NESSBE: Equity of Place Summit Takeaways

Date: Mar 14, 2019 12:10:48 PM

By: Melissa Arminio Kops

Several people from our office attended the NESSBE Equity of Place summit, which I organized through my role as board member of the CT Green Building Council.  Here are some of our impressions:


Melissa’s impressions:

Equity of Place provided an authentic and open space to discuss the difficult issues of race and equity in our built environment.  Julian Agyeman revealed an important statistic in his keynote address:

“Inequality heightens competitive consumption; therefore, climate change cannot be solved without addressing inequality.”

-Julian Agyeman, Tufts University


Responding to climate change is going to take massive investments in infrastructure.  Unfortunately, in this country we do not have a good track record of making massive changes to the built environment equitably.  In fact, efforts like the New Deal and Urban Renewal intentionally left behind people of color and destroyed their communities.  We have an opportunity to lift up vulnerable and frontline communities while ambitiously addressing climate change. The building industry needs to lead the way by meaningfully engaging communities as partners in the reshaping of their environments.


Danielle’s impressions:

Something Rosanne Haggerty said during her keynote really resonated with me:

“Remember, you aren’t starting from zero.”

-Rosanne Haggerty, Community Solutions


She was specifically speaking of the neighborhood intervention work that her company facilitates around the US to combat homelessness. Where others see only blight, Community Solutions strives to see untapped opportunity. In every community there is latent culture, history, infrastructure; without a shared goal, those resources have only fractured results. This is a lesson that can apply to any effort: Aligned narratives yield greater, more inclusive, more impactful outcomes.

At Pirie Associates, we like to say that we always try to have three outcomes with any single move. The more stakeholders we can bring to the table, the more impactful and transformative our work can be. The challenge, however, is to take the time. Without the time to gather the information and listen to multiple voices, it is all too easy to think you are “starting from zero.” Tapping into the latent inputs of any problem is a crucial step to finding a successful solution.


Monica’s impressions:

Here are some quotes that I found particularly meaningful:

“What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place”

 -Christopher Nielson, Bruner/Cott Architects quoting the International Living Future Institute


“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together”

-Julia Gisewite, Turner Construction quoting Vincent Van Gogh


“One worker dies every 30 seconds due to the chemicals in their workplace.”

-Kath McCusker, Integrated Eco Strategy


“When selecting products we really need to consider human health impacts over the full lifecycle of a product, not just during occupancy, but also in extraction, manufacture, installation, and end of life.”

-Lisa Conway, Interface


“Ask manufacturers early and often for a healthier option of the product you want to use.  You’d be surprised how accommodating they can be given adequate time to respond to your request.”

-Kath McCusker, Integrated Eco Strategy


“Among NYC students, 1 in 8 is homeless before 5th grade.”

-Gemma Duffee, The New School


“We need to make neighborhoods more equitable, improving basic public services and developing opportunities.”

-Rosanne Haggerty, Community Solutions


“The more contact we have with different people, the more tolerant we are.”

-Julian Agyeman, Tufts University


“A building shouldn’t be a barrier, but a connector between people and nature.”

-Misha Semonov, Yale School of Architecture and Forestry and Environmental Studies

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