Spotlight Report

Build Green on a Budget: Lessons from Affordable Housing

Experts agree: it is possible to build both sustainably and affordably.

But to do so, we must shift our business-as-usual approach by applying systems thinking and centering equity in sustainable design. After all, a building is only “green” if its entire supply chain is too. 

So what does this actually look like in practice? 

In this report, green building and affordable housing experts share insight from their work to help practitioners disrupt the status quo by:

  • Pursuing integrated, community-informed design processes

  • Engaging communities and incorporating cultural considerations at every project stage, from site design to decarbonization strategies to material selection 

  • Approaching each project with humility and an open mind, expecting that the best sustainability solutions will be different for every community 

Low-income communities and communities of color bear the brunt of our fossil fuel dependency, unsustainable building practices, and climate change. As the world rushes toward a green transition, it’s imperative that we stop this trend. With community input, we can create a built environment that supports cultural and climate resilience for all.  

After reviewing this report, you will be able to:

  1. Define and understand systems thinking and how it manifests in the integrative design process. 

  2. Develop stakeholder-engagement strategies that enable community participation and lead to community-informed design. 

  3. Apply a people-centered, systems approach to identify and implement cost-effective and impactful sustainability solutions at every stage of design.

  4. Prioritize tradeoffs by staying mission-oriented and considering costs early.

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