Feature Article

Integrated Design

An integrated design process contributed to the success of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis, Maryland.

Photo: Alex Wilson/BuildingGreen
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) Philip Merrill Environmental Center—the first LEED

® Platinum project—is widely featured as an icon of green building. Although the project isn’t perfect, on the whole it is a remarkable achievement, especially since most of the designers involved were new to green building. The success of the Merrill Center can be attributed, at least in part, to an effective integrated design process that was kicked off with a strong educational and bonding experience for the project team. This kick-off event included a boat tour of CBF’s environmental education centers, an overnight stay at one of the lodges, and an onsite design charrette.

One of the least successful—and least integrated—aspects of the Merrill Center’s design was its plumbing system. As previously reported in

EBN (see “Austin Session Highlights,”

Vol. 11, No. 12), the pumps were so mismatched for the facility’s

super-low water use that they didn’t work at all, and the water treatment system was grossly oversized. It should come as no surprise that the project’s plumbing engineer was the one consultant who missed that get-with-the-program tour.

Dozens of successful projects now attest to the fact that integrated design is an effective approach—perhaps the only effective approach—for creating comprehensive green buildings on a reasonable budget. There is no denying that, when it works, remarkable things can be achieved. All too often, however, in spite of the best intentions on the part of owners and designers, the integrated design process falls apart or fails to carry through to a successful project. There are also concerns, especially among those who do not have much experience with the process, that integrated design takes a lot more time and is therefore more expensive. So what does it take to make it work? And does it have to cost more?

Published November 1, 2004