What is a charrette? Why is it a good idea?

Asked by Tina Tuner
Arrington, TN

I understand it is a collection of people to discuss the project, but is it really worth the money to get everyone together?


Susan Davis

Answered by Susan Davis

Mountain View, CA

Spectrum Fine Homes, Inc.

March 31, 2011

A charrette is a collaborative group. I like to think of this group as the team of experts focused on your project.

One of the underlying principles of sustainable design is a commitment to collaboration, and a respect for the knowledge and expertise that each specialist brings to the group.

  • If you are truly interested in holistic sustainability, then this is absolutely the way to go.
  • There is no way, with the complexity of sustainable design in the built environment, that an individual architect, general contractor, or homeowner, alone, can be an expert in everything related to a green building or remodeling project.

Building green is a "systems approach" and balancing every aspect of an energy efficient home, healthy indoor air quality, resource conservation, and the impact of your choices on the community and planet, really does take the knowledge and expertise of many people.

The value of better decisions

As for the investment, the money is well spent on good planning, so that you don't end up paying for the results of bad decisions, down the road.

It's always sad to see things happen in construction that could have been avoided if more well thought out planning had occurred. And believe me, this can be a real waste of time, money, and resources! And worse yet is seeing things go wrong, systemically, down the road, because of poor choices made out of ignorance, or because there was no one who really knew that a certain choice would impact something else.

Team of experts

Pull your charrette, or your team of experts, together as early in the project as possible. Find an architect or design professional, or a general contractor who enjoys working this way. They will know the right people for your team.

  • This team will include both design and building professionals, including the trade specialists like home performance specialists and HVAC/mechanical specialists.
  • Depending on your project, there may be other specialists to involve.
  • On some of our projects we have included a Feng Shui consultant, an interior designer, kitchen/bath designer, landscape designer, or lighting specialist, depending on the needs, expectations, and budget of our clients. 

And don't forget, there's you, the MVP on the team! This is YOUR home, and it needs to be your sanctuary, so your needs are the priority.

Planning within a budget

If a particular budget range is part of your needs -- be upfront about your expectations so that the team will be able to give you accurate information, from the beginning, about whether your desires are in balance with your budget.

This is another real benefit of the team approach -- really, only the specialist knows the costs of that area of expertise. When involved in planning within a budget, what better way to hit the target than defining expectations and knowing real costs?

The team approach is not only the best way to achieve true holistic sustainable design and green-built projects, it's really a fun way to work, too. If everyone is committed from beginning to end, you will enjoy both the process and the result of true sustainable design and green building. 

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