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  • Molly Jones

Guiding Principle 1: Employ Integrated Design


This is a weekly series for the next 6 weeks reviewing the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and Associated Instructions.


Congress established the six Guiding Principles to enact a range of statutory provisions related to high-performance, sustainable buildings, energy, water, and environmental goals and requirements. These goals help agencies meet federal mandates related to sustainable building design, construction, and operation.


When buildings meet these Guiding principles, they save water and energy, cost less to operate, produce less waste, and have more satisfied occupants. (GSA 2018)


The first Guiding Principle is Employ Integrated Design. There are five subsections: Management, Sustainable Siting, Stormwater Management, Infrastructure Utilization and Optimization, and Commissioning.


1.1 Integrated Design and Management


This subsection aims to ensure that you have a collaborative and integrated team delivering the project through a collaborative and integrated process.


Historically there hasn’t been a lot of attention given here. There are several aspects, including planning, design, construction, commissioning, operations, and modernization. The goal is to have a stable transition to the operations phase. When executed appropriately, it sets up the project to be successful in the longer term and perform at a high level throughout the lifetime.

You’ll want to look at every design choice made on the project and make sure you understand the impact of that on the environment, operations, emergencies, and any other significant events that come up.

The owner’s project requirements (OPR) should be clearly defined at the agency level and with consultants. The OPR is a critical document for the commissioning process. It also determines how the building gets decommissioned. There are a few things to consider:

  • How is it disassembled?

  • What happens to the building components as they’re disassembled?

  • How can you uniquely create that building so it can be repurposed easily when the components are disassembled?

The table for Appendix A has two options:




** This chart is for new construction only


1.2 Sustainable Siting


Sustainable siting is how to select a site for the building.


You’ll want to use an integrated site development process to help conduct a comprehensive site assessment. It should give a good understanding of a site's environmental, economic, and mission impacts.


Next, you’ll also want to ensure that we mitigated any current and project site-specific issues and long-term risks. This is done by considering resilience strategies to employ on the project and support wildlife habitat. There may also be natural disasters such as hurricanes, storm surges, droughts, floods, wind, or wildfires that need to be mitigated.


These days, many sites are subject to multiple natural disasters within a short time. Paying attention to those is becoming more and more critical.


There is two easy-to-demonstrate compliance:

  1. Write a report documenting that you have gone through all 9 items requested.

  2. Conform to the IgCC requirements



** This chart is for new construction only


1.3 Stormwater Management


This principle is about meeting every project's statutory requirements to employ strategies not to increase stormwater runoff (if you have a project larger than 5 square feet) or reduce it.


If you have a smaller site, you’ll want to ensure you use low-impact development strategies on your projects.



** This chart is for new construction only

1.4 Infrastructure Utilization and Optimization

The goal of this principle is to look for efficient sites that are locationally efficient. You’ll want to prioritize those locations to help with multimode transit (if possible) and with local and regional planning goals. This will help understand and maximize future investments that may come into the area.


There are several options here, but it’s essential to find a location within a certain proximity of walking distance between transit locations or that you’re installing electric vehicle charging stations.




** This chart is for new construction only


1.5 Commissioning


Before our team submits a proposal, we find out who the commissioning authority on the project is and what their scope is. Having those individuals identified is critical. You’ll want to know what work they’re providing and understand how that aligns with what is required to meet the guiding principle.


You’ll want to know what to do with this guiding principle to ensure they work within the federal facilities' guidelines. Are they qualified? What experience do they have?


Once you have that, you’ll want to document it appropriately.




** This chart is for new construction only


Guiding Principle 1 is about using a collaborative and integrated process to plan, design, construct, commission, and transition to the operation of each new building or modernization project.


For more information on this principle or the guidelines for modernization projects, refer to the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and Associated Instructions.



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