Making the Case for Eco-Charrettes

There’s broad agreement across architectural, engineering, and contractor disciplines that an eco-charrette is a critical early step in a successful CRE project. This understanding isn’t always so universal among the owners and developers who pay for projects.

Our goal in this post is to demystify the eco-charrette and make the case for its value as a powerful tool in protecting investments and minimizing churn.

Also note that for our purposes, “sustainability” is a catch-all term to include environmental sustainability, human wellness, and climate resilience.

What is an Eco-Charrette and Why Does it Matter?

“Eco-charrette” is a term predominantly used inside of the AEC industry. A charrette is a meeting in which all project stakeholders attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions. Outside of our industry, a charrette is often referred to as a workshop. Eco in this context holds the dual meaning of Economy and Ecology.

The purpose of an eco-charrette is to ensure alignment, cohesion, and momentum of the sustainability program.

The Eco-charrette, whose invention is credited to Paladino’s founder, Tom Paladino, has been widely adopted by prominent green building programs such as LEED, Green Globes, and WELL. Sustainable design requires input from all disciplines, so an Eco-Charrette is the best forum to ensure these collaborative conversations happen early in the design process.

How to Deliver an Eco-Charrette

There is ample evidence that integrated project teams produce better projects. Integrated project teams are better able to achieve better outcomes in sustainability within project constraints and aligned to owner values. Integrated teams are also more likely to demand an eco-charrette, as these two naturally go hand-in-hand.

Leading up to the charrette, Paladino recommends you adhere to the following sequence of events:

Step 1

The business leaders of the project (the owner PM, the lead architect, and the GC construction manager) conduct a meeting to set the stage for: a cost/value approach; an integrated design schedule and; a success strategy. This is the time to begin setting sustainability and wellness goals so they can be factored into the budget.

Step 2

The ownership and development teams engage in a collaboration session to confirm the sustainability approach, give a green light, and commit sponsorship for the design charrette. This step is critical, for without support and commitment from the driving force behind the project, the sustainability mission gets chipped away, leaving the project with a result that doesn’t reflect the stated goals.

Step 3

An Eco-Charrette is used to kick-off the integrated design sequence. This step is the culmination of all the collaborative work completed thus far and involves key stakeholders in addition to the design team. The eco-charrette should focus on the sustainability goals and how each team member can contribute to achieving those goals. Think big and be sure to validate that business goals are being met along the way!

Where to Go From Here

Every sustainability consultant and design team will have their own approach to draw out engagement, critical conversations, and collective commitments during an eco-charrette, and that’s okay! Every project, team, and circumstance calls for its own set of conversations, but the goal must always be to resolve the ecological and economic priorities of the project.

At Paladino, Abundance Thinking is our driving force and our starting point for eco-charrettes. By focusing on what our clients want to achieve rather than what must be avoided, Abundance Thinking is a driving force for change.

Paladino is uniquely qualified to support your eco-charrette or workshop, so be sure to use us as a resource if you get stuck.

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