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Whether you're planning a minor renovation or launching a large-scale building project, you're likely to find intensive design workshops, known as charrettes, useful for generating ideas and enhancing collaboration in advance of the formal design process. (The term "charrette" is derived from the French word for the cart or wagon used to collect students' drawings at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the 19th century.)

Participants can include representatives of the building owner, members of the design and building teams, community members and local building officials.

Though many types of developers make use of charrettes, these workshops are particularly helpful in green building projects, where a well-integrated design is vital to meeting the goals of the project and keeping costs down.

Charrettes typically last from two to four days and provide a creative, highly focused atmosphere where your project team can discuss environmental goals, including LEED certification, and come up with an overall green building strategy. Large-scale workshops can also be opened to the public, allowing you to discuss your project with community members and building officials, address any concerns that might delay your project, and generate good will and advance buzz about your green building.

Tips for Conducting a Successful Charrette
  • Begin planning the charrette well ahead of time. Convene meetings of organizers to formulate the mission and goals of the charrette. Be sure that all of the participants are informed in advance of the desired outcome of the exercise and arrive ready to collaborate.

  • If possible, locate the charrette at or near the project site. The facilities should include a single large room where both full-group discussions and breakout meetings can take place. Plenty of wall space should be available for mounting flip charts, maps and drawings.

  • To generate publicity for your project, invite local officials and the press to attend both the charrette's kick-off event -- often a dinner to welcome the participants and let them get acquainted -- and the final presentation.

  • Create an agenda that shifts between full-room discussions and highly focused breakout meetings. Smaller group discussions are often used to bring together the design team or specialists in areas such as lighting or landscaping to talk about design options and settle on solutions. Remember to leave room in the charrette schedule to extend or rearrange sessions as necessary.

  • Hire a facilitator who is experienced at orchestrating environmental design charrettes. A good facilitator will help keep discussions on point and on schedule, smooth any conflicts that arise and inform the participants as goals are met.

  • At the close of the charrette, be sure that the participants complete an evaluation of the event. These evaluations can provide valuable information on what worked and what did not and offer ideas for next steps in the planning and design process.

Next: Use the LEED Rating System as a Guide »
Set Your Goals Early
Build a Green Design Team
Integrate the Design and
Building Process
Convene Design Workshops
Use the LEED Rating System
as a Guide
Engineer for Environmental
Take Advantage of Incentives
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For more information on conducting charrettes, refer to the Environmental Design Charrette Workbook, available from the American Institute of Architects.

Contact information: (888) 272-4115 or »