Organized by: Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion
One of the seven petals of the Living Building Challenge, the fulfillment of the Equity Petal requires a demonstration that the building supports a just and equitable world. The Equity Petal defines this as “a society that embraces all sectors of humanity and allows the dignity of equal access and fair treatment is a civilization in the best position to make decisions that protect and restore the natural environment that sustains all of us.” To bring a student voice and perspective to this petal's challenge, a diverse mix of undergraduate and graduate students from disciplines across the campus were selected to form the Living Building Equity Champions (LBECs). This group was charged with fully engaging in the development and realization of the Equity Petal of The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design. This group was led by Georgia Tech Institute Diversity’s Dr. Keona Lewis, Program Review and Research Manager, and Atira Rochester, Corporate Relations Manager, and supported by the Academic and Research Council and Serve-Learn-Sustain.
The LBECs were exposed to relevant experiences and brought an invaluable perspective to the table. They attended numerous discussions and opportunities to expand their understanding of and exposure to the Atlanta community. They took the opportunity to represent at targeted-minority events and gain exposure to groups who are not well represented at Georgia Tech. From these experiences, the LBECs were able to bring a more comprehensive perspective to equity discussions. The champions could speak for and represent groups not typically represented.
Experiences of an LBEC
Challenges presented to LBECs included:
- Providing input and feedback to the design and development of The Kendeda Building;
- Engaging current students in the Kendeda Building’s equity, sustainability, and diversity efforts; and
- Connecting The Kendeda Building with the greater Atlanta community, particularly K-12 students.
The group quickly found that compared to the other petals (Place, Energy, Water, Materials, Health & Happiness, and Beauty), it was often difficult to generate conversation and initiate efforts around the Equity Petal. Pushing past this challenge meant the Champions had to work to ensure their voices were heard just as loudly as those discussing The Kendeda Building’s water or energy usage. The experiences of the LBECs also generated conversations with tough questions and tough answers. These real answers have been powerful in both explaining and working towards a more equitable building and Georgia Tech.
The group of LBECs were challenged to continually expand their perspective and to engage with the Equity Petal at a deeper level. This group pushed The Kendeda Building team to realize how important it was to have student’s voices in the conversation. The group realized that coming to the table with less information than others had on the project was a disadvantage. Champions had to be taught the information to be able to be active participants in the conversation.
What the Champions Realized
The champions are influencing The Kendeda Building for the better by positively impacting our conversations about the Equity Petal of The Living Building Challenge. The champion’s presence and efforts highlights the importance an individual’s presence can make and that a student’s time in college is a very individualized experience. This individual experience can cause students to inadvertently be unaware of unequitable conditions at Tech and in the community. Equity is an issue that pertains to every individual, and greater awareness can spark positive change.
While the LBECs are influencing the design for the better, they too are benefiting from the experience. Their understanding of equity has been elevated to a higher and more empowering level. And the team has come to truly appreciate the importance of having a seat at the table and being an informed voice in a sea of voices. The Kendeda Building will help facilitate crucial conversations like these in the Equity realm.