As explored in a previous blog, The Value of an Integrated Approach – Why We Do It, 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.

Integrated design is characterized by its multi-disciplinary approach to managing design decisions and exploring opportunities for innovation and optimization. One of the tools we use to facilitate this process is the charrette.

The term “charrette” originates from a French phrase, “en charrette” or “on-the-cart”. In the 19th century at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, it was first coined as a term in the sense of design. At the end of term many architecture students would work on their team projects right until the deadline so that when a charrette was coming to collect their models and drawings for submission they would continue to work “en charrette” or “on the cart”. After this the term was used to refer to working right up until a deadline on a design project.

The use of this word has evolved to refer to a targeted working session for a team that is time bound and focused on solving a specific problem or design element. These are often high pressure, high energy events that foster innovative or creative outcomes and include a diverse group of stakeholders with different areas of expertise and contributions to the discussion. They are also time-bound events, which further motivates team members to accomplish the task at hand in order to meet a deadline.

A charrette is one tool that is inherent to the effective implementation of IDP. Charrettes allow a design team to come together in an integrated fashion to achieve a common goal or solution. The diverse disciplines and perspectives represented at a typical charrette often create productive conflict, leading to solutions that otherwise would not have been considered. This is particularly true given the presence of contractors, construction managers, cost consultants, and other stakeholders that are on board early in design as part of an integrated design or alternative delivery project (these methods often go hand-in-hand). Charrettes also contribute to a positive and constructive team culture and facilitate social connections between team members early on. These stronger working relationships can lead to higher efficiencies and reduce unproductive conflict on a project.


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


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