As I study to prepare to take the LEED-CI exam, I am excited by the potential benefits of the LEED® rating system that extend well beyond creating sustainable environments for humans. The application process the USGBC has established serves as a model for project management and facilitates cooperation among all members of the building team.
Submitting a project for a LEED rating requires early collaboration among all members of the team to collectively commit to the goal of submitting the project for review. The steps necessary to reach the goal are outlined, and the team members responsible for achieving them are identified. While this should be standard procedure with all design projects, the stakes are increased and accountability is astutely measured on a LEED project.
The client is an integral part of this early planning and retains an active role in the decision-making process throughout the duration of the project. In fact, the system mandates client/design team interaction very early by requiring site evaluation, regardless of whether the project is new construction or for an existing building. This level of client/design team communication is a key ingredient of a successful project. As designers, many of us have been hired for a project after the decision of which site to purchase was made, only to encounter issues we know could have been avoided if we had been consulted beforehand.
The stringent requirements of the submittal process to document each phase of the project have several benefits. The first is that this level of record keeping cannot be accomplished without consistent communication among building team members. It is not unusual for one discipline to execute a phase of a project and hand it off to another without soliciting input during the process. This is understandable, though not desirable, when team members are representing different firms. However, the practice of handing off projects like a baton in a relay race also occurs within large firms due to time constraints and studio organization. Thoroughly documenting the process will reduce the likelihood of this occurring.
An even more exciting benefit of this level of documentation is that it makes case study analysis, the foundation of evidence-based design, readily achievable within the scope of project services. Collecting data to demonstrate the value of design not only serves each firm in its marketing efforts, but also the A&D industry as a whole if the case studies are shared—as they are, for example, in medicine.
The approach to utilizing this detail-oriented style of project management, which is necessary for submitting a project for LEED certification, is a familiar one. Ideally, all projects should be managed in this detailed a manner, with the early identification of all members of the building team; a clear definition of each member's role and responsibility; precisely timed phasing; early identification of appropriate products; and unwavering communication between the client and all members of the team.
With the widespread adoption of the LEED submittal process, project team members could enjoy:
- Clients who habitually consult the design team at the moment they think of building, renovating or redesigning and well before the site is selected.
- Increased communications, which in turn fosters an understanding by the clients of what it is interior designers and other design professionals will do.
- A process that underscores the value (to the client) of interior designers, architects, engineers, landscape architects and other members of the building team.
- A process that demands the disciplines to work together to solve problems.
- Design professionals who work closely together, resulting in increased value and respect for each others' expertise.
I can envision a time when LEED certification will be a requirement for all design projects, perhaps even absorbed into our building codes because sustainability truly affects health, safety and welfare. By that time, our comfort level with working as an integrated design team will have been cemented. We will more easily reach the best possible solutions, and as a result, design quality will soar.
ASID president Suzan Globus, FASID, is an awardwinning interior designer who consults on public, educational and museum libraries. She is a principal of Globus Design Associates in Red Bank, NJ. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and on the Web at www.asid.org.