Overbudget to Overjoyed: The Magical IDP Charrette

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Overbudget to Overjoyed: The Magical IDP Charrette

“Okay, so how far over budget are we?” As frustrating as this question is, it’s all too commonly necessary on projects of all sizes. In an industry that continues to build at a rapid pace, design decisions are often rushed, forcing the team to shift to value engineering later to get finances back on track.

These late-stage challenges can be avoided by a focus on early planning. A developer or owner’s ability to impact the sustainability and financial performance of a project come almost entirely in the pre-design phase. By investing a comparatively small amount of time and money at the project outset, project teams can engage in an Integrative Design Process (IDP) Charrette to proactively plan for success. This is where the magic happens.

What is an IDP Charrette?

An IDP Charrette is a facilitated early-stage discussion between all project stakeholders – from the full project team to community stakeholders, facilities managers, and the decision-maker – around what the project aims to accomplish and what synergies between project stages and systems are possible to achieve. While a typical sustainability charrette may use a LEED or WELL scorecard as a framework, an IDP Charrette uses systems integration opportunities to guide the exercise. Everyone in the room, whether an architect, structural engineer, general contractor, subcontractor, investor, potential tenant, or community member, has an equal voice and is asked to share their opinion regardless of discipline.

The outcome is a distinctly creative, uninhibited approach to design that removes barriers between project phases and systems, coupled with an energized and familiarized project team. Progressing the exercise from blue sky to implementable, these ideas are distilled into a report and action list that outlines the reasoning behind rejected and pursued elements that were revealed during the process, along with action items and additional analysis. As an Owners Rep Project Manager, it’s also possible to do an iterative IDP Charrette on a smaller scale with multiple follow-up meetings to continue building upon the integration.

When would a project engage in an IDP Charrette?

The short answer is: early. Deep discovery and integration are the key elements of an IDP Charrette and require adequate time at the beginning of a project for success. Once a project passes through the pre-design phase, an IDP Charrette will be less effective or lead to redesign.

For example, Stok was engaged for an IDP Charrette at about 50% Design Development for the Zero Net Energy Center. Among dozens of positive results, this charrette process helped the project move away from drop ceilings, which reduced material cost, labor cost, and embodied carbon, while also opening up the spaces to daylighting and natural ventilation. Another exceptional result of the IDP Charrette process was the move away from code baseline roof top boxcar units to a distributed HVAC system custom-applied to the project’s integrated needs and opportunities that resulted in greater building comfort, reduced energy consumption, and over $1M in HVAC and PV construction cost reduction as compared to baseline.

Regardless of what preconceptions you have about your project’s potential, the power in getting everyone in the same room at the start to share ideas is invaluable, and you’ll likely uncover solutions that you weren’t expecting through this interdisciplinary thinking exercise. This deep discovery and relationship building must be done early enough to impact the project direction without additional costs associated with change orders and unknowns.

What are the benefits of an IDP Charrette?

Let’s start with the money: spend a little to save a lot. When deep discovery happens early in the design process, the scope of work outlined is more accurate and less likely to change. This leads to tighter design, engineering, and construction bids due to reduced unknowns and far fewer change orders. While it does involve a small upfront cost, an IDP Charrette often results in a smaller project cost, silencing that painful “how far over budget are we” question.

Beyond finances, your project design and process will benefit from an injection of creativity and comprehensive collaboration. Engaging everyone in interdisciplinary thinking opens up exciting opportunities. The magic of an IDP Charrette is asking the same question to everyone and seeing someone add something valuable to the discussion from beyond their discipline. Stok once watched the general contractor on our project recommend a completely new design to the architect during an IDP Charrette that would reduce costs and construction schedule while also improving building performance and functionality – something that wouldn’t have come to light otherwise that ended up completely changing the project direction for the better.

And maybe most importantly, this process turns what can often be a frustrating process into one to look forward to, bringing joy and satisfaction to the entire project team. This leads to better communication throughout the project as well as a desire to work together again, which helps dial in strong relationship-based project teams for future work.

By purposefully engaging all stakeholders early and facilitating interdisciplinary participation, project teams can stop spending time solving budget overages and instead envision and deliver more innovative, integrated, and high-performance spaces with a seamless approach. The IDP Charrette moves the industry into a paradigm where value engineering doesn’t exist. And as much as we love engineering of any kind… that’s the future we’d rather work toward.

If you’re curious what value an IDP Charrette could uncover for your project, get in touch!