Xanterra’s Fundamental Elements of Sustainable Design and Construction

Sustainable Design is a design philosophy that seeks to maximize the quality of the built environment, while minimizing or eliminating the negative impact to the natural environment. Sustainable Design blends time tested building techniques with new technologies to improve performance—and sometimes generate multiple benefits from a single solution.


Xanterra will integrate the following fundamental building blocks, or elements in every construction project, where feasible, no matter the size or scope.

Integrated Design

Conventional building projects typically follow a linear process that progresses from the project owner to the architects to engineers to builders (and their suppliers) and finally the occupant. Sustainable design and construction incorporates a different approach to the design process—Integrated Design (ID). Figure 2 illustrates some fundamental differences between conventional design processes and ID. Appendix B illustrates a detailed application of ID in a carpet installation project as well as a retail renovation project. ID involves all key stakeholders from project concept through commissioning. This multidisciplinary collaboration uses a “whole building” approach in which the building and its site are considered an interdependent system rather than as separate components, brought together only at the end. ID projects often begin with a design workshop, or “charrette” that gathers all the stakeholders in the same room to define the goals of the project, identify opportunities for improvement, and introduce other green design strategies and technologies. Flexibility, creativity, problem solving and holistic, long-term thinking are at the heart of ID.

Xanterra will approach all design and construction projects utilizing integrated design and construction approaches and tools where possible.

Process Chart

Whole Systems Approach

Scientist Donella Meadows defines a system as “an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something.”1 Sustainable Development emphasizes this interconnection to generate multiple benefits from a single solution. Approaching a problem, objective, or project by considering the entire system leads to insights and solutions that contribute to the development of more sustainable systems. It is important to not only consider the renovation project, or the new building project, but also how each project fits into the larger system.

Thinking from a whole systems perspective can generate counterintuitive results—in which better outcomes don’t necessarily cost more, but sometimes can cost less. Rocky Mountain Institute calls this, “Tunneling Through the Cost Barrier”. An example:

If you build a house, you will be told that thicker insulation, better windows and more efficient appliances can cost more than the normal, less efficient versions. These statements are often true, but at the level of single components considered in isolation…Thick enough insulation and good enough windows can eliminate the need for a furnace, which represents an investment of more capital than those efficiency measures cost. Better appliances help eliminate the cooling system, too, saving even more capital cost. The only moderately more efficient house [does] cost more to build, but when designed as a [whole system], the superefficient house…can often cost less than the original.

Conventionally, project teams are often tempted to “value-engineer” or “thrift” design elements of a project in their quest for the lowest possible cost. This may optimize the cost of individual parts of the design element yet compromise the system as a whole. It may also produce the lowest possible first cost (i.e., cheap to build) at the expense of higher lifetime cost (i.e., expensive to operate) sustainable design and construction emphasizes that even though certain parts of the design may be more expensive than alternatives, the project should be considered not merely as the sum of its parts but as an interconnected whole. “Tunneling” can significantly reduce cost by reducing the initial construction costs, minimizing the future maintenance requirements, creating a more energy efficient facility and reducing the cost of utilities.

Xanterra believes a whole-system perspective will deliver value and quality not only during the design and construction project, but also over the life of the asset. Therefore, Xanterra intends to apply whole-system approaches from project concept through commissioning.

Resource Efficiency

Our planet has finite resources—yet we often treat them as if they are infinite. Waste is expensive. The resources that make up a construction or renovation project include land, water, soils, materials, energy, etc. Sustainable design and construction embraces resource efficiency, i.e., doing more with less to accomplish the project’s goals and needs. Resource efficiency applies to all aspects of the project including land use, building design, HVAC systems, material selection, waste reduction, water conservation and energy efficiency.

All Xanterra projects will incorporate elements of resource efficiency and will identify metrics to track efficiency during construction through commissioning and during the resulting product’s life.

Renewable Sources of Inputs

Sustainable design and construction embraces the use of renewable input sources including renewable energy and renewable materials. Renewable sources are defined as the inputs to a project that can be replaced or replenished as fast as or faster than the time required drawing down the supply. Using renewable resources relieves the demand for non-renewable resources. Some renewable resources have essentially an endless supply, such as energy from the sun and wind energy, while other resources are considered renewable even though some time or effort must go into their renewal, such as wood or bamboo.

All Xanterra new construction projects will incorporate some form of renewable inputs, and to the greatest extent possible, renewable energy.

NEXT: Life Cycle Management/Life Cycle Design

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