A Holistic Approach

TEXT Robert Billard

In recent years, there has been a push for sustainable initiatives through measurement tools such as Green Globes and LEED. However, using a version of the Integrated Design Process (IDP) has reduced many of these strategies to mere buzzwords and marketing tools.

To some, current approaches to the IDP-intensive process can have a single-minded focus on LEED or other green initiatives. Unfortunately, it is incorrect to suggest that IDP emerged as a response to programs like LEED. The IDP approach has been around for much longer and has at least partly contributed to many successful non-competitive design-build projects, especially in the private sector.

Being green is only one part of the goal of a successful project. The evolution in thinking about ecological and sociological issues as a necessary component to the health of our built environment has developers and designers needing to increasingly address a Triple Bottom Line (i.e., measuring economic, ecological and social success) approach.

In and of itself, focusing solely on LEED or other green measurement tools is neither an integrated nor a holistic approach to a client’s needs. Alternatively, the IDP promotional materials infrequently deal with issues of schedules and budgets. Certainly, being sustainable has a far broader definition than simply being green.

What appears to be missing from many IDP initiatives is an actual plan–a strong set of objectives and a firm schedule. Each version of the IDP offers either highly complex or overly simplistic bubble diagrams in an attempt to fit within the traditional phases of a project, but rarely a schedule and a process flow.

To address these issues, KMBR Architects Planners Inc. have developed the Holistic Project Delivery (HPD) method. At the root of our concern, we noticed that processes developed for IDP could benefit from the the application of a workflow management process originally developed by Toyota that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful. Known as the “Lean” process, its methodology was designed to distill the essence of management decisions and reduce ineffective time management. Its implementation focuses on getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity to achieve optimum workflow while minimizing waste and maximizing both flexibility and adaptability. In architecture, a wasteful expenditure of resources often amounts to time lost in circuitous and elaborate lines of communication where internal teams are too large, meetings are ineffective, and there is a lack of strict control over the outcomes and scheduling of these meetings. Using Lean principles with HPD seeks to streamline these things and get people to focus on their goals.

What is HPD?

With HPD, many basic concepts of IDP are included; however, the key is the provision of a “how” along with a clearer vision for the design workflow process. It is founded in a strict objective-based process led by the project schedule and physical deliverables. It incorporates green initiatives such as LEED but is not led solely by them. The intent is to approach the project from as many sides with as many minds as possible to ensure as holistic an outcome as possible. HPD can be adapted to any project but used in its purest form, it results in a significant departure from the traditional schedule and phased project delivery method.

How HPD Works

Traditionally, the design of a project is broken down into distinct phases: Schematic Design, Design Development, and Working Drawings. Through a pre-determined, strictly scheduled and coordinated number of sessions, along with well-directed Objective-Based Design Groups (OBDG) between the sessions, the HPD method seeks to blur and compress these phases by working at the micro and macro levels of design simultaneously. For example, issues such as orientation, programming and massing are intrinsically linked to choices in image, traffic flow, material, planting, energy use, and systems.

Why HPD Works

By continuously moving back and forth from the micro to the macro in what would normally be the schematic design phase helps to limit the number of unresolved issues which contribute to errors or omissions that can be costly in the grandest phase of all–construction. HPD provides a crystallization of the design prior to assembling the construction documentation in the same way as the traditional schedule allows, but in a faster and more fluid manner while maintaining a strict adherence to the process laid out at the beginning of the project.

The time between sessions is used to develop solutions to the next set or layer of program requirements. The Objective-Based Design Groups (OBDGs) are charged with the responsibility to return with solutions to the project’s goals and deliverables. These solutions will range from how to obtain a particular LEED point to meeting a client’s budget constraints to what type of structure to employ. Through strong skills in the areas of project management and organization, the HPD Coordinator is tasked with ensuring that these solutions, and possibly divergent interest groups such as the client and the community, are coordinated and brought to the session table.

HPD sessions are similar to the wrap-up sections of a typical design charrette. At the session, information from the Objective-Based Design Groups is presented and the preferred option is selected. This is accomplished through the facilitation of an experienced HPD Coordinator. Emphasis is placed on using the sessions to make decisions. Minutes of these sessions are predominantly documentation of these design decisions, and written acceptance of the minutes is strictly required.

Including the client’s groups and authorities in the OBDGs and the sessions serves to negate the traditional phases, where typically there are a series of periodic owner’s reviews and official approvals that break the step of the project and distort the logical continuity of the developing design. In HPD, the approvals process happens at the sessions. Buy-in by all relevant parties is integrated, immediate and informed.

When HPD Works

HPD fosters a more fluid way of conducting the design meetings. The issues and goals are brought forth and tackled by all, regardless of discipline, but held in check by the HPD Coordinator. For example, the choice of glazing will affect not only the energy efficiency of the HVAC system but the aesthetics, daylighting, glare, security, orientation, landscaping and user scheduling. The HPD Coordinator must keep his finger on the pulse of the project at all times.

We have found that a strictly coordinated and focused team can deliver a complex project in roughly six to nine sessions over a period of 12 to 18 weeks and at that point move seamlessly into construction documentation. Having team members at the sessions with approval authority is crucial in compressing the schedule in this manner. For example, a recent school project benefited from having a member of the British Columbia Ministry of Education at the sessions and the schedule was dramatically compressed. Having been a part of the design process, the Ministry was able to approve the project much faster to avoid significant delays based upon traditional review periods.

The use of a Building Information Modelling (BIM) tool, such as Revit, is also integral to HPD. Using a three-dimensional design tool to its fullest potential provides a fundamental change in the way the design team functions. BIM offers the client a fast and dynamic means to understand the project rather than otherwise complicated and static two-dimensional drawings. BIM also provides an integrated and swift ability to chan
ge, quantify and coordinate various building components.

In addition, in the old model of project delivery, senior members with a wealth of experience rely on junior members to implement ideas, creating a “delay” in the realization of a solution. Using BIM brings the tools back into the hands of senior designers and offers earlier results. Concepts are input into the design in real time, cutting out the inefficiency of “middle-men” communication such as between the senior architect and the junior architect/designer and then the architectural technologist. For architects, there is a significant amount of time and money spent on meetings and drawing coordination, to name two examples. While the HPD members’ individual hourly rates increase, the effectiveness of their input and the reduction in implementation time results in a net gain.

There are many other aspects of HPD that serve to provide the client and the project with tangible benefits in areas such as program, sustainability, operations and maintenance. However, at the heart of every project are the simple matters of schedule and budget. Approaching the solution holistically from all angles simultaneously and with a strict process not only provides the best solution for the client but also works to meet the goals of time and cost.

As the economy continues to challenge the industry, clients are becoming savvy in their understanding of the architectural process. Providing a clear plan and method that addresses their goals on a holistic level–and not simply providing lip service to an integrated design process or essential sustainable design strategy–will benefit everyone. In architecture, it is obvious why we need an integrated design approach. With the HPD method, we also have the how. CA

Robert Billard is an architect specializing in educational and sustainable projects across Canada. He developed the HPD method with KMBR Architects Planners Inc. in Vancouver