The Integrated Design Process: principles and guidance to success

The Integrated Design Process: principles and guidance to success


After a 30-year wait, the Roberval courthouse renovations recently made page one. The $62 million project will allow a 300% expansion! Our team is closely following this project as facilitator of the Integrated Design Process.

The Integrated Design Process (IDP) took shape about twenty years ago due to the will of Canadian and American architects to design energy-efficient buildings.[1]

If IDP is increasingly often in the news, this is because several federal and provincial bodies now recommend this project performance mode. In its 2016-2020 Sustainable Development Action Plan, SQI, the third biggest client in Québec, makes it an obligation to seek LEED certification for all its projects valued at $5 million or more.

Remember that the LEED program (Version 4) now requires the application of IDP as a prerequisite in healthcare projects and granted a credit point to other projects for use of IDP.

At the federal level, the Real Property Branch (RPB) adopts in principle the development of an Integrated Design Process (IDP) for each project, and particularly for any construction related to major development or renovation work.

Strategia Conseil anticipates that a growing number of construction projects will be carried out under this process in the years ahead.

Understanding the Integrated Design Process (IDP)

IDP can be defined as an interdisciplinary design approach with the emphasis on collaboration. All the stakeholders involved in the project met during the design of the plans and specifications to develop optimum solutions for each discipline. This is a comprehensive process that concentrates as much on design, construction and operation as on the occupancy of the building.

The objective of this operating mode is to optimize the interaction among the various disciplines and not only each discipline’s systems. It enables the client and other stakeholders together to develop and achieve the environmental and economic objectives of a project.[2].



Comparison between IDP and the conventional design process

IDP is distinguished from the traditional design process by its focus on collaboration and its iterative mode. This approach of active participation by all project stakeholders leads to the consensual search for optimum, innovative, sustainable solutions, considering the building’s entire life cycle.

Although there are different ways of putting IDP into practice, a consensus remains on what makes it different from the classic design process. The table below highlights these differences.


Integrated Design Process Conventional Design Process
Inclusion of all stakeholders from the beginning Involves only the members of the expanded team when necessary
Time and energy invested quickly and massively at the beginning of the project Less time, energy and collaboration in the first steps
Decision-making influenced by a large team Majority of decisions made by a limited number of stakeholders
Iterative process Linear process
Comprehensive and systematic thinking Systems often isolated (silos)
Geared to complete optimization Optimization dictated by the constraints
Increased search for synergies Reduced search for synergies
Analysis of costs over the life cycle Emphasis on the initial costs
Ongoing process after occupancy Ends with delivery of construction




IDP principles[3]

The Integrated Design Process is a philosophy as much as it is a process. The mentality behind IDP is just as important as the methodology leading to its success. Although for some the notion of mentality, or state of mind, may seem vague, it is concretized by a set of principles that underlie a successful integrated design.

A great collaboration

The most important principle for a successful IDP is probably related to the inclusive approach, which translates into the deployment of a large collaborative team. Ideally, the project team includes all the relevant disciplines, which remain involved from beginning to end. A large interdisciplinary team is essential to ensure that all the relevant knowledge and resources are involved.

Effective and open communication

Effective and continuous lines of communication are essential throughout the process. Transparent methods of communication serve to build a relationship of trust and give the participants a greater sense of appropriation of the process and conflict reduction. The key decisions should not be made without the team’s contribution.

A well-defined scope, vision and objectives

A clear statement of the vision and objectives makes it possible to initiate a results-based approach. To define the results, it is necessary to ask questions together about the scope of the project and the needs it meets. By developing a shared vision of what must be accomplished, the team participates actively and collectively in the achievement of the objectives.

Innovation and synthesis

By favouring open-mindedness and creativity, IDP encourages achievement of the level of innovation and synthesis necessary to meet the complex requirements of high-performance buildings.

Systematic decision-making

A desire for rigour and attention to detail leads to a clear and well-understood definition of the decision-making process. There are many tools that facilitate efficient decision-making and that combine perfectly with IDP. We are thinking about modelling programs (e.g. BIM) and green building certification systems (e.g. LEED).

An iterative process with feedback loops

An iterative process guarantees that the decisions reflect the team’s collective knowledge. The interactions among the different fields of expertise are taken into account and the solutions go through the steps necessary for optimization. Regular feedback loops serve to maintain the team’s commitment and produce repeated small successes, thus reinforcing the efficiency of the process.

The facilitator: a key member to implement an Integrated Design Process

In an IDP, the project team, in addition to the client (project owner), the project manager, the architect and different experts, must also include a facilitator.

The facilitator manages the Integrated Design Process and ideally has the following characteristics:

  • He/she is the guardian of the goals and objectives set during the workshops and updates them throughout the process.
  • He/she is skilled in the art of facilitation and group dynamics.
  • He/she knows the principles of sustainable development.
  • He/she ensures the participation of all the team members and experts assembled.
  • He/she ensures a good flow of information during the meetings.
  • He/she may be responsible for deadline compliance for specific events, or for the project as a whole.
  • He/she has a good level of knowledge both of the Integrated Design Process and green building certification (if necessary).

To summarize, having a facilitator to manage the process allows the team members to concentrate on the tasks and objectives, while favouring teamwork and collaboration.


Following the commitment of different government authorities to this mode of operation, it seems that IDP will be applied to a growing number of projects in the field of industrial, commercial and institutional buildings. The principles of collaboration, pooling of expertise and preparation upstream from the project should allow delivery of projects with increasingly strong performance in a context of limited resources, relying on innovation and accounting for the life cycle. To achieve this, the project teams must be well supported, however.

If you want to learn more about IDP and our support services in this type of project, don’t hesitate to contact us.

[1] Source :

[2] Roadmap for the Integrated Design Process [PDF - 3,5Mo], BC Green Building Roundtable (disponible en anglais seulement)

[3] Traduit et adapté librement de Roadmap for the Integrated Design Process [PDF - 3,5Mo], BC Green Building Roundtable (disponible en anglais seulement)
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