Feature Article - September 2007
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Eco-Nomically Green

A Little Green Goes a Long Way

By Dana Carman

A Planning Party

As with any building project, it's important for all the players to work together throughout the process, starting from the very beginning. According to Max Zahniser, lead program manager, process and integration, for the USGBC, utilizing "integrated design" puts everybody on the same page right from the start—architect, engineers, owner, future users, facility manager, landscape architect, etc.—and reduces the likelihood of problems later on in the construction process, which is where a lot of those unforeseen costs that inevitably blow budgets out of the water tend to show up.

"You have to use the word 'integrated' when you talk about sustainability," said Troy Sherrard, a senior associate with Moody-Nolan Inc., a Columbus-based architectural firm that has designed projects for universities, park districts, schools and many other recreation-related facilities across the country.

Moreover, since many standard construction projects end up seeing unanticipated backend costs, any additional costs you may incur to incorporate an integrated design process are offset by not having to pay to have to fix something later on. "At the beginning of a project, change costs less," Sherrard said. "As you go on in the project, the farther you get into it, the more it costs to make a change."

Integrated design can also yield savings another way. In the traditional process, architects, engineers and the like contribute their expertise independent of one another, which, as we already mentioned, is why costly situations can arise. But the integrated approach allows each professional involved to contribute not only to alleviating expensive bottlenecks, but also to creating a more thoughtful plan that identifies tradeoffs that result in less expensive systems and equipment.

"You cannot be almost done with the process and ask 'Can we make this green?'" Sherrard said. When you talk about bigger-picture ideas at the beginning, you make less change at the end. You also find that everything overlaps and relates to each other, and you only find that out when you get together."

"What we've been told by our users," Zahniser said, "is that the costs of using integrated design are offset by the lack of backend coordination needed."