I trust, nurture, and inspire. Now a firm of over 500 employees, with locations worldwide, its mission has evolved to address the increasing vulnerability of our world, with a focus on accelerating change toward low-carbon buildings.
Over the years the firm has grown from its roots in the San Francisco Bay Area to its current global reach by joining with other firms with a like-minded vision. By bringing small niche firms into its fold, Integral Group helps them to leverage their expertise to accelerate change.
The firm’s work covers ten areas of expertise, ranging from mechanical engineering and energy modelling to health and wellness and community and district planning. Its design projects vary in size from large student housing projects, to mid-size civic centers, to small pilot single-family residences. This span from the technical and quantitative to the social, aesthetic, and qualitative is a hallmark of its creative and empathetic approach to solving design problems.
The firm was immediately attracted to the Passive House approach, with its emphasis on building envelope quality assurance as a means of downsizing the mechanical systems. It helped to spearhead Passive House training for nonresidential buildings in 2014, in cooperation with the Vancouver office of Perkins+Will.
The firm’s broad expertise across energy-modelling platforms allows the design teams to take best advantage not only of PHPP, but also of TAS and IES models, to accurately assess the full range of scenarios. In the process it is leading the way on such topics as overheating criteria, the critical significance of solar shading, and the use of more-aggressive weather data that look beyond historical data to our future climate. (See the white paper presented by Integral Group at the North American Passive House Network conference in Pittsburgh in 2018.) Integral Group also helps to develop energy-modelling guidelines for building codes that would be enforceable without placing an excessive burden on project teams. Integral Group was instrumental in the creation of the city of Vancouver’s Step Code, in which the final Step 4 is equivalent to building to the Passive House standard. Currently the Step Code provides incentives for early adapters; within ten years Step 4 will be the minimum code standard for all. This kind of careful thinking regarding feasible options for increasing mainstream building performance is another indicator of Integral Group’s focus on accelerating change.
The dominant carbon-mitigation strategies of Integral Group’s projects vary across different regions. While the firm sees many Passive House projects across all of its Canadian offices—including student residences at the University of Toronto and the University of Victoria, the Valleyview Town Hall in Alberta, the Clayton Heights Community Center in British Columbia, and the Charter Telecom Headquarters building on Vancouver Island—in Los Angeles the projects tend to emphasize net zero energy and photovoltaics, as different climates and contexts yield different cost-benefit ratios. With the variety of its projects, Integral Group offers to set new standards across building sectors for a multipronged push to improve our world.