Design Strategies

Posted by

Green Building Design Phases

The building process has been refined over thousands of years. While every project’s process is slightly different, projects generally progress along these major phases. It’s important to know the right type and level of information that’s needed within each green building design phase to add the most value.


The process outlined here more closely resembles integrated project delivery (IPD), with tighter collaboration, and shared goals, between stakeholders and design disciplines. Many projects, however, are still done using the Design-Bid-Build process.


 1. Predesign

The first step is to understand requirements for the project and the existing site conditions and context.



During this phase you’re studying the local climate, understanding how the space will be used, aligning on goals with the owner and project team, reading applicable codes and laws, looking at precedent projects for inspiration, and studying the existing conditions of the building site.


You’ll begin to understand the potential and limitations of passive design strategies to meet your goals of thermal and visual comfort. You’ll also understand opportunities for renewable energy, and you’ll explore the role of material selection.

 Preparing for the next phase

It’s also important to set targets for sustainability, like achieving net zero energy or certifying the building through a program like LEED.  You’ll develop and revisit these quantitative and qualitative goals as you move through all of the phases. They will help organize the team’s efforts and validate your design.

 2. Conceptual Design

Your first designs will explore alternate building and system design options. At this stage when the building geometry is still evolving, it’s important to take advantage of the site’s available sun and wind for passive design strategies.



During this phase you’ll test and compare conceptual designs by iteratively altering design parameters. Early energy modeling can help define building orientation, massing, program layout, window size, and façade shading. Tweaking energy model defaults like operational settings and equipment, and other building characteristics, can help you see impacts on building energy use, cost, comfort, and other metrics.

 The primary focus for energy efficiency during this phase are daylighting and glare, natural ventilation, shading and solar gains, distribution of internal loads, and envelope materials.


As a result of these iterations, you will understand which parameters drive the performance of the design and you will start to refine the overall form, materiality and functional layout of the building.

It can be difficult to predict how the project’s program and architectural requirements will respond. You’ll test overall form and conceptual interior layouts to determine which design parameters drive the performance.


To create the most cost-effective, buildable and successful energy efficient designs, it’s best if the architects, engineers, owner, and construction team works together during this early phase.

 Preparing for the next phase

At the end of this phase, when design decisions start to get more difficult to change, good collaboration can ensure you’re aligned on the most promising overall direction.

 3. Design Development

Once you’ve aligned on an overall design direction, you’ll refine the whole building design by focusing more on the details of materials, spaces, building systems and mechanical systems.



During this phase you’ll begin problem solving and studying the details of alternate design concepts chosen in the conceptual design stage. You’ll design such elements as the details of the façade, the layout of interior spaces and lighting, and you’ll use this information to inform more detailed whole building energy analysis.


You will work out the passive design details, optimizing each space as appropriate to take advantage of such things as natural ventilation and daylighting. By quantifying thermal and visual comfort, you’ll also get a better understanding of the active systems you’ll need to supplement the passive systems. Creating simple designs for these active systems will ensure they’ll work with your passive systems.


Architects and engineers will focus more within their discipline during this phase – but, as always, good communication is critical to energy efficiency measures (EEM). This communication and collaboration is aided by technologies like BIM and integrated energy modeling. All disciplines inform the central design.

 Preparing for the next phase

At the end of this phase, the team will have a design proposal, perhaps with several options for building and system details, for the owner to choose from before moving into detailed design.

 4. Detailed Design and Documentation

Once the final design is aligned upon, the team will prepare for construction by creating a fully articulated design and building information model.



During this phase, the team will settle on precise constructions and will specify either particular materials and building products or performance specifications that meet the energy model requirements. The active HVAC and lighting systems will also be designed and specified in detail by the MEP engineers.


You ensure that your design is articulated well enough to be built (i.e. handed off to the contractor) and that the systems are properly integrated for maximum performance.


Architects and engineers will focus on their discipline but the team can use BIM and integrated energy modeling can help ensure tight design integration.

 Preparing for the next phase

A final version of the simulation and energy analysis will document the target energy performance and provide a benchmark for validation during the construction phases. With this information you’ll also be ready to finalize many of the documents you’ll need for building certification systems like LEED.

 5. Construction

With the design fully worked-out by the engineers and architects, you’ll now ensure that the construction team can efficiently build the project to the design and performance specifications.



The team will fully detail drawings with all of the constructions, connections, and systems so that it can be built.  The team might also use digital tools to stage, coordinate, and visualize the building process.


You’ll ensure the building is built efficiently and to performance specifications.


The building contractor drives this phase. The rest of the design team will work together with them to ensure the building is built as designed.

 This is when building materials are usually purchased. Often the specifications allow ‘like-or-better’ substitutions. A detailed BIM model and coordinated energy model will help assure that any substitutions will actually meet performance requirements.

 Preparing for the next phase

The team might modify the final detailed design throughout the construction project to create a final “as-built” BIM model and energy model for use in operations and maintenance.

 6. Operations and Maintenance

Once the building has been built (or the retrofit completed), you’ll prepare for occupancy by commissioning the new building. It’s also important to provide guidance to help maintain the building over time so that it meets the needs of its occupants.



First you’ll test, or commission, the building to ensure that all of the systems are working properly and that the settings match the intentions expressed in the design and energy model. Once all of the occupants move in, you’ll want to continue monitoring energy use and thermal comfort to confirm that the building is running smoothly, to continually improve operations (continuous commissioning), and to detect errors and faults in equipment or controls early.

 Also, because changes are usually made during construction, you will revise the BIM model and the details of the energy model according to the final design. Having as-built models and plans of the buildings, along with sensors and feedback mechanisms, can help facilities managers maintain the building and keep it running efficiently.


Commissioning the building and validating the building’s performance almost always expose design, construction, or controls settings flaws that need to be fixed.

Ongoing monitoring and maintenance is important to ensure the building continues to perform well.


At this stage, the building is turned over to the owner and a facilities crew.  However, with a maintained BIM model, the work of the architect and design team can continue to inform operations of the building and inform remodels.

 Preparing for the next phase

Good maintenance and performance-tuning regimes can predict the need for ongoing repairs and prevent major renovations or revisions. When remodeling or retrofits are needed, having good building information models and accurate records will make that process more effective.


0 0 1064 10 March, 2015 March 10, 2015
0 votes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook Comments