Bridging Equity and Sustainability: Living Building Equity Champions
Once completed next year, The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design is expected to become the most environmentally advanced education and research facility in the Southeast. The Kendeda Building focuses on seven performance areas – one being equity.
“If we’re going to talk about equity, then it needs to extend beyond the building,” said Atira Rochester, corporate relations manager for Institute Diversity. “The Kendeda Building presents a unique opportunity to connect the campus and greater Atlanta community with equity-centered sustainability programs and initiatives. That’s why we launched the Living Building Equity Champions initiative.”
Working with Institute Diversity’s Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Living Building Equity Champions (LBECs) are students charged with fully engaging in the development and realization of the equity component of The Kendeda Building.
The LBECs provide input in the design and development of The Kendeda Building; engage current students in The Kendeda Building’s equity, sustainability, and diversity efforts; and enhance the greater Atlanta community’s access to The Kendeda Building, particularly K-12 students.
Eleven undergraduate and graduate students have been selected as LBECs: Angelica Acevedo, Chaselyn Baca, John Butler III, Helen Chang, Simon Clopton, Tamera Flowers, Nataly Granados, Janay Jones, Lucy Kates, Amber Roberts, and Arionna Russell.
Keona Lewis, program review and research manager for Institute Diversity, said, “As equity practitioners, we are often faced with the challenges of bringing more voices to the table as it relates to sustainability. It was exciting for us to be able to bring a diverse group of passionate students to the table to inform The Kendeda Building project.”
Lewis and Rochester represent Institute Diversity on The Kendeda Building equity working group. They proposed the LBECs initiative as a way to engage more students, particularly those from underrepresented communities, in equity and sustainability efforts.
Last fall, the LBECs focused on their own understanding of The Kendeda Building and the role of equity within this project. They also participated in workshops and other learning opportunities to increase their knowledge of equity and sustainability. In Spring 2018, the LBECs connected with other Kendeda Building projects, visited the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and participated in outreach efforts, including OMED’s African American Male Initiative Academic Empowerment Fair and Expo, Serve-Learn-Sustain’s Community Open House, and GoSTEM’s Latino College and STEM Fair.
“Being a LBEC opened my eyes to the term ‘equity’ itself,” said Kates. “Because of this experience, I am more aware of people’s very different backgrounds, and it is important to understand that even if a design shows equality, it doesn’t mean that it is equitable in reaching all users.”
Another LBEC project was a student-produced video to explain the initiative, which can be viewed at https://youtu.be/T-qIJoM9iHo.
Acevedo added, “I hope that The Kendeda Building can be a place where people of all backgrounds feel included and productive. I would like this education and research facility to serve as an example for how we can prioritize equity in an everyday, working environment.”
“The LBECs will continue to develop and refine our equity work beyond this academic year,” said Clopton. “For instance, we plan to conduct surveys and interviews to evaluate the interplay among sustainable buildings, sustainable education, and underrepresented groups. This data will be used to tailor our work to create positive change for the campus and greater Atlanta communities.”
The LBECs pilot project is supported by the Academic and Research Council and Serve-Learn-Sustain. To learn more, visit www.csdi.gatech.edu/living-building-equity-champions.