Building for Equity and Sustainability

2020 ~ Present


This VIP takes as its main focus Georgia Tech’s new Living Building – the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design – and its efforts to advance social equity as one of seven key performance areas in the Living Building Challenge. This VIP also explores equity and resilience in sustainability projects on Georgia Tech’s campus and in surrounding partner communities in Atlanta.

We have four goals: 1) Incorporate equity as an important sustainability objective in engineering and architecture design practices at Georgia Tech; 2) Work closely with campus partners to fully engage underrepresented students in The Kendeda Building and to use the building to advance the Institute’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals; 3) Collaborate with partners from communities surrounding campus to advance equity, resilience, and sustainability in the built environment; and 4) Influence the sustainable building sector nationally and internationally to more thoroughly incorporate equity as a goal in their rating systems and programs.

Our multi-disciplinary research team includes GT students, faculty, and staff. Students work in sub-teams on projects related to these goals. Following the VIP model, projects are student-driven, with faculty, staff, and partners serving as advisers.

The VIP is open to students from any major or background with an interest in advancing equity and sustainability in the built environment. The course is affiliated with Serve- Learn-Sustain (SLS) and fulfills requirements in both the Sustainable Cities Minor and the SLS Innovating for Social Impact Program.

The team instructors are Jennifer Hirsch (Director, Serve-Learn-Sustain) and Juan Archila (Director of Facilities and Capital Planning, College of Sciences). Jimmy Mitchell of Skanska, who served as Project Manager for Kendeda Building construction, also serves as an adviser to our VIP. Additionally, student sub-teams have advisers from local and national partner organizations.


Issues Involved or Addressed

Georgia Tech and its surrounding communities have been making major strides to advance equity as a key piece of creating a sustainable built environment - and sustainable and resilient communities overall. The Kendeda Building is at the forefront of this innovation. This VIP aims to push Georgia Tech to deepen and broaden its focus on equity as core to sustainability. Our research will explore equity in theory and practice. Our action will involve trying out new ideas about equity to see how they work in practice

Methods and Technologies

  • Qualitative research (fieldwork, interviews, surveys, etc.)
  • Quantitative Research Methods
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Ethical Reasoning
  • Co-designing with Communities
  • Defining Design Objectives
  • Systems Modeling and Analyses

Academic Majors of Interest

  • ComputingComputational Media
  • ComputingComputer Science
  • ComputingOMSCS synchronous
  • DesignArchitecture
  • DesignIndustrial Design
  • EngineeringCivil Engineering
  • EngineeringEnvironmental Engineering
  • Ivan AllenHistory, Technology, and Society
  • Ivan AllenPublic Policy
  • Other
  • SciencesPsychology

Preferred Interests and Preparation

  • General interest in exploring and practicing sustainability from a holistic perspective, bringing together all seven LBC petals: place, water, energy, health & happiness, equity, materials and beauty.
  • Interest in transdisciplinary, applied research: working across academic disciplines, with practitioners, to understand and develop theory and connect theory to practice - and then use practice to push theory.
  • All majors interested in learning about sustainability and how it plays out in real-world communities, at GT and beyond.
  • Students interested in urban planning.
  • Students interested in working with communities to design engineering systems.



Part of this VIP's experience is workshops and field trips, either on-campus or off campus, that enhance students' learning and understanding of equity and sustainability. While the team meets regularly on Tuesdays from 9:30-10:20 AM, class time extends to 10:50 AM for these opportunities. Transportation to nearby communities for site visits is not provided, but instructors help students coordinate rides together. These workshops and field trips are key to the research and work of the sub-teams within the VIP, and therefore they are mandatory. When joining this VIP, we ask students to plan to come to these activities so that they can get the most out of their experience.


Students can take VIP for 1 or 2 credits. We encourage all students to enroll for 2 credits, particularly those intersted in joining the Commnity Engagemetn sub-team. Engaging with community partners is rewarding, but it often takes more coordination and work than typical projects.

Meeting Schedule & Location

9:30-10:20/10:50 AM
Meeting Location 
Kendeda Building 288
Meeting Day 

Team Advisors

Jennifer Hirsch
  • Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain
Juan Archila
  • College of Sciences

Related Sites