emily m and the audit squad

With increasing frequency, design decisions are being paired with metrics to demonstrate outcomes. Many times this isn’t a straight forward process. Even things that we know are facts, like people typically work more efficiently when their offices incorporate natural light, are difficult to prove. Thankfully, building sciences and energy efficiency are an avenue to identify direct links between design decisions, energy efficiency, and ultimately the cost burdens associated with a home.

In 2014, the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation was awarded a grant from Enterprise Community Partners Gulf Coast office to study energy efficiency in a variety of low-income housing types in Greenwood. Partnering with Emily McGlohn, a professor at Mississippi State University’s College of Art, Architecture and Design, this study is underway. Read more about it in this MSU School of Architecture blog post. We’re looking forward to hosting Emily M’s “audit squad” in Greenwood this summer.

audit squad nov 2014

An MSU student tests air infiltration rates in one of the Baptist Town Cottages in November 2014.

Photo credit: Emily McGlohn

go equity go

Theresa Hwang’s article, Designing for Equity: Using a Civil Rights Framework, is a must-read for anyone invested in the social impact design field. For both new and experienced practitioners the writing provides leadership by shining a light on the knowledge that the field has earned in recent years.

My favorite quote: “Design needs civil rights outcomes, not just functional, programmatic, and aesthetic outcomes. Design can be a strategy to redistribute power and create more opportunities for full participation in the shaping of our built environment, resulting in more equitable neighborhoods and empowered residents.”

Theresa’s article is the third installment of an eight part series on Designing for Equity. Follow them all as they are released.

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Photo from Theresa’s article.

keep dreaming, houston: a CIRD recap

pano at CIRD

Even impending ice storms didn’t keep residents of Houston, Mississippi from participating in the Citizens Institute on Rural Design hosted in their community February 22, 23, and 24.  One of only four such events to be held in the US in 2015, the Carl Small Town Center partnered with the Chickasaw Development Foundation to pair local passion with expert knowledge from around the country in the fields of bike and pedestrian transit, signage and wayfinding, and community development. Many thanks to Project for Public Spaces and the National Endowment for the Arts, the organizations who brought this much-needed program to life.

Over the course of three days, social, environmental and economic factors were all considered as the team discussed the terminus of the Tanglefoot Trail (just minutes from downtown Houston), and design implications for the city as a whole. The CSTC will continue to develop the design with the community throughout the spring and summer, so images are still to come, but here are a few of my favorite quotes from our expert panelists at the event.

“Building a park or a building and then thinking you can just walk away is like thinking you will never need another hair cut.” – Cynthia Nikitin, Director Citizens Institute on Rural Design

“Even the most expensive mile of bike and pedestrian infrastructure is about 1/50th of the cost of a mile of car infrastructure.” – Heather Deutsch, Sustainable Transportation Planner, Toole Design Group

“Our task is to hear what this place is all about. Let’s create a singage kit of parts based on the unique crafts and craft people here.” – Andrew Barresi, Principal, Roll Barresi & Associates

The most important quotes come from local residents though. Two images of our Houston Candy Chang-style “photo booth” are below. More of these to come as well.


AA architects: 2014 Licenses

Katherine Williams

At the end of 2014, there were approximately 1955 architects in the Directory of African American Architects.** For the year, 23 African American architects reported as newly licensed.

Year20102011201220132014
Men3733222015
Women191112138
Total56443433*23

The number continues the downward trend that has been characteristic of the last five years. The organization that creates the architect registration exam (ARE), NCARB, has also seen an up-and-down rate, since 2009, of people completing ARE sections.

I asked some of my colleagues for their thoughts to get some other perspectives on the trend. There is optimism and celebration, and also some self-actualization.

I have mixed feelings about the low numbers. We as a community can and should do more in supporting candidates of color. The fact that I have mentored three of the newly licensed…

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i’m engaged, you can be too

Sunday through Tuesday (February 22-24), I will be working with the community engagement experts at the Carl Small Town Center, the Project for Public Spaces and the Citizens Institute on Rural Design in Houston, Mississippi. The three day event will engage community members around questions regarding the design and related impacts of a new rails to trails trail head near the city’s downtown. The Chickasaw Journal summarized the event and the new amenities in the area that it will focus on in this December 2014 article. We hope you can join us! As we get ready for this event, and wrap up the Design Cents forum earlier this week, I summarized some of my thoughts about community engagement here.

CIRD workshop Houston MS

Community engagement is a term that sometimes mean a lot, sometimes means nothing at all, and always raises a lot of questions. At it’s worst, community engagement can be a lie, tokenism, or an insincere attempt to placate or meet a requirement. At it’s best, it unites people around a common cause and lays the ground work for positive, long-lasting understanding and impact. Here are a few things that I’ve learned about community engagement in the past.

Human to Human

No matter how effective your social media machine, lovely your fliers, or engaging your survey, none of it matters if you don’t have a real connection to the community you are trying to engage. You must spend time in person with the people, in the place, and sometimes living the experience that defines the community you are working with to develop how to best engage. For example, a largely illiterate population won’t be well engaged through surveys. By meeting the community, face to face, engagement goes beyond being an exercise and gains strength, an identity, and context.

Try Again

There is no recipe for successful community engagement. It’s a messy art, and those who practice it learn that no single attempt or event can be expected to be a catch all in which information is gathered, people are galvanized around a cause, or a plan fully developed. Many community engagement activities I have seen, and planned, have been poorly attended. Really poorly attended. Many times this points to a lack of understanding on the planners part regarding who the community is, how to reach them, or what issues are important to them. The worst thing to do at this point is take the responses of one or two people as speaking for the whole, or pat yourself on the back for trying and simply give up. Take a step back and try to understand why the engagement exercise failed, and then try again.

Have A Plan

Like me, most people who engage communities weren’t trained to do so. We make a lot of mistakes, but a simple one is to be prepared. It is disrespectful of the people who participate if the organizer doesn’t have a clear goal, activity, or leader. While flexibility to allow people to respond honestly is important, they must have something to respond to. If a map would support your engagement activity think through what it should look like, how big it should be and how people will interact with it. Community engagement isn’t easy, so taking a professional approach is important to meeting the efforts goals.

 

rose fellows next big thing

The 2012-2014 class of Rose Fellows reflect on their communities, their work, and their personal and professional growth in this video. As each of them speak, the power of the fellowship to bring about innovation and develop design leaders intent on social justice is clear. I’ll miss Nate Poel, Sam Beall, Mark Matel, Sam Carlsen and Ceara O’Leary, but I’m excited to see what the next big thing will be for each them.

final but not finished

Above: MSU CAAD students complete their DESIGN|BUILD: DELTA “final exam”.

While attending the Design for Equity Bruner Loeb Forum in November I met Miriam Gee, a co-worker of Enterprise Rose Fellow Geoffrey Barton. Miriam is an architect, builder, and instructor. Miriam has extensive experience with some of the leading design build programs in the United States including the Asheville Design Center, and Yestermorrow Design/Build School. She describes her career as “inspired by students, yet grounded in real-world design challenges.” Connecting academia with project delivery is challenging and raises questions regarding how students can responsibly gain experience, how to manage client expectations, and how to prioritize the goals of such a project. Check out Build Lightly Studio to see some of Miriam’s completed projects.

In the 3-hour elective course DESIGN|BUILD: DELTA I led this fall at Mississippi State University, the students did not finish construction of our project, but we did meet our goals. As stated above, linking a learning experience to carrying out and completing construction is not a straight-forward process. To succeed doesn’t necessarily mean to build something substantial or even complete.

I think success in this type of project first means defining clear expectations with the client. If the students expect to complete a cost estimate and a build a foundation, but the client is expecting a completed building, everyone will be disappointed. Second, though design build classes have great potential for responding to community needs and being a source of cheap labor, education must remain a priority. Instructors must offer structured guidance, and not rely wholly on the students to be intentional about learning throughout the project experience. Finally, someone on the team must have the skills to lead the project. Carpentry, masonry, and other skills are trades, and it is irresponsible to expect untrained individuals to be able to master or even manage these skills in a short period of time.

In DESIGN|BUILD: DELTA, the first half of the semester the goal was to design and oversee construction of a new, code compliant entry area for the Baptist Town Community Center. In the second half of the semester, students paired individual goals (learning to weld, calling material suppliers on the phone, using a drill, and creating material and cost schedules) with the goal of designing and partially building a railing system that is functional but also sets an inspirational tone at the new community center.

 

at home in greenwood

On Thursday, December 18th we celebrated the first families moving into the Baptist Town Cottage Project with a ribbon cutting ceremony. I was moved by the number of people who attended. Throughout the project, support has come from numerous individuals and organizations. I think that this generosity is rooted in an understanding that home is about more than walls and a roof, it is an avenue to financial stability and physical and emotional health. Just as important, I think the commitment that the larger Greenwood community has given to this project shows that a home is also what surrounds the structure. Healthy homes will lead to a more vibrant and equitable Greenwood.

Thank you Greenwood! For a video of the day visit Mississippi State University’s website where the Office of Public Affairs covered the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Photo credit Bryn Stole

eleven families will open the door to their new home

As we wrap up construction of the first phase of the Baptist Town Cottage Project, Enterprise continues to support the work in a variety of ways. Most recently, it’s exciting to see a news release about the project, and to be cited by Michelle Whetten as contributing to the overall mission of Enterprise.

“At Enterprise, we are committed to ending housing insecurity within a generation, which means no more homelessness and no more families paying more than half of their income on housing. The Baptist Town cottages will help this community meet the need for affordable housing beginning with these 11 families,” said Michelle Whetten, Enterprise Community Partners Inc.’s Gulf Coast Market Leader. 

Read the full release here.

Below, utilities have been connected at the cottages, and the previously vacant lot is no longer dark.

IMG_0806 night