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New Building Standard Advances Equity in the Built Environment

A new building standard provides practical guidelines for addressing equity in the design of our buildings, spaces and communities.

December 13, 2023 | New York – Today, a new equity-focused design standard was launched for architectural practitioners interested in embedding equity in the design of the built environment. Victoria Lanteigne, Ph.D., WELL AP, in alignment with award-winning building performance firm, Steven Winter Associates Inc. (SWA), announced the release of the Building Equity Standard, a pilot resource that is positioned to shape the future of architectural practice.

The emerging building standard is based on research conducted by Dr. Lanteigne, Principal of Research at SWA, as a doctoral candidate at North Carolina State University’s College of Design. The study brings to light design strategies rooted in community engagement that uniquely address equity through the design of the built environment.

Grounded in qualitative methods, Dr. Lanteigne’s research investigated the outcomes of four community-engaged design processes involving marginalized groups traditionally underrepresented in design. The key deliverable of this study is a practitioner resource called the Building Equity Standard (BEST), which outlines key goals and design guidelines for advancing equity in the built environment. The resource can be used to support more robust community engagement and to inform a more equity-centered design process.

Dr. Lanteigne’s research was influenced by her yearslong work in the universal design space and inspired by industry resource gaps she identified while working with practitioners interested in further implementing aspects of equity and social justice into projects. BEST outlines eight transformative goals and corresponding design guidelines that support enhancing human experiences in the built environment through an equity lens.

“When I embarked on this study nearly four years ago, our understanding of equity in the context of the built environments was limited,” said Dr. Lanteigne. “Past research shows that people have disparate experience within our buildings based on a range of marginalized identities, yet very few design strategies exist for dismantling these barriers. My goal for this study was to address this gap and put much-needed guidance into the hands of practitioners, policymakers and communities to ensure our buildings are truly designed to advance equity.”

The eight Building Equity Goals featured in BEST offer architects and design teams a set of guiding principles to consider when addressing equity in the design of the built environment.

Building Equity Goals:

  1. Community Activation: Impact a project’s surrounding community through economic development, social engagement and/or community activism.
  2. Visibility: Raise public awareness of the project and any affiliated missions.
  3. Representation: Acknowledge the history of the building, site and community as well as the lived experiences of former and future occupants.
  4. Belonging: Enable occupants to feel a sense of connection and self-worth within their environment.
  5. Autonomy: Provide occupants with a choice in how they navigate, spend time in and experience their surroundings.
  6. Safety: Ensure environments promote feelings of physical and emotional security.
  7. Inclusion: Create environments that are accessible, usable and inclusive to a wide range of occupants.
  8. High-Quality Design: Provide high-quality design features that support efficiency, enjoyment and occupant well-being.

SWA is the first organization to leverage BEST as a pathway for clients to embed equity in the design of their buildings. Under Dr. Lanteigne’s guidance, the firm has previously pioneered inclusive design to support diverse human needs related to disability, gender identity, culture, LGBTQIA+ identity, language and more. The adoption of the new standard is shaping a new set of building equity services offered by SWA, further solidifying the firm’s commitment to promoting equity through its research, consulting and advisory services.

“As outlined by Dr. Lanteigne’s research, the Building Equity Standard will inform the future of design. Employing these principals will allow architects and designers to more effectively meet the needs of the individuals they serve,” said Peter Stratton, Managing Director, Accessibility Services, Steven Winter Associates, Inc. “Having this comprehensive resource available for industry professionals is monumental and we are excited to bring this innovative work to SWA projects.”

The full research brief is available on Steven Winter Associates’ website, providing valuable insights for industry professionals, policymakers and anyone interested in advancing equity in the built environment.

Photo of Victoria Lanteigne.About Dr. Victoria Lanteigne, Ph.D., WELL AP

Victoria Lanteigne, Principal, Research, Steven Winter Associates, Inc. has been working to improve the built environment through equity, inclusive design, and health and wellness for the past 15 years. With a background in public policy, Dr. Lanteigne brings an interdisciplinary lens to building research to develop industry standards and frameworks for practical application. Dr. Lanteigne is passionate about championing the connection between equity, inclusive design and building performance and was instrumental in the development of the universal/inclusive design credits in LEEDv4 and WELLv2. She completed her Ph.D. in Design at North Carolina State University, where her research centered on operationalizing equity in the built environment.

About Steven Winter Associates, Inc.

Steven Winter Associates, Inc. provides research, consulting and advisory services to improve commercial, residential and multifamily built environments for private and public sector clients. The company specializes in energy, sustainability and accessibility and inclusive design consulting, certification, research and development and most recently, building equity services. Its engineers, architects and researchers have led the way since 1972 in developing best practices to achieve high-performance buildings. For more information on Steven Winter Associates please visit swinter.com.

Media Contact

Kate Traina, Steven Winter Associates, 9089672117, kate@violetpr.comhttps://www.violetpr.com/