The Integrative Design Process

By Dayna Lake

As designers, we sell our time to the clients and in return, they expect that we use that time to produce concepts and ideas that lead to project development, approval, and eventually construction. Often times the route to construction is complicated, can take a different turn, and sometimes lead to some of the best ideas getting removed because it wasn’t properly planned, costing the client valuable time and money. What if there was a process that evaluated the project development system as a whole, gave designers a framework to understand project relationships, and to see a project through cohesively and justly? The Integrative Process is the way to understand a project’s life cycle through a fully interrelated and connected perspective. It provides a holistic means to design which can allow design professionals to understand and identify the different synergies that overall unify a project and enable the team to achieve high building, social, and environmental performance.

At the start of the design process, designers should initiate the integrative process as defined by American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Standard Guide[1], collaborate with consultants, and set the sustainability goals with the client. This will allow designers to properly plan and strategize the trajectory of the project and lower the cost of upfront sustainability measures. This comprehensive approach also allows the team to establish synergies in their systems early on and encourage team members to ask clarifying questions that can propel the project in a more efficient and thoughtful direction. The Integrative Process is defined by ANSI Consensus National Standard Guide and is also used in the development of the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED® rating system credit point for the integrative process. This rating system rewards teams for using the integrative process in the discovery phase of a project. ANSI’s Standard Guide for the Integrative Process clearly states that the purpose of the process, “…is to effectively manage and optimize synergies between the complex set of technical and living systems associated with design and construction in order to effectively pursue sustainable practices.”[2] The interconnections of a project are what set each one apart from each other. Thus, it is important that architects, engineers, landscape architects, contractors, and clients collaborate for the greater good of the project and community it will be built in.

In order for Integrative Process to be successful, project teams must participate in regularly scheduled workshops or charrettes, invest in adequate research that promotes positive synergies between habitat, water, energy, and materials, and constantly evaluate their designed systems to verify that the scope and client goals are still being achieved. In addition to verifying client goals, teams should also consider the opinions of other stakeholders (ie. the community members this project would affect). With most projects, the community will have input during architectural review proceedings later on. Thus, it is worthwhile to consider introducing the community to the project and even invite a local representative to participate in the charrette.


The image above shows the Integrative Process in all stages of the design process and highlights how fluid the process needs to be in order to adapt to new problems or findings. During the Discovery Phase team members not only have to participate in an initial kick-off charrette, but they also have to prepare adequate research for their corresponding disciplines and come prepared to the charrette with questions, comments, or concerns. When teams are able to discuss their issues, everyone at the table is able to learn and understand. This technique is so effective that team members are able to discuss their own and other disciplines portions thoroughly. This is extremely helpful for teams to be able to properly plan designs because they can anticipate other disciplines’ needs and proactively design accordingly, instead of coordinating reactively. The Standard Guide describes “…good integration [as] a continuously dynamic and iterative process”[3]. The process refutes linear problem solving because constant optimization and the best designs come when different perspectives can be explored and worked collectively as a team. Consider implementing a full Integrative Process at the start of your next project. Your team, client, and community will wholly appreciate it.





[1] Integrative Process (IP)© ANSI Consensus National Standard Guide©

[2] Integrative Process (IP)© ANSI Consensus National Standard Guide©, Pg. 4

[3] integrative Process (IP)© ANSI Consensus National Standard Guide©, Pg. 10



Designer II