Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Equitable Communities

Design solutions affect more than the client and current occupants. Good design positively impacts the future by helping communities thrive—socially, economically, and environmentally.  

  • What is the project's greater reach? How could this project contribute to creating a diverse, accessible, walkable, just, and human-scaled community?
  • Who might this project be forgetting? How can the design process and outcome remove barriers and promote inclusion and social equity, particularly with respect to vulnerable communities?
  • What opportunities exist in this project to include, engage, and promote human connection?
  • How can the design support health and resilience for the community during times of need or during emergencies?

Focus topics

  • Community-scale issues beyond the project
  • Social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Community engagement and empowerment
  • Community resilience
  • Mobility and access

If you can do only one (or a few) thing(s):

  • ZERO-CARBON: Evaluate the embodied carbon and social value of a structure before demolition.
  • ZERO-CARBON: Reduce the amount of energy the project requires, and then seek renewable and local energy sources while considering the environmental justice impacts on future generations.
  • RESILIENT: Embrace community knowledge to understand social, economic, and environmental hazard impacts and create resilient design solutions. 
  • EQUITABLE: Implement a robust stakeholder engagement plan.
  • EQUITABLE: Organize the design team to provide diversity in the project, including the development team, design team, and construction team.  
  • EQUITABLE: Work with designers, contractors, and consultants that participate in a social equity program (such as JUST ).
  • HEALTHY: Design with products that address both chemical transparency and organizational equity.  
  • HEALTHY: Create gathering spaces and social infrastructure to support strong human networks. Design compact, connected, and complete communities. 

Additional information

This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published and distributed with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. If professional advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

Image credits

Environmental Nature Center Preschool-06

Cris Costea

Ford Foundation 01

Garrett Rowland

TheSix 001 TaraWucjik_s,

Tara Wucjik


Matthew Millman