No More "Damn Architects!" - The Case for Integrated Design

In 1997, I helped my parents design and build their home. Early in the construction process, I had suggested that the house be built 25 feet back from where we originally had it planned, and that the fireplace be moved to the back side of the living room. We had already put the stakes in the ground and were ready to start digging for the foundation, butnow we had to take the time to move them. Sarcastically, my mother said, "damn architects!"

The house was at one end of a mountain valley in the foothills of Northern Colroado, and at the other end of the valley was Horsetooth Mountain. During the Summer, they could watch the afternoon storms roll across the valley, and would often see heards of elk and deer roaming. The wildlife would practically dine with us, they were so close.

My Mother knew that I had heard that exclamation a lot. Unfortunately, it was (and still is) common to want to point a finger at another trade because a decision they made caused a major change in the overall design and construction. Typically, the root cause of this is a break in communication or lack of an integrated design approach. In the case of my parents, we had been working together on design from when the thought of building a new home entered their minds. In fact, we worked together all through construction (my step-father was the builder), and the suggestion to move the house and fireplace came out of a group discussion about how to best take advantage of the view toward Horsetooth Mountain.

Starting the design process with the entire project team working together to make all the decisions can save a project, as well as the sanity and reputation of all those involved. The unfortunate thing is, many buildings are not created this way, and fingerpointing is the least of the problems. It's the homeowner or building owner that pays the price by not getting a building that performs the way they expected.

Our blog is full of posts about how project teams miss opportunities to make a building perform well. Some great examples of this explain where it's not a good idea to put certain light fixtures andduct work. These could have (and should have) been avoided if the project team had integrated their individual roles on the project to come up with a way to prevent failures or holes in the design. Serious home performance issues (e.g. like infiltration and heat loss/gain), offensive aesthetic and functional problems (e.g. ductwork through an otherwise perfectly good closet), and major conflicts during the process are usually the result of a project that doesn't use an integrated approach.

Having every member of the project team on the same page and contributing to the design and construction process results in well thought out, comprehensive solutions that avoid compromising the design or performance integrity of the building. Plus, we can avoid having to work with all these "damn tradespeople!"


-From the desk of Energy Vanguard's damn architect

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Tags: Architecture, Building, Design, Integrated, Science


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