An exclusive revolution
There is a potential revolution on the horizon of the design profession. In fact, many people believe that it has already arrived. Look no further than the March, 2008 US Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Facts and Figures Summary to see that there are currently:
* 47,000+ LEED Accredited Professionals,
* 1,325 LEED-certified commercial projects, and
* 10,300 LEED-registered commercial projects.
Yet, with such an abundance of innovative design solutions it may come as a surprise that 98% of our population simply cannot afford the services of design professionals. There are, of course, passionate individuals and organizations committed to underserved communities around the country. However, these champions are often underpaid and overextended, and they are confronted with a massive number of communities in desperate need of healthy, sustainable design solutions.
A recent report, Economic (In) Security: The Experience of the African American and Latino Middle Classes, developed by Demos and Brandeis University, examines the economic stability of households of color in this country, and finds that 3 out of 4 African American and 4 out of 5 Latino middle class families are on unstable financial ground. These are the communities and families with the greatest need for and least ability to afford the solutions that the green design community offers. A truly inclusive revolution remains to be seen.
Words and action
Thanks to our online culture of abundant, easily accessible information, it is possible to engage in an argument about social, economic, or political root causes of environmental and social injustices and speculate about grand, sweeping solutions. In so doing, it easy to overlook the central requirement of an appropriate sustainable solution on any scale: an active and engaged local community. Without this, the word "sustainability" runs the risk of completely losing its meaning, intent, and true potential.
At its core, holistic sustainability grows from a specific location, microclimate, culture, local resources, and specific needs. For example, a design solution that is effective in a rural area of a cold climate zone will not be appropriate for an urban area in a hot climate zone. The most effective way to achieve a design solution that works well is by allowing the solution to grow from the local community. Local citizens must understand and...