Architect's Role in Creating Equitable Communities: Within Projects
How do architects design and advocate for equitable processes and outcomes in projects, from scoping to construction?
During each design phase for the project, there are a number of actionable opportunities to impact equitable outcomes. Building in time and resources for authentic community involvement, organizational partnerships, comprehensive stakeholder participation, and measurement of outcomes increases the likelihood that a project will be responsive to local needs and desires. Setting equity goals early in the process and integrating community stakeholders in goal creation aligns local vision with the project, positioning it to become a positive community asset.
There is the opportunity to find agency in driving equitable outcomes at every phase:
Architect's Role in Creating Equitable Communities: Project Choice & Team Creation
When tackling challenging problems, architecture and design alone will not have the solution. Being clear in our strengths, abilities, and power allow us to identify gaps and partner to bring additional skillsets to the project team, resulting for increased impact. An inclusive, co-creative approach in the problem definition and visioning stages sets the project up for greater community alignment and process success.
Architect's Role in Creating Equitable Communities: Pre-design & Engagement
Involving community members in a meaningful way is still possible even if the contract is signed. The earlier community members and stakeholders can be involved, the more opportunity they have to shape the design. It’s important to be specific about the degree of influence and areas of impact community members might expect to have, the current phase or status of the project, and how the feedback will be used. In addition, reporting back to community members following application of the feedback, before the project begins construction, signals transparency and builds trust in the design team and owner.
Architect's Role in Creating Equitable Communities: Design
The design phase for creating equitable communities may be broken into three parts. A step beyond involvement on the ladder of community participation is co-creation, or co-design, where community members are integral in the planning, programming, and design process. Their ideas have direct influence on the design choices. Projects created with authentic community input increase trust in civic participation and development processes. Future projects may be met with less skepticism from long-term residents if promises are kept and contributors can see where their ideas and creativity went in a project.
Architect's Role in Creating Equitable Communities: Construction Administration
It is important to uphold community principles through construction. In the construction contracting stage, the design team can work with the client to specify parameters, such as preference to local hires or training/apprenticeship programs, to ensure the community gets direct economic and workforce development benefits from the project. Designers can also partner with the client to modify the bidding process to prioritize locally owned firms or MWBEs.
Architect's Role in Creating Equitable Communities: Occupancy
Community goals can be used to assess how well a project achieved its goal. It’s important, when establishing goals, to discuss how to measure success. Community members should be part of establishing those measures and timelines associated with them. Is the goal to build community wealth by creating retail spaces for Black-and Brown-owned small businesses? Checking in on the success of businesses for several years into the future will be needed to understand how well the strategy performed.