Whole Building Design Approach Is Here to Stay

November 11, 2003

A few years ago, federal agencies were issued Congressional and Executive Branch guidance which mandated that the various agencies engaged in designing federal buildings work more closely together. Because of the size and complexity of federal government agencies, and their design and construction processes, this mandate required a paradigm shift and listening and learning about the various processes. At the time that the Unified Design Guidance was issued, the Naval Facilities (NAVFAC) Criteria Office and the Sustainable Buildings Industries Council were pursuing the same idea. From these discussions, the concept of the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) web site was born. The WBDG was initially intended to be a continually evolving resource that would educate and inform architects, engineers, and project managers in sustainable, or environmentally sound, building design. The website has grown and been expanded to provide additional information regarding building safety, security, accessibility, aesthetics, durability, cost-effectiveness, historic value, function, and workplace productivity. As the website has evolved, the many agencies that support it and its content are seeing positive changes in how their operations are run, and how they access and share valuable information.The WBDG contains concise summaries of topics and links to more detailed information. This has enabled the WBDG to become the single point-of-entry Internet resource for design guidance, criteria, and technology for "whole buildings." The WBDG makes the search for this valuable information easy and quick because it is knowledge-based, dynamic, fluid, has order, and allows for human interaction.

Dennis Talton, an architect and Special Assistant for Architecture and Accessibility within NAVFAC, commented on the importance of the web site in his daily work. With a small headquarters office serving field offices located in places as varied as Chicago, IL; Norfolk, VA; San Diego, CA; Hawaii; and, Naples, Italy, it is imperative that his office provide consistent and comprehensive information to those field offices. Like many agencies and businesses that have seen budget and staff reductions, they are trying to do a lot of work with limited resources. They accomplish this goal by posting their own, up-to-date information, which is usually applicable to other agencies, on the WBDG and directing the field offices to access information at the site. Talton believes that the Design Objectives and Building Types pages are the greatest value to designers. These pages are valuable because they are complete and comprehensive sources of information that every building designer must incorporate into their design process to produce a holistic building approach that will serve occupants most effectively.

Debbi LoCicero, Senior Architect at the National Institutes of Health, utilizes the WBDG web site to develop design and construction policy. She references the Design Guidance and Design Objectives pages when she is writing a new policy that will improve the way buildings are designed within the NIH system. Her offices have recently undergone a re-organization, so efficiency is crucial to accomplishing her work. LoCicero, like many other users of the WBDG, appreciates its clear, concise, easy-to-follow method of accessing information. Her work on the WBDG has also broadened the horizons of her customers, and the A/E firms that design and construct buildings for NIH by educating them about the whole building design approach.

With new information and updates posted and planned for the site, WBDG will continue to help those looking for resources to help them solve the complexities of designing a building to meet all of today's and tomorrow's "whole buildings" requirements. If you are already a user of the WBDG but haven't been to the site in a while, or are a new user, we invite you to see what's new at the web site. Simply log onto www.wbdg.org and start learning!

To Learn More about the WBDG

The WBDG web site condenses the vast amount of data regarding building design, products and systems, and project management into usable, up-to-date information. Functioning as a "vertical portal," the WBDG enables users to access increasingly specific information by navigating down two major categories:

Design Guidance:

  • Building Types;

  • Design Objectives: Accessible, Aesthetic, Cost-Effective, Functional, Historic, Productive, Safe/Secure, Sustainable; and

  • Products and Systems.

Project Management:

  • Delivery Methods,

  • Cost Management,

  • Commissioning.

At the core of the WBDG are resource pages containing summaries of particular topics written by industry experts. WBDG is also a powerful, intelligent interface for the National Institute of Building Sciences' Construction Criteria Base (CCB), the single integrated source of all federal facility criteria. DOD personnel can access private sector standards directly through the Information Handling Service via the WBDG. Other features include agency-specific information; news, events, and training; links to relevant federal mandates; and contact information for trade associations.

The WBDG is managed by the National Institute of Building Sciences through funding from the NAVFAC Criteria Office, the General Services Administration, the Department of Energy and with support from the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council. A Board of Direction and Advisory Committee, consisting of representatives from more than 25 participating federal agencies, private sector companies, and non-profit organizations, guide the development of the WBDG.

For more information, contact Stephanie Vierra, Steven Winter Associates, at 301-502-7255, or suvierra@yahoo.com.