The NCI Charrette System™
The NCI Charrette System™ is more than the charrette.It is a design-based, accelerated, collaborative project management system that spans the entire pre-construction period. It is a proven, flexible, three-step framework that can be customized for your project. The NCI Charrette System™ is used by public and private planners, designers, architects, developers and community activist to use for:
- Sustainable community and building design
- Regional and comprehensive planning
- Master planning
- Transportation/infrastructure planning
- Code/policy writing
- Development projects
A NCI Charrette is more than a one-day event.It is a multiple-day, collaborative design workshop – the transformational event of the NCI Charrette System™. It harnesses the talents and energies of all interested parties to create and support a feasible plan that represents transformative community change. A NCI charrette is:
- At least five consecutive days, allowing three design feedback loops
- An open process that includes all interested parties
- Focused on producing a feasible plan with minimal rework
Three Phases of the NCI Charrette System™
The NCI Charrette System™ is a three-phase, holistic, collaborative planning process during which a multiple-day charrette is held as the central transformative event. The process commences with the Charrette Preparation Phase, followed by the NCI Charrette acting as a fulcrum at the middle phase, and closes with the Plan Implementation Phase. See our YouTube Channel to view videos on the NCI Charrette System™.
Benefits of the NCI Charrette System™Compared to conventional planning processes that take years of endless meetings, the NCI Charrette System™:
Saves time and money through
- Reduced rework via short design feedback loops
- Time-compressed work sessions
- Creation of broad support from community members, professionals, and staff
Increases probability for implementation through
- An integrated team design process
- Early focus on engineering and finance
- Bringing all decision makers together for a compressed period of time
Promotes trust between citizens and government through
- Meaningful public involvement and education in which input may effect the outcome
- The building of long-term community goodwill
- Broad stakeholder involvement – no one takes over
Results in the best sustainable design through
- Integrating all viewpoints throughout design
- Uninterrupted, focused team design sessions
- Design based on shared guiding principles
NCI Charrette Feedback Cycles (over 5 days minimum)
The charrette is the transformative event of the NCI Charrette System and occurs from 6-weeks to 9-months after the completion of the Research, Education and Charrette Preparation Phase. It is a collaborative design event that lasts a minimum of 5-days. The goal of the charrette is to produce a feasible plan with minimal rework that benefits from the support of all stakeholders through its implementation. This support is facilitated by the ability of the charrette to transform the mindsets of the stakeholders. (See blog discussion on charrettes for sustainable community design.)
A multidisciplinary charrette team, consisting of consultants and sponsor staff, produces the plan. Stakeholders – those being anyone who can approve, promote or block the project as well as anyone directly affected by the outcomes – are involved through a series of short feedback loops or meetings. Most stakeholders attend two or three feedback meetings at critical decision-making points during the charrette. Note that stakeholders are not at the charrette all the time. These feedback loops provide the charrette team with the information necessary to create a feasible plan. Just as importantly, they allow the stakeholders to become co-authors of the plan so that they are more likely to support and implement it. (See blog discussion on stakeholder involvement.)
A major reason the charrette needs to last at least 5-days is to accommodate 3 feedback loops, the optimal number for gaining stakeholder understanding and support. Projects with challenging design problems and/or politics can last for 7-days or more. (See blog discussion on charrette length.)
Charrettes takes place in a charrette studio situated on or near the project site. The charrette team first conducts an open public meeting to solicit the values, vision, and needs of the stakeholders. The team then breaks off to create alternative plans or scenarios, which are presented in a second public meeting usually a day or two later. The team then synthesizes the best aspects of the alternatives into a preferred plan that is developed in detail and tested for economic, design and political feasibility. The charrette concludes with a comprehensive presentation at a final public meeting. (See Charrette Feedback Cycle diagram above.)
After the charrette, the project enters into the Plan Implementation Phase of the NCI Charrette System™. During this phase the charrette team tests and refines the charrette plan. Communication with stakeholders also continues through e-mail, websites, blogs, and possibly social media. During a follow-up public meeting, held no later than 6-weeks after the charrette, the refined plan is presented for another feedback session(s). The results and process of all 3 charrette system phases are summarized in a final project report ready for agency approvals.
Origin of the Term "Charrette"The French word, "charrette" means "cart" and is often used to describe the final, intense work effort expended by art and architecture students to meet a project deadline. This use of the term is said to originate from the École des Beaux Arts in Paris during the 19th century, where proctors circulated a cart, or “charrette”, to collect final drawings while students frantically put finishing touches on their work.
The following key strategies are essential to a successful NCI Dynamic Planning Process and NCI charrette
NCI Charrette System™ Strategies
Work collaborativelyAll interested parties must be involved from the beginning. Having contributed to the planning, participants are in a position both to understand and support a project's rationale.
A multi-disciplinary team method results in decisions that are realistic every step of the way. The cross-functional process eliminates the need for rework because the design work continually reflects the wisdom of each specialty.
Compress work sessions
The charrette itself, lasting at least five days, is a series of meetings and design sessions that would traditionally take months to complete. This time compression facilitates creative problem solving by accelerating decision making and reducing unconstructive negotiation tactics. It also encourages people to abandon their usual working patterns and “think outside of the box.”
Communicate in short feedback loops
During the charrette, design ideas are created based upon a public vision, and presented within hours for further review, critique, and refinement. Regular stakeholder input and reviews quickly build trust in the process and foster true understanding and support of the product. A feedback loop occurs when a design is proposed, reviewed, changed, and re-presented for further review.
Study the details and the whole
Lasting agreement is based on a fully informed dialogue, which can only be accomplished by looking at the details and the big picture concurrently. Studies at these two scales also inform each other and reduce the likelihood that a fatal flaw will be overlooked in the plan.
Produce a feasible plan
To create a feasible plan, every decision point must be fully informed, especially by the legal, financial, and engineering disciplines. The focus on feasibility brings a level of seriousness and rigor to the process for everyone involved.
Use design to achieve a shared vision and create holistic solutions
Design is a powerful tool for establishing a shared vision. Drawings illustrate the complexity of the problem and can be used to resolve conflict by proposing previously unexplored solutions that represent win/win outcomes.
Include a multiple day charrette
Charrettes require a minimum of five days, allowing for three feedback loops. The more difficult the problem, the longer the charrette.
Hold the charrette on or near the site
Working on site fosters the design team's understanding of local values and traditions, and provides the necessary easy access to stakeholders and information. Therefore, the studio should be located in a place where it is easily accessible to all stakeholders and where the designers have quick access to the project site.