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Hey look, another acronym
by Katy Purviance on 05/09/08 @ 12:19:11 am
Categories: News, Articles | 698 words | 1555 views

Randy Bright of the Tulsa Beacon wrote this article, “Engineering utopia with architecture.”

As I was about to file away one of the many newsletters I receive, my eye caught the headline, “First LEED and Now SEED..

LEED, of course, means Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or “green” design. SEED stands for “Social Economic Environmental Design Network.”

SEED is a relatively new organization formed in 2006 that is gaining in popularity and membership among architects, planners, developers and others. It is new enough that there is scant information that can be found on the Internet, but I found enough to begin to see what it is about.

One article I found on the AIA (American Institute of Architects) website was written by Laura Kreeger Neil, who was a member of SEED. It was unclear from the article if she was an architect or not, but her definition of SEED was that it was “a group of individuals and organizations committed to advancing the right of every person to live in a socially, economically, and environmentally healthy community.”

According to Neil, the mission of SEED is to “increase the relevancy of the building environment,” and their guiding principles are as follows:

1. Advocate with those that have a limited voice in public life.

2. Build structures for inclusion that engage stakeholders and allow communities to make decisions.

3. Promote social equality through discourse that reflects a range of values and social identities.

4. Generate ideas that grow from place and build local capacity.

5. Believe that a community’s design should help conserve resources and minimize waste.

A workshop was held in Dallas in January of 2008 by SEED, who produced a promotional flyer that stated that the group that founded SEED had originally met in 2005 to determine how to change “societal conceptions of the built environment.” The flyer also stated that “the way in which we build must be reevaluated to provide all individuals with healthy, sustainable living communities.”

One of the speakers at the workshop was Jeff Speck, who was a city planner who had previously worked as the Director of Town Planning for the firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company. Andres Duany is a planner that I have written about in previous columns and who is the guru of New Urbanism.

As I read a blog posted by one of the attendees of the workshop, the purpose of SEED became a little clearer, that is, if you consider the thoughts of this very enthused “SEEDling” (his term, not mine) to be an indicator of what it is all about.

He wrote that he had felt the momentum “towards creating a tool for evaluating real estate development projects that would have real value in advancing social justice and community development” and that projects could be evaluated on a point system whereby affordable housing would be given a “very high national need score.”

He continued, “this would allow developers of affordable housing projects to argue against NIMBY (not in my back yard) opposition to affordable housing projects by citing the national necessity and citing SEED as a system that fairly shares this burden across communities.”

Later he suggested that “community approval does not strike me as a good benchmark for SEED to use.”

In other words, if a developer wants to build low-income housing in middle or upper income housing areas, those communities should not have the right to object on the grounds that low income housing would affect their home values.

He continued, “Challenging some forms of community opposition could be an opportunity for SEED developers to challenge NIMBYism.”

Though I could find nothing on the Internet that proved a direct link between SEED and the United Nations, it seems a bit coincidental that at the U.N.’s Johannesburg Summit in 2002 they broadened their view of sustainable development to include the concepts of society, environment and economy.

And on UNESCO’s website (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), you will find that there is a 10-year plan (2005-2014) for an education that will “encourage changes in behavior that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations.”

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I am starting a new kind of architecture school. Unlike most architecture schools, you wouldn't have to submit GRE scores or good grades or letters of recommendation. You wouldn't have to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 to 5 years. You wouldn't have to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At my architecture school, anyone could come for a few weeks and learn how to build a house with their own two hands. My teachers would take skills and concepts from some of these other workshops I've listed above... except classes would be held year-round to make it easy to fit into your schedule. I would have a number of different campuses around the country that would teach building designs appropriate to the local climate. And I need your help. Can you donate land for a campus? Can you dotate books for a library? Can you teach a workshop? Can you provide start-up capital? Let me know.

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