Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Enterprise Community Partners

Enterprise Community Partners is a national non-profit organization and leading provider of capital and expertise for affordable housing and community development.

Their mission is "create opportunity for low- and moderate-income people through fit, affordable housing and diverse, thriving communities."

The company has developed a Green Communities program that operates nationwide developed specifically for affordable housing. "We focus on the use of environmentally sustainable materials, reduction of negative environmental impacts and increased energy efficiency. And we emphasize designs and materials that safeguard the health of residents and locations that provide easy access to services and public transportation."

Through the Impact! Design for Social Change program at the School of Visual Arts, our group was assigned to help Enterprise Green Communities solve the following challenge:

After visiting two buildings that were in the process of becoming Green Communities, speaking to many of the tenants, and sending out a survey, it became clear that the tenants had a global view of a green community but were not aware that they were living one or exactly what that entailed.

We spoke to tenants to find out if they were aware of the changes made in their building and what benefits these changes provided. We also asked if they were aware that they lived in what was considered a green community.

After gathering data, the problem became clear. We would not be able to change people's behavior in regards to conserving energy, water, recycling etc because they were disengaged. There was an obvious gap in communication between tenants and Property Managers who were not communicating effectively the changes in the buildings. Efforts had been made but people were not reading the information or it was not enough for the tenants to feel informed.

Tenants were thrilled with some of the obvious changes, like new appliances and kitchens but they did not know exactly why they were getting new items or how they really benefitted from them. Tenants also felt like they were not being heard. Therefore the challenge had to be reframed.

The solution was to focus on improving communication and keeping tenants informed. We proposed a solution that included signage...

that addressed new items in the building such as dimming lights in the hallways to conserve energy, to tips on how to reduce waste like signing up to stop receiving junk mail. The signage was created in a very simple format that could easily be reproduced and changed into another language.

Another part of the solution is for Enterprise Green Communities, the CDCs and Property Managers of the building to organize a kick-off event where people would have a chance to gather in a friendly environment and open the paths of communication. The idea is that the CDCs will explain what is happening in each building in cases where remodeling or construction is taking place. They will then talk to tenants about a Green Communities Campaign and selecting a leader to implement this campaign throughout the building.

The leader would serve as an intermediary between tenants and Property Managers which would improve communication since the tenants would now have someone representing them. Having a leader would also diminish the feeling from the tenants of having someone impose something on them.

The Green Communities Leader will be selected through a voting process. Once again a poster was created to be easily customized and edited without the need of having to use a computer or a designer. The candidates can write down their information and provide a photo to be pasted on to the poster.

A toolkit was developed to be given to the leader. The kit provides materials, recommendations and information created to empower the leader and help him implement challenges that will engage the community and encourage them to participate in activities that will improve their environment. These challenges address recycling, reducing energy consumption, etc.

All the templates, posters and signage that were created were intended to be printed on a home or office printer or place like FedEx Kinko's to reduce costs and waste by printing only on an as needed basis. The Property Manager should be able to print materials easily.

Enterprise Green Communities received the proposal enthusiastically and are exploring opportunities to incorporate the suggestions in their final product.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


During the Impact! Design for Social Change program, we had the opportunity to meet several designers professionals and innovators in the fields of social change and different fields of design.

On one occasion, we headed to the meat packing district to meet with Giuseppe Lignano of LOT-EK, a design studio that is recognized mostly for their architectural designs created out of objects that originally intended for another use. LOT-EK "upcycles" instead of recycles objects by using pieces that already exist and incorporating them into their designs for another use rather than decompose them to their original state and then transform them into something else. The company has a strong emphasis on conserving materials and energy by coming up with innovative solutions.

"LOT-EK has achieved high visibility in the architecture/design/art world for its sustainable and innovative approach to construction, materials and space through the adaptive reuse of existing industrial object and systems not originally intended for architecture. LOT-EK is also recognized for the use of technology as an integral part of architecture, for addressing issues of mobility and transformability in architecture and for blurring the boundaries between art, architecture and entertainment. Its projects are published in national and international publications, magazines and books, including The New York Times, The London Times, Herald Tribune, The Wall Street journal, Wallpaper, Domus, A+U, Interior Design, Wired, Surface, Metropolis, Vogue, Graphis and more. LOT-EK’s first monograph, URBANSCAN, was published by PAP in February 2002. LOT-EK MIXER, by Edizioni Press, came out in 2000 and MDU Mobile Dwelling Unit, published by DAP, came out in June 2003."

Taken from SVA website

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Action Center to End World Hunger

Once again, I am somewhat behind on my blog but I wanted to share my experience with Mercy Corps and Ed Schlossberg last Monday. Our class headed down to Battery Park to visit the Action Center to End World Hunger which was developed for Mercy Corps by Ed Schlossberg's design firm ESI Design.

"Mercy Corps works amid disasters, conflicts, chronic poverty and instability to unleash the potential of people who can win against nearly impossible odds." Their Action Center was created to educate and empower visitors by allowing them to experience many of the challenges faced worldwide via interactive programs. The center consists of several stations that inform the visitor and then encourage an inmediate call to action by providing ways of helping if you only have a few minutes, days, weeks or years to contribute and help the cause.

I ended up giving "one minute of my time" by becoming a fan of Mercy Corp via facebook but there are many other simple ways in which we can help. I intend to go revisit their site http://www.actioncenter.org/ and make a more substantial contribution and so can you.

Ed Schlossberg and Michelle Milleneux explained to us the thought process behind creating the Action Center and Ed walked us through many of the stations to show how each one worked and the problem that it addressed. Perhaps, what I found most interesting is that he mentioned that the aim was "less education, more action". I guess sometimes we get bogged down in trying to educate everyone that we forget to create important and effective solutions that will engage us and cause to act right away.

I was also very interested in the comment made by Robert Sherman's, Executive Director of the Action Center, where he mentioned that Mercy Corps sees each country's instability as an opportunity for grass roots efforts to rise. I couldn't agree with him more. It is the challenges that force us to think differently and come up with solutions that probably hadn't been though of in the past. It also forces those who had left the problems for others to resolve, to take action and ownership of the problem. I was also happy to hear a comment that emphasized positive thinking rather than that of defeat.

NOTE: My camera's battery had died and I had to find a replacement for the charger, therefore I was unable to take photos for several days. Peyton, who is also participating in this course, has taken some great shots and is sharing them along with her experiences on her blog http://whatcanyoucreate.wordpress.com/. She has been very gracious in allowing me to post some of her photos on my blog as well.