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Integrated Design Process (IDP) in Green Home Building

The Integrated Design Process (IDP) is a unified approach to project management that’s revolutionizing the way we approach sustainable home building.

In this blog, we’ll define IDP, underscore its importance in environmental design, and explain the main goals, benefits & challenges of this team-based approach to building high-performance homes.

Finally, we’ll explore some modern, high-performance buildings by Bercum Builders built using an integrated design process.

The Rise of Interdisciplinary Collaboration

In a traditional design process, building design works in a linear process: architects design, engineers analyze, and builders execute.

This siloed approach often leads to conflicts, costly revisions, and inefficiencies. And the further you get down the project timeline, the more costly and time-consuming each revision becomes.

Enter IDP: a collaborative method that looks at each building as a complete system rather than a sum of individual parts – a perspective that completely changes our approach to construction.

By prioritizing efficiency, environmental consciousness, and occupant well-being, IDP revolutionizes the way we conceptualize, design, and construct high-performance living spaces.

The Importance of Sustainable Building Design

As our planet faces environmental challenges, architects, builders, and homeowners are recognizing the need to minimize our ecological footprint.

Sustainable design benefits the environment while improving the quality of life for building occupants: a win-win scenario.

With the environmental life cycle of construction projects now in focus, IDP has emerged as a powerful tool for creating efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally conscious homes.

IDP thrives on incorporating green building technologies. From energy-efficient HVAC systems and smart lighting controls to efficient building envelope designs that minimize heating and cooling loads, innovation plays a pivotal role in sustainable home design.

By integrating these features early in the process, homeowners reap long-term benefits – lower utility bills, reduced maintenance costs, and a smaller environmental impact.

What is the Integrated Design Process?

The Integrated Design Process (IDP) is a collaborative approach where architects, engineers, contractors, and clients work together from a project’s inception – combining their expertise and insights to achieve holistic and sustainable design solutions.

For example, let’s consider the building envelope – one of the most important factors affecting home efficiency and comfort.

The building envelope refers to your home’s exterior components – including walls, roof, windows, and doors – that separate the interior of a building from the outdoor environment.

In the Integrated Design Process, cross collaboration means that elements like windows, insulation, and air sealing are strategically chosen and installed to maximize building envelope performance, resulting in better energy efficiency, thermal comfort, and longevity of the structure.

Early Engagement

Unlike traditional design methods, a truly integrated design process emphasizes early engagement with every member of the project team to ensure the client’s vision aligns with the final result.

By engaging each stakeholder early in the process, IDP facilitates diverse perspectives and expertise from the onset, leading to collaboration and innovation throughout the design and construction process.

Whole Systems Thinking

IDP considers how each element interacts within the context of the entire building system. Each design decision is made with a holistic understanding of its implications on the overall project, leading to more effective ways to address complex challenges like building performance.

Iterative Process

Throughout the Integrated Design Process, new information can come to light that affects the project requirements and goals.

For example, unexpected soil conditions might require changes to the foundation design. Or if a plumbing layout doesn’t work as expected, the design team will re-evaluate and make adjustments. Sometimes homeowners may realize they want different finishes as a room starts to take shape.

IDP promotes an iterative approach where ideas, feedback, and solutions are continuously refined and improved upon throughout the project lifecycle.

Lifecycle Perspective

IDP takes a life cycle costing perspective to construction, considering the entire lifespan of a building – from conception to demolition. Evaluating both the initial construction costs and the long-term operational expenses and environmental impacts results in resilient, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible buildings.

The Goals of IDP

IDP is an inclusive approach that considers more than aesthetics; it examines the entire lifecycle of a building – from concept to occupancy.

Integrated Design Process (IDP) aims to achieve several key goals to enhance the overall quality, efficiency, and sustainability of building projects.

Building Performance Targets

IDP prioritizes building performance by integrating design strategies that optimize energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and overall functionality.

Energy Efficiency

Creating energy-efficient buildings is a core objective of IDP – often targeting LEED certification, compliance with energy codes like the BC Step Code, or achieving Net Zero energy consumption.

Healthier Indoor Environments

By promoting strategies that improve air quality, ventilation, and occupant comfort, IDP emphasizes creating healthier indoor environments.

Faster Implementation

Through collaboration and a streamlined decision making process, IDP aims to expedite project implementation, reducing project timelines and delivering results more efficiently.

Cost Savings

Efficient coordination and proactive problem-solving can lead to cost savings by minimizing rework, avoiding delays, and optimizing resource utilization.

Conflict Resolution

By encouraging open communication, shared understanding of project goals, and proactive problem-solving, IDP helps to mitigate conflicts and disagreements throughout the building process.


IDP strives to improve sustainability by reducing pollution, minimizing landfill waste, and promoting the use of sustainable building materials throughout the construction process. Integrated process efforts also extend to managing wastewater and sewer runoff, further minimizing environmental impact.

Client Satisfaction

Ultimately, the overarching goal of IDP is to produce outcomes that not only meet but exceed client expectations in terms of functionality, design, and long-term performance.

Achieving Performance-based Metrics

IDP uses performance-based metrics related to sustainability, comfort, and user experience to help measure a project’s success.

Metrics can include:

  • Energy Use Intensity (EUI): Total energy consumption per square foot.
  • Water Efficiency: Metrics related to fixture flow rates, irrigation, and landscaping.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ): Metrics related to health and comfort such as temperature & humidity levels, air quality (pollutant & CO2 levels, ventilation rates), and natural daylight.
  • Post-Occupancy Evaluation (POE): After completion, IDP includes an evaluation of how well the building performs based on user surveys, energy monitoring, and maintenance expenses.

How IDP Supports the BC Step Code

The BC Energy Step Code is a performance-based standard introduced by the Province of British Columbia to improve energy efficiency in buildings.

Unlike the traditional prescriptive approach in building codes, which outlines specific requirements for individual components like insulation and windows, the BC Energy Step Code focuses on overall building performance.

Under the new Step Code, new construction buildings must – compared to 2018 building codes – be 40% more efficient by 2027, and 80% more energy efficient by 2032.

The Integrated Design Process is an ideal route towards BC Energy Step Code compliance. 

Through collaborative decision-making, early identification of energy-saving opportunities, and building performance optimization, IDP can help you meet or exceed the requirements of the BC Energy Step Code, and enjoy a number of other benefits.

Benefits of IDP

The Integrated Design Process (IDP) fosters strong cooperation and communication among all team members, leading to early conflict identification, streamlined implementation, lower costs, and better building performance.

Early Conflict Identification

IDP’s collaborative approach ensures that all relevant parties—architects, engineers, builders, and other stakeholders—are involved from the outset.

By involving key players early on, you can detect potential conflicts early on in the design phase. These conflicts can include:

  • Structural Limitations: For instance, if an architectural vision clashes with structural constraints, IDP allows for proactive resolution.
  • Functional Conflicts: IDP helps identify areas where functionality requirements may conflict, such as space utilization or accessibility.

Addressing these conflicts proactively minimizes costly revisions during construction and ensures the final design aligns with both the project’s goals.

Better Collaboration

IDP fosters a collaborative environment where professionals from various disciplines work together harmoniously. Here’s how it enhances collaboration:

  • Breaking Down Silos: Traditionally, architects, engineers, and builders operate in separate silos. IDP dismantles these barriers, encouraging open communication and knowledge sharing.
  • Seamless Interaction: Architects, engineers, and other experts share insights, discuss challenges, and collectively refine their designs.
  • Enhanced Decision-Making: By pooling diverse perspectives, decisions become more well-rounded. Functionality, aesthetics, and sustainability are considered holistically.
  • Iterative Refinement: The iterative nature of IDP allows for continuous improvement. As ideas are exchanged, designs evolve, leading to better outcomes.

Reduced Implementation Times and Costs

IDP significantly accelerates the design and construction timeline. Here’s how:

  • Streamlined Process: By involving all relevant stakeholders early on, IDP minimizes delays caused by miscommunication or conflicting priorities. This collaborative approach ensures that decisions are made efficiently.
  • Holistic Approach: Sustainability features are integrated from the outset. This prevents the need for costly retrofits or modifications later in the project.
  • Cost Savings: IDP identifies cost-effective solutions during the design phase. Whether it’s optimizing materials, energy systems, or spatial layouts, the focus on efficiency translates to financial benefits.
  • Minimized Rework: When sustainability considerations are woven into the fabric of the design, there’s less need for backtracking or reworking elements that don’t align with the project’s goals.

Improved Building Performance

IDP brings together professionals from diverse fields such as architecture, engineering, and environmental design to ensure stakeholders consider all aspects of a building’s performance.

By integrating expertise from various disciplines, IDP enables the design of buildings that are:

  • Highly Efficient: Energy-efficient systems, sustainable materials, and smart design choices lead to reduced energy consumption and operational costs.
  • Comfortable: IDP considers factors like thermal comfort, acoustics, and indoor air quality. Spaces are designed to enhance occupants’ well-being.
  • Responsive to Occupants’ Needs: IDP takes into account user requirements, preferences, and behavior. Spaces are adaptable and functional.

IDP Challenges and Considerations

Stakeholder Alignment

Achieving alignment among various stakeholders—such as architects, engineers, contractors, and clients—can be a complex and difficult task.

To keep everyone on the same page and minimize conflicts, regular communication and collaboration are crucial.

Establish clear project goals, expectations, and roles early on in the process to make sure everyone shares a common vision.

Balancing Trade-offs

IDP involves making trade-offs between different design aspects (e.g., cost vs. sustainability, aesthetics vs. functionality).

Prioritization is key. Understanding the priorities project teams and making informed decisions based on those goals helps strike the right balance for clients.

Upfront Costs

Clients may hesitate to embrace sustainable practices like IDP due to perceived upfront cost compared to the conventional design process.

However, it’s important to consider the long-term benefits that extend throughout the building’s entire lifecycle.

Savings in energy consumption, increased durability, and environmental stewardship all have a long-term impact that can lead to long-term cost savings. Demonstrating the benefits of IDP through case studies and success stories can encourage adoption.

IDP Case Studies

Net Zero Home by Bercum Builders

This Modern Beach House design of 3,263 sq ft is Net Zero Energy Certified by the Canadian Home Builders Association – meaning it can produce as much energy as it consumes in a year.

Designed and built through a collaboration with MQN Architecture & Bercum Builders.

Rear elevation of net zero house by Canadian luxury homebuilder in Kelowna, Bercum Builders

Why Builders & Contractors Should Embrace IDP

IDP isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a transformative approach to custom home building.

By embracing collaboration, sustainability, and efficiency, we can build beautiful homes that are comfortable to live in, stand the test of time, and benefit our planet.

Ready to start building your forever home with Bercum Builders? Contact us today to get started.

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