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 a key part of building and operating a sustainable building. Within the Living Building Challenge (LBC), we focus on improving - and re-defining - the Equity Petal, which currently aims "to transform developments to foster a true, inclusive sense of community that is just and equitable regardless of an individual's background, age, class, race, gender or sexual orientation." The team will also explore equity and resilience in sustainability projects in partner communities in Atlanta and Georgia. Our research team includes GT students, faculty, and staff. This VIP is affiliated with Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS), and we will work with them to collaborate with community and industry partners. 

We have four initial goals: 1) Incorporate equity as an important objective in engineering and architecture design practices at Georgia Tech; 2) Work closely with the Living Building Equity Champions to fully engage underrepresented students in The Kendeda Building and to use the building to advance the Institute’s diversity and inclusion goals; 3) Co-develop with communities design solutions to increase 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. 


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. Initial projects will include:

  • TOURS/STORIES: Students will collect and develop equity stories for on-campus and virtual sustainability tours, of The Kendeda Building and the campus as a whole
  • ENGINEERING DESIGN PROJECTS: Students will collaborate with local community organizations on design projects related to the built environment that treats resilience, sustainability, and equity as the design objectives
  • RATING SYSTEMS: Students will participate in SLS partnerships with the NAACP Centering Equity in the Living Building Sector initiative and The International Living Future Institute (ILFI), which runs the Living Building Challenge, to learn about and compare sustainability rating systems and develop proposals for incorporating equity more deeply into these rating systems.


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

  • Computational Media
  • Computer Science
  • OMSCS synchronous
  • Architecture
  • Industrial Design
  • Civil Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • History, Technology, and Society
  • Public Policy
  • Psychology

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.

Meeting Schedule & Location

Meeting Location 
Kendeda Building 110
Meeting Day 

Team Advisors

Jennifer Hirsch
  • Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain
Justin Biddle
  • Public Policy
Dr. Jeremy Brown
  • Industrial Design
Juan Archila
  • College of Sciences
Jimmy Mitchell

Related Sites