When it comes to buildings, “one size fits all” does not work. Built spaces have varying external factors that make it impossible to say all buildings can be built in the same way.
Like the human body, buildings have various parts that collectively must be considered and evaluated to contribute to a healthier whole. And, like our bodies, the needs of built spaces constantly evolve and adapt as the world and circumstances around them change. We benefit from annual physicals and exercising regularly, and like us, buildings can include preventative care measures to address potential outcomes based on external impacts.
One of the most important preventative steps we can take as we construct buildings is to design and look at them holistically. Again, like how we take care of our bodies, taking effective and vital steps for individual elements of the built environment contributes to a healthier whole.
For buildings, the healthier whole also includes the end-user, the surrounding community, the environment, and more. Considering all these aspects is vital in ensuring that we build better, smarter, and greener, marking the industry’s significant need for holistic design principles.
What Does Holistic Design Entail?
When thinking about a building holistically, we must think about its entire lifecycle to ensure that all decisions and components positively and effectively meet the project’s needs. It’s helpful to consider the following five elements: Function, Aesthetics, Cost, Environment and Safety, or FACES. By thinking about FACES from the beginning stages of a project through its completion, construction teams can elevate the quality of the building and improve team productivity by aligning efforts around critical goals.
- Function: It’s critical that, before any design and construction processes begin, teams align on the function of the building, potentially both short and long term, to understand how end-users will interact with the space and what they will need out of it. This should include consideration for alternate uses in the future. With this in mind, they ensure that decisions support the space and its users accurately for the long-term.
- Aesthetics: For any building, of course, there are aesthetic and design considerations. The modern architecture-inspired building defined by geometric shapes, concrete and large windows must be designed and built with its components and unique features in mind. This might mean adding a building envelope to the space to determine adequate natural lighting and ventilation levels for the interiors to promote occupant comfort levels.
- Cost: Accurate and complete estimating processes supported by new technology and tools help to ensure that costs are accurate and correct from the very early stages of a project. Teams must establish and verify costs and associated timelines for their projects against potential external risk factors to prevent delays or additional expenses from derailing progress later down the road. This is an area where more progressive methods of design, construction, delivery and install, such as offsite modular construction, can reduce costs and time to completion while reducing the environmental impact. These methods also position design and construction teams as effective partners to owners and developers, resulting in the potential for future projects.
- Environment: The building and construction industry, as reported by Architecture 2030, is responsible for 40% of global GHG emissions. As we design and construct buildings, we must consider and evaluate the environmental impact our processes have. Another key advantage of offsite construction is a dramatic reduction of waste materials and the discarding of onsite construction debris. How so? In addition to reduced waste, there is also the benefit of accurate quantity matching between need and use in a shop environment that is not practical in the field.
- Safety: Finally, it’s of the utmost importance that teams constantly evaluate the safety of construction processes while completing the building and the safety of the finalized project. This often goes hand-in-hand with thinking about the environmental impact of construction. And, like those efforts, offsite construction remains the top answer for making the industry safer for its employees, thanks to the ability to manufacture components offsite in optimized conditions and protected weather and facility conditions.
While we can view these building components separately, the magic lies in how teams put them together to create a built space that is truly successful, effective for end-users, and environmentally responsible.
How Teams Can Begin to Design Holistically
The idea of designing buildings holistically can seem daunting. People may be wondering, how can we truly think about all these components together as we design and construct our biggest projects? The answer here lies in technology and process advancements.
Earlier, we mentioned specific benefits of offsite construction in terms of cost, safety and environmental impact. But this process is effective and beneficial for all components of FACES. Similarly, it enables teams to think about all five elements together with new technologies that allow real-time collaboration, visibility and control into modular construction projects. With these innovations, teams can communicate on and off job sites while tracking material locations and progress to design, manufacturing, delivery and installation of all components to create the desired outcome.
With the insights provided through these kinds of technologies powered by AI and Machine Learning, we can begin to productize the industry and make holistic design the rule, not the exception.