Though on the surface Equity may not seem to pertain much to design and construction, it is a key Petal and is at the heart of what the Living Building Challenge was created for.
The LBC seeks to transform developments to foster a true, inclusive sense of community that is just and equitable regardless of a person's physical abilities, age or socioeconomic status. To achieve this the LBC challenges the ingrained cultural attitudes about rights associated with private ownership and the varying rights of people, as well as the mindset of "consumer" vs "citizen."
For example, we could consider a factory that creates pollution being built near a residential community and the negative impact it would have on the air, water and soil quality of the residents. Or the building of one high-rise over another building, casting a shadow that diminishes the smaller structure's ability to generate renewable energy for itself.
The four Imperatives in this Petal attempt to address these concerns.
Imperative 15: Human Scale and Humane Places
Projects must be designed to create human-scaled rather than automobile-scaled places for the purpose of promoting culture and interaction.
Imperative 16: Universal Access to Nature & Place
No project may block access to nor diminish the quality of fresh air, sunlight and natural waterways for any member of society or adjacent developments. Noise from the project that is audible to the public must also be addressed appropriately.
Imperative 17: Equitable Investment
Imperative 18: JUST Organizations
Much like the Declare label we discussed in the Materials Petal, the ILFI has created the JUST Label for Organizations, with the stated goal of helping to create a more just, equitable society through the transparent disclosure of business practices.
As a Designer focused on single-family homes and sustainability, creating residential spaces and environments that are universally accessible and respect the natural environment and neighboring projects is very important to me.
To add to this, I have lived in a wheelchair my entire life. I know the challenges people with physical disabilities face in a typical home everyday. There are a number of little details most people don't ever notice, but are things some of us have lived with and learned to adapt to every day. Different people have different abilities, and just because I am in a wheelchair does not mean I have the same abilities or face the same obstacles as another wheelchair user.
True accessible design at a residential level is tailored to the abilities and needs of the residents, which may not necessarily be a universal design solution.
Compliance with ADA codes and regulations can be a good start, but one of the failures of spec homes and developments by high-volume production builders is the anticipation of the physical abilities of the residents. Even if traditional homes are adequate for the vast majority of people, home environments are become more multi-generational. In time we will need to provide more appropriately designed homes that accommodate these lifestyles.
Quotations and information cited comes from the Living Building Challenge 3.1. To learn more or download a copy of the Living Building Challenge, visit the International Living Future Institute. Neither Joshua Stewart nor JDS Design Studio is a paid advocate of the Living Building Challenge nor a member of the LBC Ambassador Network. As a residential design firm the purpose of creating this blog series is to inform, educate and advocate for a sustainable approach to designing and building fully self-sufficient homes and communities.