Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Discovery

Every project presents a unique opportunity to apply lessons learned from previous projects and gather information to refine the design and construction process.

  • How can the design process foster a long-term relationship between designers, users, and operators to ensure design intentions are realized and the building project performance can improve over time?
  • How are performance data and experiential stories shared, even if the findings fall short of the vision?
  • How are lessons learned through construction administration shared to project teams?
  • What strategies promote a sense of discovery and delight?

Focus topics

  • knowledge sharing and lessons learned
  • occupant engagement
  • post-occupancy evaluations
  • discovery that influences behavior

If you can do only one (or a few) thing(s):

  • Assist in the development and recording of the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) during design as a means of recording performance expectations and owner direction.
  • Benchmarking: Review the goals and metrics selected from each Framework Principle utilized on the project. Were they carried through the design process, construction process, and into occupancy?
  • Assess what worked and what could have been done better. Record and share that information with project team members, the office, and the profession.
  • After the project has been occupied for 6-12 months, ask the owner if the project is meeting their expectations. Have they made any changes? Are the occupants using spaces as planned? Do the occupants have feedback?

One of the most impactful ways to stay engaged with a completed project is to ask for utility bills. Calibrating the energy model for a specific year of actual weather data, 12 months of energy and water use will allow project teams to compare a building’s resource consumption against both benchmarks and predicted values, providing clues about how the project is actually performing. Inconsistencies can then be explored more deeply and strategies for improvement can be developed.

Additional information

This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published and distributed with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. If professional advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

Image credits

COTE 2017_17

Alan Karchmer & VMDO Architects


Robert Benson

Roof garden at dusk with small pyramid allowing for light into the space below. There is a lit building behind and two individuals sitting in the foreground.

Ngoc Doan / STIMSON

COTE Oregon1

Christian Columbres Photographer