Architects and Planners Can Create More Equitable Living Environments

On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, the SpaceLab Innovation Center, powered by SpaceLab Detroit, hosted a timely webinar to discuss the role of architecture and urban planning in creating safe, healthy living environments: Toward More Equitable Living Environments: African Americans, Architecture and Planning in the Time of COVID-19. View the video replay of the discussion by clicking the link above. Show notes are below the panelists’ bios.

Cities with majority Black populations like Detroit, Baltimore and New Orleans have been greatly impacted by COVID-19. At the end of April, Data Driven Detroit estimated that about one quarter of COVID-19 cases in Michigan were in Detroit despite the city being only 6.7% of the state’s population. APM Research Lab in St. Paul, Minnesota reports that nationwide, African Americans are dying from the virus at three times the rate of white Americans.

Discussion topics included the value placed on Black communities, causes for the disparity in cases of the virus and death rates, ideas for changes to city infrastructure design during and after this pandemic, and how design professionals can adapt to changing environments.

Our Panelists

Kimberly Dowdell, a licensed architect and urban thought leader who is focused on building resilient, healthy and sustainable cities. A native of Detroit, Kimberly’s passion for design as a catalyst for urban revitalization was inspired by childhood experiences in her hometown. She went on to live in Ithaca, Rome, Washington, New York and Boston prior to returning to Detroit in 2015, where she worked on neighborhood-scale reinvestment efforts until her relocation to Chicago in 2019. Kimberly’s professional mission is to improve the quality of life for people living in cities. She believes in building diverse, cross-sector teams to solve our society’s most complicated challenges with a lens towards justice and equity. She is the 2019-2020 National President of National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and a Principal in the Chicago studio of HOK, a global architecture and planning firm.

Andre Perry, PhD, a fellow at Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC., and author of Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities. Dr. Perry’s research focuses on race and structural inequality, community engagement, education, economic inclusion, and workforce development. He is a frequent contributor to news programming on NBC, National Public Radio, TheGriot.com, CNN, and other national media outlets. (@andreperryedu on Twitter and Instagram and aperry@brookings.edu)

Donald Rencher, Director of Housing and Revitalization with the City of Detroit. Since 2015, he has served the City in multiple roles, including working on mixed income, mixed use development projects and financial underwriting. Prior to working at the City of Detroit, Donald was senior lead counsel to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority where he worked on large-scale, affordable housing development and served over its single-family housing portfolio.

Moderated by: Michael Randall, urban planner and Director of Community Impact at the American Heart Association Detroit. He has devoted his career and life to the development of communities around the country and the world. His expertise includes, but is not limited to, public health, urban planning, housing, community enrichment and financial capabilities. Michael has served on both public and nonprofit boards including the Ypsilanti Planning Commission, the Ypsilanti Library Board of Trustees and Legal Services of South Central Michigan. His entrepreneurial endeavors include co-owning and operating the community enrichment organization, Maureen James Community Enrichment.

Community Partners

Thanks to our Community Partners for this event: City of Detroit Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity; Real Estate Association of Developers (READ); Detroit chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMAD); Design Core Detroit; Noir Design Parti; Detroit chapter of The American Institute of Architects; Urban Land Institute Michigan; and Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative.

Purchase Know Your Price at Source Booksellers, a Detroit Small Business

Purchase online or call to order

Show Notes

Download the Chat

Questions:
Q&A (49:45 – 55:21): We see diversity in public spaces that have an attraction appeal. i.e..Millenium Park. How do we design parks inclusively so that level of diversity is co-existing in neighborhoods? Is this an opportunity for black/LatinX architects to enable this kind of participation? (via Michael R.)


Q&A (56:04): What will it take to provide more section 8 support for Detroit housing? will additional section 8 support encourage developers to invest in Detroit? (via Marla M.)


Q (57:04 – 1:00:42): At what point do we fund our projects with our money from our banks (Credit Unions as well)? One United Bank for example. (via Kendal B.)


Q&A (1:04:04 – 1:05:00): How do you recommend that we tackle explaining these histories and systemic racial practices within our universities architectural history classes? And make sure these community histories of disenfranchisement are kept in mind by designers even at the early stages of their education? (via Ramatoulie S.)


Q&A (1:05:45: 1:06:36): Are the panelists engaged in any real estate development or affordable housing projects? (via Vic B.)

Articles and discussion topics:
Public input to street re-design: Safe Streets’ Are Not Safe for Black Lives (CityLab) (via Kathleen D.)

Buy Back the Block:
Buy the Block
Buy the Block is Building Up Black Communities and Curbing Gentrification One Block at a Time (Black Enterprise)

Additional topics:

  • Credit repair and banking
  • Reparations
  • Opportunity Zones
  • Affordable Housing
  • Cost of homeownership (including insurance and utilities)
  • Practical money skills education

Organizations:
NOMA: National Organization of Minority Architects (via Kimberly D.)

Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) Community Engagement policy committee is drafting legislation to improve Community Engagement. Too often the engagement process is wanting. If you’re interested in this process please feel free to contact Ruth Johnson of CDAD or take action here. (via Orletta C.)


Habitat for Humanity affiliates are certified credit counselors and assist people with credit repair. (via Elizabeth W.)


U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) certified free credit organizations. (via Katherine W.)


Education:
Home Builders Association of Southeast Michigan (HBA) has scholarships for students heading to or already enrolled in any aspect of construction education. Deadline extended into July. (via Elizabeth W.)


NOMA Detroit Project Pipeline Virtual Summer Camp (via Vic. B.)

Noir Design Parti: Important work and history of minority architects in Detroit is the focus of this Knight Arts Challenge award-winning project. Find out more about our work and support our mission! (via Saundra L.)

Got discussion ideas? Email us at info@spacelabdetroit.com

Designing Healthier Office Spaces

On this Earth Day, we’re sharing a case study blog post by Vivian White at SpaceLab’s architects Centric Design Studio from their blog, Inside the Studio

Sustainable design also means healthier design – and healthier processes. Most of us spend over one-third of our lives inside office buildings. This makes the design of buildings and office space very important to our environment and our health. Creating healthier workplaces is a central part of Centric Design Studio’s sustainable design strategy. The ways in which we use energy, and our choices of materials and processes, are the most effective way to reduce fossil fuel emissions and contaminants released from materials and processes.

Take a look inside one of our (recent) design projects. SpaceLab Detroit opened their doors for their first public grand opening June 8th, 2017. SpaceLab Detroit is a co-working office space in downtown Detroit area, conceived by husband and wife team, Bobby and Karen Burton. It is a state of the art, efficiently designed work space for today’s entrepreneurs, architects, engineers, and construction service providers.

Centric-Design-Studio-Photo-of-SpaceLab-Project

Natural Lighting

On this project, the south facing windows maximize the benefits of daylight from both the morning and evening sun. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D and is critical for facilitating vision and our bodies’ ability to regulate hormones, which in turn keeps processes related to alertness, digestion, and sleep functioning properly.

LED Lighting

Prioritizing around  natural light minimizes electricity usage, the largest source of carbon emissions. In addition, most of the lighting used in the space is LED, which uses energy more efficiently than traditional lighting and emits less heat. Motion sensors cause the lights to turn off when there is no movement in the room. Using less electricity helps us keep our environment healthier and adds up to big financial savings for the owner and tenant.

Ventilation

Adding to the comfort level and energy efficiency of this space was a switch from steam heat to gas, allowing the occupants more control over temperature. The radiators were kept to maintain the character of the space, however, the duct work was reconfigured to facilitate the new system.

Use of Materials

Acoustical ceiling tiles are used in the offices for noise reduction. Environmentally-friendly materials were used for the carpeting, which also utilizes processes to maintain clean indoor air quality. Designer roller shades will give occupants maximum control over the amount of natural light to allow in, while also providing protection from UV light.

Located in the heart of Detroit, SpaceLab is a model for the future of design and economic growth. Design challenges within the city’s 2030 District consist of a delicate balance between maintaining buildings historical intellect while deploying healthy, sustainable, aesthetically pleasing key elements. All of this adds up to a reduction in fossil fuel energy use and costs. LED lighting also qualified the business owners for a sizable rebate from DTE Energy.  What is not to like about implementing sustainable design?

Photos by Centric Design Studio

Tire Nerd Audra Carson Moves into SpaceLab

Audra D. Carson is a lifelong Detroiter who is committed to the vitality of the city and its residents. Known as the “Tire Nerd,” she is a leader who provides solutions to the issue of post-consumer tire waste/tire blight that plagues communities across the country. Through her company Izzie, LLC, and at the heart of all her initiatives, is the improvement of the community aesthetic. This led to the creation of the Strategic Beautification Initiative.

Izzie logoIzzie, LLC’s corporate culture is to leave people, places and things better than they found them, and the company’s Strategic Beautification Program addresses the pervasive litter and blight that plagues our region. Planet earth is the ultimate place to leave better. The professional service that Izzie provides positively impacts our environment. As champions for Eco-justice & Sustainability, Izzie, LLC ensures that communities that are traditionally left out are provided opportunities to shine.

Get to know Audra and Izzie, LLC through this video.