and spacial relationships with the inputs of the full design team.  Only then can the design development phase become what it should be – research and follow through on the realistic (but aggressive?) goals and priorities defined early on.

The real and valuable work in creating greener projects is heavier at the front end – the fees should also be heavier at the front.

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