5 ways to a better integrative process


We have some pretty fantastic advisors at iLiv and Bill Reed is one of them. In the green building and sustainable design space, Bill is a leader, a thinker, a teacher, a practitioner’s practitioner, an architect, and an author.

Bill’s ideas about Integrative Process are applicable to any team seeking to change the way they work together in order to achieve results that far surpass anything they have done before. So those of you who are not green builders or sustainability overachievers should keep reading in any case.

There is more about Bill at the bottom of the page, but for now, let’s get straight to what Bill has to say:

Any movement towards a sustainable condition requires change.

Moving towards sustainability means that we need to move towards understanding how life works. This means we need to engage in the awareness of complex systems interaction. While most people may feel that they are “systems designers” by the very nature of their work in delivering complex projects, they typically are not working at the level of finding deep synergies among the multiple human and technical systems involved. Nor are they deeply considering how the people processes within the project team, and the living systems beyond, are engaged in a way that inspires long-term health.

Here are 5 ways to a better Integrative Process:

1. Understand the invisible living and operating connections and patterns in and beyond the project

Sustainable design requires a different mindset or mental model. This model is able to look at systems in a more complex way. Instead of looking at just the physical elements of the building, the invisible connections between the elements need to be understood. These invisible connections and patterns, for example, may be manifest in the downstream impact of toxins in building materials, the multiple efficiency and cost relationships between the many variables in an HVAC system and the building envelope, or the impact on social systems due to logging practices or any raw material extraction. At the social scale, it may be engaging in helping the client understand how to be in a more powerful and community building relationship within the place you are building. From an environmental perspective it can mean identifying the healthy patterns of life in the watershed within which you are building and developing new patterns of relationship as part of the process of design.

2. Engage your team beyond just coordination

Sustainable design is not simply about the “coordination” of design features. A rigorous level of enthusiastic and early engagement by all participants is required. A deep understanding of the tools and processes used to explore and make evaluations is required. Since no one has all of this knowledge himself or herself, the role of the team takes on great importance. A systems approach requires a collaborative approach.

3. Don’t be “experts”, be “co-learners”

The very strength of the integrative approach has in it a potential weakness: fostering and working within a collaborative framework is hard because we have been trained to be “experts”. The client expects it, and the team members feel they need to exhibit it. But the basis of a systems approach is the establishment of a network of mutual learning. It is essential to move from being experts to being co-learners. The nodes of individual knowledge that each team member embodies are important, but the network of collective knowledge is far greater and more powerful. Click here to learn about an online collaborative process tool that focuses teams’ collective knowledge through ongoing integrative process.

4. Ask questions, question assumptions, reconsider conventions

The role of questioning is critical in order to inspire answers beyond the conventional. By far, most successful green projects (i.e., projects that achieved the high environmental goals they originally set out to achieve) have done so because the teams had a willingness to ask many questions about the potential beneficial relationships between all the systems in the building, site and region, and to explore many different ways to reach toward better ecological integration. Environmental concerns were not secondary, but neither were they dominant: there were an integral part of the design. The usual “right” answers were never assumed; in fact, they were always questioned. Click here to learn more about one of our projects.

5. Take pleasure in change, and being changed

A mental model that is open and willing to change the way things are done drives the successful integration of green design. Change can be hard. But the process of changing is actually the most exciting aspect of reaching towards sustainability. It is the change of perspective, the change of heart, and the fundamental reawakening to, and awareness of, our deep integrative relationships with the systems of life that makes all this effort worthwhile.

About the author, Bill Reed:

Bill Reed is an Architect and leader in systems thinking. His work centers on managing and creating frameworks for integrative, whole-systems design processes. He is president of the Integrative Design Collaborative, and a Principal of the regenerative planning firm Regenesis.

Bill has been an advisor to iLiv since 2011. He served as co-chair of the LEED Technical Committee from its inception in 1994 through 2003, was a member of the LEED Advanced faculty and one of the first twelve United States Green Building Council trainers of the LEED Rating System, and was a founding Board Member of the USGBC.

Bill is the co-author of “The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building: Redefining the Practice of Sustainability“, and has written numerous articles on Regenerative Development and Design. He currently serves on the boards of Yestermorrow and AWE, and is an advisor to Environmental Building News.