Supporting a Just, Equitable World

Human Scale + Humane Places

Democracy + Social Justice

Rights to Nature

The intent of the Equity Petal is to correlate the impacts of design and development to its ability to foster a true sense of community. A society that embraces all sectors of humanity and allows the dignity of equal access is a civilization in the best position to make decisions that protect and restore the natural environment.

There is a disturbing trend towards privatizing infrastructure and creating polarized attitudes of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ – allowing only those of a certain economic or cultural background to participate fully in community life. Although opposite on the spectrum, enclaves for the wealthy are only one step removed from the racial and ethnic ghettos that continue to plague our neighborhoods. A subset of this trend is the notion that individuals can own access to nature itself, by privatizing admittance to waterways, beaches and other wilderness areas, cutting off most people from the few pristine environmental places that remain. Only by realizing that we are indeed ‘all in this together’ can the greatest environmental and social problems be addressed.

We need to aggressively challenge the notion that property ownership somehow implies that we can do whatever we like, even externalize the negative environmental impacts of our actions onto others. For example, consider these situations: when a polluting factory is placed next to a residential community, the environmental burdens of its operation are placed on the individuals who live in those houses. The factory is diminishing its neighbors’ rights to clean air, water and soil. When a building towers over another structure, its shadow diminishes that structure’s ability to generate clean and renewable energy, thereby impeding the rights to energy independence. We all deserve access to sunlight and clean air, water and soil.

We need to prioritize the concept of ‘citizen’ above that of ‘consumer’. Equity implies the creation of communities that provide universal access to people with disabilities, and allow people who can’t afford expensive forms of transportation to fully participate in the major elements of society. Indeed, most projects in the built environment greatly outlive the original owner or developer – society inherits the legacies of bad decisions and good decisions alike. Since the act of building is a considerable environmental impact shared by all, there is an inherent responsibility to ensure that any project provides some public good and does not degrade quality of life.

Living Building Challenge™ 2.0