Cracking the Code: Using building regulations to support a more sustainable community
The sustainable building and energy efficiency sectors are transforming the places where we live, work and gather. Sustainable building promotes the health and wellbeing of occupants while minimizing climate change and pollution as well as regenerating, advancing and sustaining the social, cultural, economic and environmental health of places and communities. However, the wave of green building practices has yet to fully reach the people suffering the most from buildings that are unsafe, unhealthy, unaffordable and unsustainable. Communities of color and low-income communities bear the brunt of the impacts of unhealthy, energy-inefficient and disaster-vulnerable buildings.
“The climate crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color, whether it’s flooding, displacement or proximity of industrial pollution sites near our communities, which increases health-related problems, or the failure to have equal access to economic opportunities in the green economy,” said Leon Russell, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors. “Our communities are suffering and caught in the middle.”
Additionally, the most impacted communities are under-represented in the design and construction of sustainable buildings — whether it’s policymakers, advocates, architects, contractors, or even the construction workforce. As a stark example, the National Organization of Minority Architects reports that less than two percent of registered architects are African Americans and less than 0.4 percent are African American women. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, African Americans comprise only six percent of all construction workers and Asian Americans only two percent. One in five construction companies in the United Kingdom have no women in senior construction industry roles and only 13 percent of the sector’s workforce is female, with only four percent of Black, Asian or minority ethnicity. And while building and construction is the second most economically significant industry in Australia, women comprise only 11 percent of the construction industry, with a meager one percent specifically employed in construction trades.
Building a coalition across the sustainable construction sector
A review of the offices and job sites of the sustainable and regenerative building sector show that the most-impacted communities are under-represented in the design, construction and occupancy of sustainable buildings. As the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the U.S. dedicated to transformative social change of all persons, the NAACP launched its Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector initiative in 2018 to remedy this imbalance and be a catalyst of inspiration and transformation in centering equity in the sustainable building industry. The initiative looks to a future where sustainable building policies and practices that produce equitable access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes for all — regardless of identity or status — are proactively enforced and sustainable building community leaders join with civil rights leaders to create industry-scale change.
The initiative has brought together civil rights leaders from NAACP units across the country and attracted the people and organizations who are currently leading the green building sector — from the U.S. Green Building Council, a number of environmental nonprofits, various leading architecture firms, and now the International Code Council — to help define an equity-based agenda around the built sustainable environment and begin determining and shifting policies, practices and narratives. On March 2, the Code Council will join the NAACP Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector initiative for a critical conversation about the role of building codes in our lives. In this webinar, codes and advocacy experts will discuss what building codes are, how they are developed and implemented across the country, and the current opportunities for members of the public to participate in this process.
Taking an environmental and climate justice lens, participants will assess the areas of improvement and strategies to ensure that building codes protect frontline communities and result from deep democracy. Moderated by Henry Green, Hon. AIA, former National Institute of Building Sciences president and founding member of the International Code Council and past president of its Board of Directors, other presenters include Alice Sung, founding principal of Greenbank Associates, a green building and sustainability consultancy dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and maximizing climate change impact through the building/energy sector; Anthony Floyd, Fellow AIA, BEAP, Member ASHRAE, LEED AP, a licensed architect and certified sustainability professional who served as the green building program manager for the city of Scottsdale and helped to establish Arizona’s first Green Building Program; and Kathryn Wright, programs director for building energy at the Urban Sustainability Directors Network responsible for the oversight of the network’s strategic direction and innovation work in the built environment.
Advance registration is required to participate in this meeting. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.