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National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)


Built in 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a physical and emotional monument to visitors and local DC residents. The copper-toned and boxy exterior reflect traditional Nigerian designs, the overhung entrance of the museum called “the porch” creates a comfortable microclimate and reflects southern African American history, and this theme of purposeful architecture continues throughout the entire building. The museum’s achievement of a LEED Gold rating is different from a conventional structure because of the energy-intensive requirements to preserve historic artifacts at specific temperatures and humidity. To provide natural insulation and meet local restrictions, approximately 60% of the structure is built underground. The lead architect, Phil Freelon, an African American himself and designer of many other spaces honoring civil rights, said the building and its sustainability features are expressive of the African-American experience of “making something out of nothing and doing more with less.”


Paul Laurence Dunbar High School


Built in 1870, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, DC, is the oldest high school established to serve African American students in the country. The institution graduated several prominent leaders who went on to change the course of American history, including the famous poet who is the school’s namesake, the first African American presidential Cabinet member, and several of the lawyers who argued the Brown v. Board of Education decision. After identifying problems in the previous building from the 1970s that could not be corrected through renovation, Dunbar High School was built as a new school in 2013 by Smoot/Gilbane, a joint venture, and EEK Architects and Engineers (now Perkins Eastman). This new campus was unique because of its LEED Platinum rating, the highest certification available under the rating system. During construction of the new Dunbar Senior High School, more than $57 million in contracts were awarded to certified local, small and disadvantaged businesses. In addition to the businesses employed, the project far exceeded the stringent requirements for local Resident Workforce Participation as established by the District of Columbia. Furthermore, the surrounding community is permitted to take swimming lessons in the gymnasium pool and uses the school for local events. The student population at Dunbar is 95% African American, 4% Hispanic, and 1% White American, and categorized as 100% economically disadvantaged. Ward 5, the location of the high school, has been a predominantly African American community for decades, and most students living in the area choose to attend schools within their home ward.


Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (JPNSI)


The Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (JPNSI) is a Community Land Trust (CLT) and housing rights organization committed to creating sustainable, democratic, and economically just neighborhoods and communities in New Orleans. JPNSI was created as an alternative to the model of city development based on the priorities of white residents, increasing property and land value, gentrification, and displacement in a never-ending cycle of growth. A group of friends got together with a small piece of property donated by one of the groups to form the first CLT in the city, comprised of more than 28 apartments. JPNSI is in the Mid-City neighborhood, on the edge of a planned medical corridor that displaced an entire neighborhood and includes the abandoned, historic Charity Hospital that had been the only place in the state of Louisiana to serve pregnant African American mothers. The CLT automatically and permanently reduces the cost of housing for renters and homeowners, as well as provides a lower-cost way to help people who own their homes but can’t pay the full cost of recovery from disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The CLT uplifts the practice of democratic governance. There is a community advisory board that requires at least half of its members to be renters from the CLT and the surrounding community, as well as more than half women. JPSNI amplifies its efforts through renter advocacy across the city in order to update rental laws that have not changed since the 1820s during the time of slavery.


Mohawk Group


Mohawk Group, a manufacturer of hard surface flooring and carpeting, has demonstrated leadership in corporate social responsibility by minimizing and offsetting the impacts of their products through ILFI’s Living Product Challenge. Given that new products cannot eliminate their entire negative footprint on natural resources, the program measures “handprints” (a product’s positive environmental, social, and economic impact across its life cycle) and requires a net-positive impact. In order to achieve this for various carbon-neutral products, Mohawk has partnered with Groundswell to install 10 smartflower solar technology energy systems in low-income communities and schools with STEM programs. The first unit was installed in south Chicago at a historic YMCA with The Renaissance Collaborative, a community development corporation that provides supportive housing, employment, and educational services. In addition, Mohawk Group is partnering with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to install new, low-flow showerheads in dormitories to offset the amount of water used to produce one of its carpet collections. At Morehouse College in Atlanta, the upgrade will result in significant savings for the college by reducing its water consumption, one of its largest expenses, by about 1.2 million gallons per year. Both efforts are paired with education and training for students.


June Key Delta Community Center


The June Key Delta Community Center is a living building project developed, owned, and operated by the Portland Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., established in 1945. Named for one of its founding members who championed the purchase of a permanent meeting site, the Center “provides and sustains the needs of the multi-cultural neighborhood it serves, encouraging sound and healthy social, educational, artistic, economic, and environmental development and awareness.” The small nonprofit organization renovated a 1960s ARCO gas station; they transformed the brownfield property into a productive urban garden, achieved net-zero energy, created systems to treat and reuse all rainfall on the site, installed only safe and ethical materials, and created equitable hiring and training opportunities throughout construction. In particular, the Chapter sought to diversify the green design and building industry by partnering with an African-American architectural firm. As the first grassroots and African American-owned living building, the Center embodies the Chapter’s values to provide safe, nurturing environments, particularly for children and senior citizens. The facility hosts academic, mental health, and social activities, such as seminars, tutoring, and low- or no-cost meeting space for community groups.


Portland Clean Energy and Community Benefits Fund (PCEF)

Coalition of Communities of Color

Photo Credit: Coalition of Communities of Color

The Portland Clean Energy and Community Benefits Fund (PCEF) is a grant program created by a local ballot measure that taxes one percent of the revenue of large corporations in order to raise $54-100 million each year for green jobs and healthy homes for all Portlanders. The initiative ensures that the city’s climate action plan is implemented in a way that benefits reach all Portlanders. As the first initiative in the country led by communities of color, the PCEF lifts up the voice of climate injustice in the African American community in Portland, which is only about one percent of constituents. The PCEF initiative prioritizes democratic governance. There is a 10-person committee to oversee the fund to ensure that the program upholds its racial equity framework. The implementation of the PCEF starting in 2020 is where the outcomes will be fully measured. However, the coalition behind the PCEF campaign has already begun lobbying against counter-initiatives and working with technical training programs to ensure there are wraparound services for participants to succeed. They call themselves “redline erasers.”


King County (WA) Sustainable Infrastructure Scorecard


Published in 2014, the King County (WA) Sustainable Infrastructure Scorecard provides guidelines for complying with a mandate for all capital projects (government-owned facilities and infrastructure) to incorporate green building practices and training for staff. As of December 2017, in response to a County-wide Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) ordinance and strategic plan, King County has developed a menu of equity and social justice credits that must be utilized and fulfilled by all projects, regardless of which green building rating system is used. Adding 26 points to the scorecard of 55 points, the ESJ credits identify and account for equity and social justice practices and outcomes throughout the capital project development lifecycle. They recognize project team efforts to advance process, distributional, and cross-generational equity.