Integrated design or integrated planning and design is the concept of having a multi-disciplinary team work together from project onset to collaborate and co-create a project that is more inclusive, holistic and considers a variety of risks up front.

Rather than the traditional approach of distinct planning, design, and construction teams, each of whom operate in a “black box” passing a project along from phase to phase, the concept is to have one integrated team work together to consider risks and opportunities.

Up front this can require more energy with the intent of energy being reduced further along the project lifecycle, particularly reducing the amount of rework (such as redesign) that would have to occur during key transitions between project phases. An example of this is the hand off that typically occurs upon design completion from an engineering team to a contractor, who would then conduct a constructability and phasing review to determine the feasibility of the design in actual practice and how best to phase it.

Although integration can be valuable at any point in a project lifecycle, one of the benefits of starting early is that this is when there is the most uncertainty in a project as the project is usually just an idea – a problem that needs to be solved or set of concepts to meet a desired outcome. This means that there is the greatest opportunity for embedding sustainability, identifying and beginning to manage risks, and determining stakeholder and partner objectives and concerns related to the project. It is also far less expensive and time consuming to move lines on paper than relocate newly laid utilities on a construction site.

“Black Box” Transitions for traditional approaches
What the organizational chart of an integrated design team could look like.

Some of the benefits of an integrated process include:

  • Opportunity to overlap design and construction phases for early works and site preparation.
  • Early constructability and phasing considerations can save time and money for the client through having one streamlined project, fewer handoffs and trades expertise upfront.
  • Enhance project resilience and sustainability performance through considering these opportunities early on when cost to implement is relatively low.
  • Reduce project conflicts through fostering strong inter-team relationships and trust building.

Integrated design concepts can add value when applied to other types of projects. Workshopping, co-creation and facilitation with stakeholders are techniques we use for our strategic management and organizational change work.

Quin MacKenzie | MBA, BSc, ENV SP
Co-Founder & Consultant



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