Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector

Launched in August 2018, the CESBS Initiative seeks to shift narratives, mobilize resources, empower champions, and catalyze new norms in the building industry.


green nature

Communities of color and low-income communities bear the brunt of the impacts of unhealthy, energy inefficient, and disaster vulnerable buildings. 

Yet, as one looks around the tables or worksites of the sustainable and regenerative building sector, there is little representation of the populations most impacted by our current proliferation of unsustainable, inefficient, sometimes unsafe, and often unhealthy building stock.

Whether it’s as policymakers, advocates, architects, project managers, contractors, or even in the construction workforce, the most impacted communities are underrepresented in the design, construction, and occupancy of sustainable, regenerative, healthy buildings.

Given the huge import of buildings in reducing the demand on energy production, plus the co-benefits that regenerative design has for building occupants and the community, not to mention the environment, all of this points to the fact that this gap in access/uptake must drastically change and quickly to build a big tent and universalize sustainable, regenerative buildings.

Our aim as the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization is to be a beacon of inspiration and transformation in centering equity in the sustainable building sector. In doing so, we can catalyze the building of a bigger, broader tent for the sustainable building movement, towards the betterment of the building users, the communities, the economy, and the planet.



In actualizing our commitment to ground our operations in the principles and practices of our environmental and climate justice platform, the NAACP will establish its headquarters as an exemplar for an Equitable Living Building Project. Through this effort, we will develop a replicable model of ensuring the centering of equity in all aspects of sustainable, healthy, safe, and regenerative buildings, including access, affordability, co-benefits, cultural resonance, inclusive decision-making, financing, service provision, procurement, contracting, employment, communications, monitoring and evaluation, and so much more.


Learn more about the Living Headquarters Design Competition.


Meet our project-level Equity Committee:


Jacqui Patterson

Environmental & Climate Justice Director


Patricia Pinchinat

Vice President for Human Resources & Deputy Chief Operating Officer


Sadie Harris

Executive Assistant to the Executive Office


India Artis

The Crisis Magazine Business Manager & Executive Assistant to the Board


Nancy Bailey

Member Services Relationship Manager


Mandy Lee

Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector Program Manager


Vanessa Mbonu

Digital Director




Next, we pulled together thought leaders and practitioners to determine how we go beyond having equity an optional aspect of the living building/green building sector and advancing an action agenda to have equity at the foundation and center of the sustainable building movement.

As such, we assembled people and organizations who are currently leading in this sector and those who should be engaged around green buildings but aren’t, to begin to shift the narrative of the sector. This gathering, which took place in August 2018, then launched an initiative to advance this transformation in the sector, with the NAACP Headquarters Project as the Flagship Luminary for Comprehensive Implementation of an Equity-Based Green Building Project. Through this collective, consultative, process, the plan is for this initiative to be the catalyst and vehicle for the institutionalization of policies, programming, and practices that center equity in the sustainable building sector.

Our research team completed a desk review of the existing green building/living building guidance documents, standards, and actual projects that have been implemented with the aim of examining, documenting, being grounded in, and building upon, what’s already happening.


We have now built out our dynamic NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice team to include a dedicated staff member for this work, and we now embark together upon a CESBS Initiative start-up phase. Here is what you can expect to see from us and work with us to develop in 2019:


  • CESBS Initiative Action Plan
  • Policy Platform for Equity-Based Sustainable Building Sector
  • Monthly Implementation Working Group E-Meetings
  • Monthly Educational Webinars
  • CESBS Reports
  • Equity Resource List and Toolkit
  • Maryland and Baltimore Policy/Regulatory Model Reform Plan
  • Model Design for a Flagship Equity-Based Green Building—The NAACP National Headquarters


Will you join us in this work?

Sign up now.