People PowerProject Update

Participatory Design: What Is It, and How Did We Do It?

By March 15, 2016 No Comments

When we set out to renovate our headquarters, AGU decided involving members, staff, and other stakeholders, from neighborhood groups to government agencies, to provide input and map possible design and building elements was a vital component to creating a transparent planning process. Participatory design (or co-design) is an approach to design that actively involves all stakeholders in the design process to help ensure the final result meets their needs and is usable.

In July 2015, we hosted a project charrette to kick-off the participatory design process, establish goals for the renovation, and align a strategy to achieve those goals. A charrette is an intensive planning meeting that involves all stakeholders in a project coming together to offer feedback, suggestions, and ideas for a proposal. We were joined by various AGU members, leaders and staff, architects, engineers, general contractors, and city leaders. Together, the team explored the relationship between humans and the environment and ways to incorporate that integral relationship in the project.

The two-day session kicked off on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 with a focus on DISCOVERY. There was an introduction to the renovation project and AGU’s goals, as well as an explanation of the net zero process by project partner Hickok Cole Architects. Later that afternoon, the group was asked to imagine what the most sustainable office building would look like if it were to have similar characteristics to a favorite flower. The lack of parameters and restrictions presented some substantial ideas.

Greta Perry, our project manager from MGAC, said, “The charrette was really to open up people’s minds and think creatively about how we’re going to come up with the right decision for AGU.”

Drawing of the building from the charrette exercise.

Drawing of the building from the charrette exercise.

Day two was VALUES day and focused on incorporating AGU’s core goals and vision into the renovation design ideas. Morning breakout sessions asked groups to identify four core values of the project and two descriptors for each value. After lunch, there was a presentation of potential strategies for the project, based on the values established earlier, a collaborative discussion, and final break down of next steps.

The charrette identified the project’s overall values: sharing AGU’s vision, educating the community, and celebrating the environment.

Post-It notes with values descriptors from the charrette exercise.

Stakeholders participating in a charrette exercise.

As AGU’s Executive Director/CEO Christine McEntee said, “We want the members to see that we’ve continued the legacy that has inspired this building when it was built in the early 90s. What we’re doing now builds upon that legacy, improves upon it, and serves as a model for the future.”

Watch here to see how the charrette helped the team finalize design details for the project: