good for the environment, good for you

Last month the US Green Building Council announced three new social equity pilot credits as a part of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. According to the USGBC website, “Over 15% of Americans live in poverty. One of our most effective tools to address inequities in the building world is through LEED. The three pilot credits are:

  1. The social equity in the project team pilot credit outlines strategies to positively affect the people connected directly with the building.
  2. The social equity in the community pilot credit rewards project teams for identifying and responding to inequities faced by people of the local community.
  3. The social equity in the supply chain pilot credit encourages project teams to use materials from suppliers or manufacturers that ensure basic human rights for their workers.”

From within the social impact design world this is an exciting development. While LEED has an international presence and can be linked to multi-million dollar industries and millions of dollars saved on energy costs, architecture that addresses social and economic inequities is a field that is still being defined. Despite this, it is clear that social impact design is a field of collaboration and to be built into the LEED process will mean opportunities for just that, more partners and bigger goals.

Congratulations to the team who made this happen: Emma Hughes, USGBC staff; Susan Kaplan, Co-chair; Joel Ann Todd, Co-chair; Heather Rosenberg; Raphael Sperry; Shawn Hesse; Brad Guy; Lance Hosey; Sara O’Mara; Alfonso Ponce and Max Zahniser.

Calling for a Triple Bottom Line Design Metric (SSIR)

Public Interest Design blogger John Cary summarizes SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design), the lesser known social impact focused cousin to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and the challenges to growth that this evaluation system has faced. He suggests, “Rather than remain a shoestring operation, SEED should leverage the USGBC’s vast network and resources. Both SEED and LEED would become stronger programs for it.” Read the full article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review at Calling for a Triple Bottom Line Design Metric (SSIR).

As a new advisory council focuses on the future of SEED, public interest designers are faced with a common question in this field – How can our work scale up? Does it inherently lose it’s ability to be responsive to the specific social needs of individual communities when molded to fit within the requirements of a certification program? I don’t think it does. Despite the vastness and the merited criticisms that can be leveled at LEED, the success or failure of the final product lies with the project team. Similarly, if SEED were to be applied to projects around the globe, the onus of success would remain with the designer in the field. It is the responsibility, and the joy, of public interest designers to immerse themselves within the groups that they work for, and this responsibility remains and would be amplified by an international platform from which best practices and lessons learned in triple bottom line design can be shared.