• Molly Jones

Guiding Principle #1: Employee Integrated Design Principles

When working on sustainable federal projects, it is key to have a design team in place that is delivering the project through a collaborative and integrated process. Guiding principle number one from the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings is Employee Integrated Design Principles. In this guiding principle, we have five sub principles: integrated design and management, sustainable siting, stormwater management, infrastructure utilization and optimization and commissioning.

Compliance with each subcategory can be verified in multiple ways, either by following the suggestions set forth by Appendix A of Guiding Principles or by utilizing third-party building certification systems or standards identified by the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) Office of High-Performance Buildings (outlined in Appendix C).

Integrated Design and Management

For every federal building and modernization project, there are a series of phases beyond the planning and design phase, including the construction commissioning phase and then the transition to operations. I am very interested in raising awareness about this transition to the operational phase because it's one where we haven't historically paid enough attention.

As architects and engineers, we can set up projects to be successful in the long run and to perform at a high level throughout their lifetime. For each design decision that you make, you should not only evaluate its impact on the environment, but also consider how it will impact operations and perform during emergencies and other significant events.

It’s important to define the owner’s project requirements early in the design process, whether that task is being done at the agency level or has been passed on to the consultants. Also consider how the building gets decommissioned: How is it disassembled and what happens to the building components as they are disassembled? And can you find ways to uniquely design the building in a way where those disassembled components can be repurposed easily?

Sustainable Siting

An integrated site development process involves a very thorough site assessment and gives us a good understanding of the environmental impacts that we can have on the site. We should weigh the economical impacts when considering different sites for the project so we can mitigate any current or projected site-specific issues and long-term risks that could come up. This can be accomplished through consideration of resilience strategies to employ on the project and also strategies to help support wildlife habitats.

While we can’t prevent them, we also have to be aware of potential natural disasters such as hurricanes, storm surges, wildfires, droughts and floods. Today sites can be subject to many natural disasters within a very short period of time, so it's more important than ever to pay attention to this.

Stormwater Management

Designers are expected to meet all of the statutory requirements in every project and to employ strategies to either maintain (not increase) stormwater runoff if you have a project that’s disrupting a surface area larger than 5,000 square feet, or reduce it. If you are working on a smaller project, where feasible you should utilize low-impact development strategies to manage on-site stormwater and maintain or restore hydrology conditions after development.

Infrastructure Utilization

Infrastructure utilization refers to prioritizing sites that are locationally efficient with access to multimodal transit options. These sites should also align with local and regional planning goals so that we can understand and maximize future investments that may be coming to area, such as electric vehicle charging infrastructure. There are six options to demonstrate compliance. Similar to the LEED rating system, the first five are prescriptive, such as providing electrical vehicle charging stations onsite or preferred parking for alternative fuel vehicles.

Optimization and Commissioning

Before my firm even puts out a proposal, we ask who is the commissioning authority on the project, and what is their scope of work? Making sure that we have those individuals identified for the project is critical. What we want to do with this guiding principle is to make sure that the commissioning authority is working with the federal facilities guideline in their hand and using ASHRAE and ANSI standards as well, or other generally recognized standards for commissioning.

For more insight on the Guiding Principles, please read the first blog post in this series.