The “Virtual Design Studio (VDS)” is a software platform currently under development in support of an integrated, coordinated and optimized design of buildings and their energy and environmental systems. It is intended to assist collaborating architects, engineers and project management team members throughout from the early phases to the detailed building design development. The platform helps to facilitate the workflow and the processing of information in combination with appropriate, task-based performance simulation tools as further analyzed in Part 2 of this study (DOI: 10.1007/s12273-013-0111-1). The present paper summarizes how VDS relates to the building design process and its typical project stages, performance-based design considerations and respective performance optimization strategies. It outlines the methodology and scope for the organization, implementation and respective requirements for the VDS platform development based on the interdisciplinary design needs. Part 2 will present the methodology for the systems integration and software implementation of VDS.