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Building in Good Faith - Green Building Resource for Religious Institutions

Planning & Decision-Making

Designing Your Project

Who's Responsible For What?

When it comes to designing your project, what's your architect's responsibility, and what's yours?

It's your architect's responsibility to carry out the actual design of your project. But it's your responsibility to know in detail what you want your project to accomplish (your building program) and to communicate your expectations and feedback effectively to the architect throughout the design process.

We’ve seen the most success where building committees work closely with their architect to make green choices that balance your community's aspirations and values, the realities of your budget, and the most important aspects of your building design. A collaborative process works best.

A design charette - a gathering of your key leaders, professionals and volunteers - can help make your green building plans stronger and smarter.

Hold a Design Charette

In most green building processes, an important meeting or series of meetings known as a charette often occurs early in the design process. In addition to its importance, a design charette is one of the most enjoyable aspects of a green building project.

A charette is an intense period of design activity that occurs in a retreat-like fashion, over the course of a full day or several days. Leading members of your religious community, your architect, engineer, environmental consultant(s), and other key stakeholders gather to discuss the various aspects of your building program and the green design options available to you. In the course of the charette, everyone around the table brainstorms about the ways in which your new or renovated facility can meet your needs, support your institution’s mission, and meet environmental goals. A good charette strengthens the building design process by generating new design ideas. Sometimes, the larger group is divided into smaller sub-groups which bring their ideas back to the larger group as a whole. The goal of the charette is to generate the best thinking possible about your new or renovated facility – from the perspectives of your programming needs, your building’s possible features or attributes, and the environment.

Your architect should be responsible for organizing and facilitating your design charette.

Become Familiar with Leed Standards Before Your Architect Starts Designing

We strongly recommend that you consult the United States Green Building Council's LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and know how to use them before your architect starts working. Investing time up-front in this way can prepare you to participate substantively in the design process.

You'll find a thorough discussion of LEED in our "How to Think About Building Green" section. We think this is an outstanding summary of the LEED process and we urge you to read it.

To introduce you to the LEED standards, here's a brief introduction. USGBC urges us to focus on five major aspects of our building projects:

  • location and linkages (where your project is located and how users get to and from it);
  • sustainable sites (how to care for the actual site where your project is located);
  • water efficiency (how to use as little water as possible and re-use as much as possible);
  • energy and atmosphere (how to use as little non-renewable energy as possible to light, heat and cool your building);
  • materials and resources (how to minimize the negative environmental impact of the materials you use at all stages of the materials’ lives); and
  • indoor environmental quality (how to make your building as healthy as possible for the people who use it).

The LEED standards are designed as a point and rating system. As you look closer at the LEED standards you'll see a host of possible green building actions--from relatively simple ones (e.g. bicycle racks) to complex ones (e.g. geo-thermal heating and cooling). Each action, each step carries an associated point value. At the end of your project, you list all the points applicable to your building and add them up. Your score determines whether your building achieves a certain LEED rating level. This long list of diverse options is a menu from which you choose what is appropriate for your project, your values, and your budget.

No green project earns every possible point; no one particular activity or green feature can make a building green on its own. There are many possibilities to choose from. Each green choice you make contributes to a healthier environment. Choosing a number of features that address the important aspects of your building’s performance will make your building as green as it can be.

Consult "How to Think About Building Green" to learn more about the USGBC and LEED certification. Because much of the application for this certification depends upon archived materials from the design and construction processes, this is a decision best made before your architect commences design.

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