Tag Archives: LEED Accredited

Integrated Design: It Doesn’t Stop When Construction Starts

LPA's Albert Lam makes the case for an integrated design approach to the design and construction of K-12 Schools.
In the world ofintegrated project delivery, most of the attention is focused on the design phases of the project. After all, that is the time period when the bulk of documentation and coordination occurs and when systems, materials, and products are selected. It is when designers spend the most amount of time working with engineers and consultants to create a high performing, synergistic building.

Just because the drawings are approved does not mean design stops. The contractor may discover field conditions that require creative solutions. The client may make decisions that alter the design direction. The local inspector may report issues that necessitate quick and innovative revisions. All of these cannot be resolved in a vacuum. They require clear and consistent communication among all parties involved. All the while, there is the ever-present need to meet the daily scheduling and budget constraints.

As I learned during my time assisting with the construction administration of the recently opened McBride High School, the approval of the project by the local governing agency certainly does not mark the endpoint of integrated design.

LPA's Albert Lam makes the case for an integrated design approach to the design and construction of K-12 Schools.LPA's Albert Lam makes the case for an integrated design approach to the design and construction of K-12 Schools.Far from it—as construction starts, an even more communal workflow arises, which encompasses the contractor and subcontractors brought onto the job and a more intimately involved client whose decisions have immediate weight.

For example, a previously overlooked interference between a duct and a beam would require the structural engineer to study if the beam can be safely altered to accommodate the beam. If not, the ducting might be re-routed, which requires input from the mechanical engineer and might impact the ceiling design. This would bring an interior designer into the fold to study appropriate alternatives, and the resulting changes could impact lighting and fire sprinklers and other ceiling components.

My experience with McBride High also taught me the value of working together with the contractor and their subcontractors to determine the best courses of action. There have always been stereotypes about the adversarial relationship between architects and contractors, and indeed, it can sometimes be complicated to reconcile the priorities of both groups. But it is always valuable when the two can draw upon each other’s strengths to quickly find a middle road to arrive at the best solution.

LPA's Albert Lam makes the case for an integrated design approach to the design and construction of K-12 Schools.LPA's Albert Lam makes the case for an integrated design approach to the design and construction of K-12 Schools.I found it incredibly rewarding whenever I was able to save time and improve efficiency by directly meeting with a contractor or subcontractor to look at the issue at hand, mutually brainstorm through possible options, and then select the most favorable. It’s really no different than working with consultants during design, except the results are immediately tangible.

Communication with the client is equally important, especially in K-12 school design, where such decisions have long-term effects on the students and teachers that will occupy these spaces in the decades to come. A solution favorable to the architect or the contractor but conflicts with district priorities is not acceptable. Thus, constantly keeping the client informed of issues and progress is key to maintaining the schedule and avoiding rework caused by the client’s dissatisfaction.

Ultimately, the same principles applicable to the integrated design process—regular meetings with all parties, clear and open communication and collectively developing solutions based on valued input from multiple disciplines prove to be equally—if not more—effective during the construction process. It was eye opening for me to see the often-intense amount of collaboration necessary once things were coming out of the ground.

In hindsight, it all seems rather obvious. It always takes a team to get the job done, and there’s no sense in abandoning that philosophy just because the project has moved past drawing. The continuous joint effort from the architect, engineer, contractor and client was instrumental in achieving the successful project, McBride High School. And though we all certainly encountered moments of challenge, we were able to work together to create a school that will enrich the lives of its students, teachers and community.

Albert Lam is a Project Coordinator at California-based LPA Inc. He is a LEED accredited professional who specializes in the design and implementation of K-12 schools.

LEED Credentials: 6 Reasons to Become a LEED Accredited Professional

1. It is the most popular green building credential in the U.S.

From my research, I believe that LEED is the most popular green building credential in the U.S. and globally. According to USGBC’s data, as of June 1, the total number of LEED credentials held is 187,428. This number includes LEED APs without specialty.

Compared with about 210 Green Globes professionals, 6,500 certified EcoBrokers, about 34,000 BPI certified energy auditors, and about 6,400 NAHB Green certified professionals, USGBC’s LEED credentials are the most highly sought after.

Since LEED is the most popular green building credential, it is also the most well-known and recognized, which means that more potential employers will recognize it.

2. LEED is internationally recognized.

LEED is an international green building rating system and has been used in 140 different countries. Similarly, LEED credentialing exams are held in Prometric testing centers, which have international locations – so there are LEED professionals across the globe.

This means that by earning a LEED credential, you could open doors to international job opportunities in the green building sector. While many green building credentials and certification are region-specific, LEED is globally recognized.

3. LEED is growing.

As of September 2013, there are approximately 50,000 LEED certified projects globally, with approximately 90% in the U.S. This accounts for almost 2 billion square feet of certified commercial space. The USGBC claims that there are 1.6 million square feet certified per day around the world.

The number of registered projects (projects that are currently working toward LEED certification) are more than double the number of certified projects – meaning that LEED is growing at a fast pace. 34,185 commercial projects are registered (compared to 13,084 certified) and 78,246 residential homes are registered (compared to 19,913 certified). With this upward trend, LEED credentials are only becoming more valuable.

4. Studying for the LEED exams will teach you about general green building principles.

If you are new to green building and LEED, but are looking for a career change or to improve your career in the building industry, earning a LEED credential is a great way to start.

The LEED Green Associate credential is a good step toward becoming a green professional. The Green Associate exam tests you on general green building principles, such as energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor air quality, and responsible materials and resources. By studying for this exam, you’ll become familiar with sustainable building strategies – and prove your new knowledge with a recognizable credential.

5. Joining local USGBC chapters is great for networking opportunities.

USGBC has local chapters across the United States. LEED professionals can join their local chapters and meet other LEED credentialed, green building professionals in their area. This is a great networking opportunity, which is especially helpful in a relatively new and growing industry and during a down economy.

6. Some green jobs specifically require LEED credentials.

When I recently searched “LEED” on SimplyHired.com, I found 4,008 job postings. In my personal experience, I’ve seen several jobs that require or prefer LEED credentialed professionals. By earning your credential, you might be able to secure new job opportunities.


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