Sign up to receive 7group’s informative periodic email bulletins.

Integrative Design
Podcast / Radio Show
Building Deeper Green: Reframing Sustainability

Bill Reed & John Boecker Voice America Radio Show

Search the 7group site

Climate Dictates Design

Understand the climate of the place where the project is located and gather available climatic data such as solar and wind capacity, Heating Degree Days, Cooling Degree Days, wind rose, etc.—this should be a significant design driver for most buildings.
Learn more about Energy…

Understand Energy Loads

It is important to understand the typical heating and cooling load distribution for the project’s building type and size to understand the distribution of energy consumption by end use. The load distribution can vary considerably from project to project, depending on climate and building type. Once the dominant energy loads are identified integrative strategies can begin to be formulated to maximize energy savings.
Learn more about Energy…

Avoid High Contrast

Contrast ratios and reflectance’s of surfaces in classrooms are usually overlooked, yet they are one of major contributors to either good or poor visual quality of a space. To reduce eye strain in students, the contrast between a student’s desk and the working wall should be no greater than 1:5. Since white boards are the norm in schools, the contrast ratio between the board and the wall behind should be no greater than 1:3. Darker colors can be used, but their locations need to be considered based upon visual quality aspect more than interior aesthetic quality.
Learn more about daylighting…

Direct Sunlight

Glare is an issue that is created not only by direct sunlight, but also by improper window to floor ratios and incorrect glazing properties. Using blinds all the time to control unwanted glare obviates the intent of the daylighting design and causes the use of electrical lighting more than anticipated. By providing the correct window to floor ratio, glazing properties, and contrast ratios, occupants can comfortably occupy spaces like the one shown above in any sky condition without the use of blinds.
Learn more about daylighting…

Articulate the Façade

The use of the architectural elements of a building to control unwanted sun conditions saves money and provides an aesthetically pleasing building. Articulation of the façade reduces the impact of low morning and evening sun angles, this is a very important issue with schools and the location of their working walls. By providing larger overhangs, the use of exterior shading devices can be eliminated for some spaces of the building saving time and material that usually occurs with exterior shades.
Learn more about daylighting…

Understand Energy Loads

Small commercial and most residential projects are external-load dominant, meaning exterior conditions tend to affect the building’s heating and cooling loads more than internal conditions. As a result, performance of the building’s envelope tends to have a bigger impact than internal loads such as lighting. Larger commercial buildings tend to be internal-load dominant; internal loads—such as people, equipment, and ventilation—are often greater contributors to overall load than the weather outside.
Learn more about Energy…


Typically, a 7-10% window to floor ratio should be used for toplighting scenarios, depending on whether it’s a skylight, clerestory, or roof monitor. Glazing properties should be carefully selected to reduce glare, and direct sun should not be allowed to impact working surfaces or occupants in regularly occupied spaces. The use of skylights should be carefully analyzed to determine their impact on daylight distribution and cooling loads.
Learn more about daylighting…


The effective penetration of daylighting from a single side of a space equates to approximately 1.5 times the window head height. The higher the window the deeper the penetration of effective daylight. One way to achieve larger window head heights is to step down or angle the ceiling to whatever degree possible. This allows more glazing at higher levels, which means greater daylight penetration and less use of electrical lighting.
Learn more about daylighting…

Composite Master Builder


  • Everybody
  • Engaging
  • Everything
  • Early
Learn more about integrative design…


Shifting Your Thinking

Successful integrative design requires us to shift our collective mental model from focusing on products and technologies to a mind-set of purposeful systems thinking. All four of the components in this mental-model hierarchy are necessary, but it is essential to focus on them from the top down, not bottom up.
Learn more about integrative design…

Nested Systems

Dwight D. Eisenhower said “If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.” Accordingly, because our buildings are connected to larger systems through an exchange of resources and waste, the opportunity for true sustainability occurs only when we can shift our focus from individual buildings to larger, nested systems beyond the building the site, the watershed, the community, and the larger region.
Learn more about integrative design…

All steel is not the same

Steel is produced using either a Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) or an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF). Both of these processes require scrap steel to manufacture new steel. However, a BOF uses only 25 to 35% old steel while an EAF can use almost 100% recycled steel to produce new steel. Therefore, the project team should utilize steel products manufactured in an EAF. Additionally, consider steel manufacturers that are in close proximity to the recycling facility from which their scrap metals are obtained.
Learn more about green materials…

Green materials multitask

Cellulose insulation is made of recycled newspaper, uses non-toxic flame retardants, and requires less energy to manufacture. The environmental impacts associated with its transportation are also reduced since cellulose is produced regionally. Furthermore, blown-in cellulose blocks air leakage effectively, provides good R-value ratings increasing a building’s overall performance, and because blown-in insulation completely fills in envelope cavities thermal conduction through metal studs can be reduced.
Learn more about green materials…

Trajectory of Integrative Thinking

Data-driven practices are fragmented technical approaches from current green practices focused on doing less bad to a neutral “sustainable” condition. Pattern-driven practices are increasingly more whole-living-systems approaches from Restorative Design to Regenerative Design. This is a design process that engages the whole of the system including our place—community, watershed, and bioregion and all the key stakeholders and processes of the place—humans, earth systems, and the consciousness that connects them.
Learn more about Integrative Design…

Lose the Lawn

The indigenous landscaping at the Willow School utilizes native planting for gardens and woodlands to restore healthy habitat, an ongoing process that is studied as part of the student’s curriculum.
Learn more about Regenerative Design…

Engage All Stakeholders

As part of the programming effort for the Chartwell School, students were asked to make drawings depicting their vision for the new campus and school. Consistent themes emerged from the subliminal messages embedded within these drawings, revealing several insights. This example recognizes the ridge-like nature of the site and attempts to integrate the building form with the landscape.
Learn more about Integrative Design…

Integrative Process Pattern

The workshop kicks off by reviewing with the entire team the research and analysis results from the prior stage to inform conceptual design explorations across all four key subsystems. This pattern repeats in an iterative manner until optimal solutions for the whole emerge.
Learn more about Integrative Design…

No More Time Needed

Integrative Process and Traditional Process depicting the optimal integrative process compared to the traditional process along the same time line. Extra time spent upfront creates alignment which saves time during the construction documents phase.
Learn more about Integrative Design…

Continual Iterative Feedback

Integrative Process depicting interactions between subsystems, cost, and disciplines. Intersecting loops demonstrate feedback based on analysis ultimately leading to the development of designs in alignment.
Learn more about Integrative Design…

Design as a Team

This sketch was produced by one of four breakout groups in the first round of exploring possibilities for the addition of an educational facility to the Phipps Conservatory on an extremely complex and degraded site in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They focused on optimizing solar orientation on east-west axis - creating a restored landscape zone as a linear connector - stepped green roofs that could integrate the slopes, landscaping, and constructed wetlands - a central piazza linked with gardens to serve as an “outdoor room”.
Learn more about Integrative Design…

Big Savings Cost Less

The 40 percent load reduction for the Neptune Township school project resulted in a 10 percent first-cost savings for the HVAC system (due to down-sizing capacity) that equated to $400,000. This reduced the building’s overall first cost to $275,000 less than conventional construction and saved significantly on annual operating costs due to reduced energy consumption.
Learn more about Energy…

Embrace Change

This AMBS floor plan sketch, generated in the conceptual design workshop, represents a significant departure from the original design concept. As a result of this charrette, the owner set aside the original conceptual design that had been generated to enable fundraising and pursued this new building configuration.
Learn more about Integrative Design…

Analyze don’t Assume

The graph illustrates that heat-recovery (HR) systems will save energy (HR savings) at temperatures below 40°F and above 85°F. In this example, the HR system actually uses more energy than it saves (HR penalty) between these temperatures; since most of the heating and cooling load in the climate analyzed occurs between 40°F and 85°F, the HR penalty outweighs the HR savings on an annual basis.
Learn more about Energy…

Verify Performance

The red areas indicate thermal envelope failure once again. The area beyond the building is the night sky. The sky always shows up as extremely cold in infrared photos. The blue band on the building is a band of glossy brick, reflecting the ambient temperature.
Learn more about Commissioning…

7group is a multi-disciplinary collaboration of leading professionals dedicated to developing sustainable and regenerative solutions for the built environment.

7group is proud to collaborate with the following organizations: