Architecture | Urban Design | Sustainability
Our Integrated Design Approach
We consider confines and restrictions not only interesting design challenges but the driving force of creativity per se. That's why we never work from generic, abstract goals. Instead, we develop design targets, processes and KPIs on a project-specific, individual basis with our clients.
At the heart of all our design and consulting philosophy lies our Integrated Design approach: combining conventional architectural aspects - such as zoning, functionality, social environment and aesthetics - with quantified metrics for energy, comfort and CO2 footprint in one parametric system. Since we follow this idea from the first line we draw on a paper sketch to a complex 3D "Digital Twin", our focus is on looking beyond the classic engineering disciplines and identifying synergies between their aspects.
This results in a strategy that can allow for, encompass and actively endorse future change and adaptability to the structure and its users. It also allows to look at CO2 balance and economic feasibility not just to the point of finished construction, but the entire Life-Cycle.
"This project shows what kind of construction quality can be achieved in China!!"
DRC Living Lab | Shanghai | 2016
SoftGrid provides Architectural Design consulting services for mixed-use, office, residential, cultural, educational, sports and hospitality facilities - both as new construction and retro-fit projects, spanning all design phases from target definition to executed construction. Each and every design follows our Integrated Design process: projects start with the joint definition of a clear brief involving all project participants and relevant stakeholders, laying the base for success. Our design proposal will be a direct result of reconciling, synergizing and materializing these targets into articulating a unique functional, spatial and aesthetic vision.
The Sum and its Parts
As our company name suggests, this requires a highly adaptable and ﬂexible way of thinking. Every project is approached from a project-specific set of targets and planning parameters. This guarantees that each individual project is equipped with an unmistakable identity – a classic example of the “result being more than the sum of its parts”:
We deliberately seek to develop all essential aesthetic, technical and spatial elements in parallel and interdependently. The design then emerges as a harmonious synergy of Building Envelope (facade design to incorporate thermal, acoustic and visual properties), Technical Systems (HVAC, ventilation etc.) and Interior Systems (surfaces, functional zoning and furniture) - all contributing towards a shared architectural vision.
High Performance Results
As part of our Integrated Design philosophy, we include Sustainable Design and Passive Strategies (orientation, geometry, shading etc.) aspects in our concepts in order to keep the interior well lit, temperate and comfortable - simply by a well-balanced, synergistic, Integrated Design. We always work with a 3D "Digital Twin" planning model including BIM processes in order to efficiently progress the design from concept to construction.
SoftGrid has further developed various protocols for on-site quality control - implemented and continuously improved in numerous high profile projects. This is to make sure that targets and qualities are met as designed and the realized building looks, feels and performs as intended.
We regard a holistic, Integrated Design approach to be the key to successful projects, providing highest design quality and maximized return on investment while making the design and construction process considerably quicker, cheaper and more reliable.
Start-to-Finish Design and Quality Control
SoftGrid provides start-to-finish services through all design phases, including:
Feasibility Studies / Variant Comparison for Project Development and Kick-Off
Concept Design / SD / DD and CD Design and Consulting
Integration of LDIs and Documents for Planning Approvals
Technical Project Management throughout all design phases
On-Site Quality Assurance / Reporting and Verification
Our team members are qualiﬁed as DGNB Auditors, LEED Consultants and certiﬁed PHI Passive House Designers having realized numerous successful buildings in China to date. SoftGrid is in constant exchange with DGNB, USGBC and the Passive House institute (PHI). However, our basic philosophy and approach to sustainable construction does not depend on formal certification, but simply aims at optimizing every project and any building to last longer, perform better and provide higher comfort over its entire life-cycle.
The Sustainable Vision
We constantly adapt knowledge, tools and processes developed in our high-standard DGNB / PHI projects. Our resulting “Passive Design Strategies” provide cost-neutral or low-cost optimization in relation to comfort, durability, flexibility and resource-efficiency for any less ambitious construction project in China. SoftGrid is fundamentally rooted in architectural design. This implicit “big picture” perspective sets us apart when it comes to understanding sustainable design not as a set of discrete engineering problems, but an integral contribution to the overall architectural vision. In order to implement this holistic approach reliably, we established an integrated quality control workﬂow which applies to all our sustainability projects independent of whether formal certification or simpler optimization targets are the goal.
First, we conduct a Variant Analysis to quantify benefits and added value throughout the design and construction process. Second, we consolidate all relevant aspects (plans, specifications, simulations, calculations) in a comprehensive “Design Book” - serving as planning document, reporting and project management tool simultaneously. In parallel to the design process, workshops for all stakeholders and relevant project participants are held as training events, guaranteeing a common base for efficient, pro-active communication and a solution-driven project environment.
During construction, sign-off protocols and original scale and material mock-ups are easy and fool proof ways to verify construction quality meets the standards put forward in the “Design Book”. Lastly, we supervise relevant on-site tests (and mock-up tests) if required for certification and assist in the final definitions of marketing strategies and replication guidelines to guarantee continued added value to our client’s follow-up projects.
Our combined experience in sustainable architectural design, quality assurance and project management guarantees pre-deﬁned quality targets are met and intended value adding beneﬁts or even formal certification are realized in the executed building and subsequent operation.
Looking beyond CO2 Targets
Building design defines key factors for the building's CO2 footprint irrevocably, especially in regard to the "embodied carbon" of the building construction.
While this calls for an intelligent integration of CO2 aspects within the design process, this is not where we start. Instead, we recognize, that most materials that reduce CO2 footprint have further positive effects on comfort, costs and health, to name but a few. Call them "secondary" effects if you look at CO2 performance only, but we think of them as primary effects, since they are qualities tangible in the every-day use and management of a building.
SoftGrid was the first international design firm worldwide to join the “Phase Sustainability” initiative by German Sustainable Building Council DGNB and German Board of Architects – intending to promote highest design quality over the entire building life-cycle by creatively balancing social, economic and environmental design aspects.
We have realized in a series of landmark DGNB and PHI Passive House projects in China since 2013. Our focus in formal certification is not only on meeting relevant criteria but aligning efforts with financing benefits and subsidy programs in China.
Success stories in Sustainability
"This Building has a very good feedback of building users and FM"
BASF R&D Center II | Shanghai | 2016
The Sustainable One-Stop Solution
As General Planners, we combine our expertise in Architecture, Urban Design and Sustainability Consulting offering clients a start-to-finish, one-stop consulting solution. SoftGrid takes the lead for the entirety of the design and construction supervision process – and for the entirety of consulting disciplines, including architecture, sustainable design and energy modelling as well as civil engineering (structure, MEP). Other specialized consulting services can be added depending on individual project requirements.
A Changing Economy
Within the last decade, China’s construction market started to mature. We noticed a continuous shift in local culture from an (overly) simplistic “fast profit” attitude towards an increasingly complex approach. This was caused on the one hand by the Central Government’s increasingly strict sustainability requirements and on the other by tighter competition between property developers and businesses. At the same time, ESG ratings, supply chain requirements and customer expectations add in creating an economic and political paradigm shift: Sustainability changes from a "nice to have" marketing effect to a hands down business requirement.
The result is an increasing diversification of business models and investment philosophies. While Integrated Design covers all necessary expertise to convert our client’s individual business models into successful real estate, a General Planning set-up facilitates and accelerates planning, construction and decision-making processes dramatically.
Lead Design and
We understand General Planning practice as an open network. While we have a large pool of engineering consultants and specialized LDI (Local Design Institutes) departments with which we have successfully co-operated in the past, we always welcome new local players suggested by our clients into the consulting team. Through our sound experience of implementing holistic, integrated planning processes in China, we can efficiently moderate and communicate between consultants, external stakeholders and the client.
More importantly, we know how to bridge existing gaps in expertise within the Chinese market and use our successful training and workshop processes to get LDIs and GCs to confidently participate in this workflow quickly and reliably. For every project, we set up a tailor-made, truly inclusive and multidisciplinary design and construction supervision teams with SoftGrid as our client’s single point of contact.
Efficient Reporting and Decision-Making
Our precisely condensed, clearly quantified and qualified executive summaries make it easy for our clients to focus on strategic decisions in implementing their vision - unobstructed by having to micro-manage complex technical discussions between various individual consultants. In General Planning, essentially, the benefits of a systematic Integrated Design philosophy – saving time, lowering cost, minimizing mistakes, dramatically improving overall performance, design quality and user comfort - extend beyond architectural design, covering all consulting and engineering aspects at once along the entire value chain from planning to construction and operation.
Design + Construction + Quality Assurance
All physical building components and specification parameters integrated in a "Digital Twin" (BIM) Model.
A challenging Urban Complexity
We regard cities, districts and neighborhoods to be the human realm of daily life for social, economic and cultural exchange. Any urban design strategy we develop is measured on how it negotiates past, present and future, global and local in its specific contextual environment.
SoftGrid’s Urban Design services include master plans for new city or district developments, strategic and regulatory planning as well as urban retro-fitting on various scales in private, communal or PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) project set-ups. China has one of the largest urbanization rates in the world. And while in the 90s the strategic emphasis was primarily on providing enough living space, urban planning became increasingly complex ever since. Today, a sustainability strategy is a necessity for any communal development in China.
An Integrated Urban Identity
At SoftGrid, we lay out a very clear path of implementing urban design strategies which has proven highly successful with our communal clients: each city, each district has their distinctive topography and (natural) resources, but also their distinctive configurations of urban life, cultural habits, social communities and economic networks. Our designs derive from this vast social, ecological as well as economical potential by including, innovating and expanding existing structures, rather than simply imposing new ones.
Our Integrated Design approach to urban design means that sustainable strategies, building typologies, spatial networks and all other systematic components always inform and enhance each other, creating not just a highly efficient and functional system but a sense of home and belonging, a sense of place and character and a truly unique spatial identity.
Our approach to sustainable, low-carbon and CO2-neutral districts is based on the idea of sharing, co-creation and flexibility. This applies to use of local resources, generation and distribution of energy as well as highly adaptable functional configurations. Though every project is highly specific, some common key principles in our design are:
Strategic Use of Existing Resources
Passive Design Strategies
Energy from Local Resources
Flexible Co-Creating Communities