Design integration brings discrete elements of the design together early and often to optimize performance outcomes, achieve greater efficiencies, and identify synergies.
Design integration brings discrete elements of the design together early and often to optimize performance outcomes, achieve greater efficiencies, and identify synergies. In practice, design integration often involves getting consultants, clients, and construction managers into the same room to inform and strengthen decision-making. As such, integrated design is the emerging gold standard of building design delivery and an approach that NAAB now requires accredited architecture programs to incorporate into curricula. However, architecture programs, as silos within their institutions, typically do not have ready access to diverse stakeholders and team members with specialized disciplinary expertise as seen in practice. Thus, the problem facing many architecture programs is how to simulate a “real-life” integrated design process in ways that prepare students for professional careers; require them to consider technical and practical considerations; and expose them to the benefits of holistic, integrated design outcomes. The US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon (SD) Design Challenge (formerly Race to Zero) provides a useful framework for encouraging and supporting architecture, engineering, and construction management students in developing design teams that engage: industry experts for feedback, community partners as clients, and students across departments. This paper describes the challenges associated with simulating integrated design in an architecture studio setting; the beneficial role that the SD Design Challenge plays in establishing a clear framework with specific design and performance criteria to guide students; and the experiences over a three-year period of a graduate-level comprehensive design studio with supporting technical electives in using the competition to encourage integrated design solutions.