Deepening The Sustainability Conversation


This article was originally posted in the SaportaReport Thought Leaders section in February, 2017.

Southface has made its name as a technical service provider and expert in the high performance built environment. While it’s true that we provide technical services, support and consulting on commercial, residential and community scale projects, Southface has long been engaged in sustainability from other perspectives, as well. For example, many people do not know that our advocacy efforts in the mid 2000s helped move Georgia to incentivize green building certification to be eligible for low-income housing tax credits, ensuring healthier, safer, more durable housing stock for vulnerable communities across the state. As a convener of the environmental community in the city, state and region we play an important role in influencing many sustainable initiatives: the BeltLine project was first revealed publicly at a Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable; the Sustainable Cities Institute was incubated at Southface in our Community Sustainability team; and Southface is a founding partner of EarthShare of Georgia, a federation of environmental charities protecting our air, land and water throughout the state.

Recently, we have continued our tradition of supporting diverse sustainability efforts by working at the heart of environmental equity issues connected to urban sustainability, energy equity and healthy places to live, work and play. Southface is a proud member of the TransFormation Alliance, a coalition of advocates for equitable transit-oriented development and recent awardee of the Strong Prosperous Resilient Community Challenge (SPARCC) grant. National funders are taking notice of the resources and momentum Atlanta is demonstrating for building resilient, equitable communities and pioneering new forms of development and sustainability initiatives. As we look toward the future, we stand behind our vision statement: a regenerative economy, responsible resource use and social equity through a healthy built environment for all.

In this spirit, we have partnered with leading environmental and community organizations to develop four workshops on the second day of our flagship Greenprints conference, March 8. Each session is designed to provide attendees the opportunity to discuss issues around sustainability and equity and navigate toward solutions. We are counting on the experience and insight of our attendees to contribute to creative problem-solving around some of our region’s toughest issues. Below is more on what we have in store at Greenprints:

  • Based on the premise that the urban and community development industry is undergoing a massive disruption, Rob Bennett, our conference keynote, will lead a fast-paced workshop introducing the EcoDistricts model and how it can respond to the challenges of crumbling infrastructure, displacement, public health, stagnant economic mobility and environmental degradation.
  • A second session will focus on the EPA’s Environmental Justice Academy, an initiative that connects local environmental advocates to resources and communities in need for inspiring projects to improve life for our human and natural ecosystems. Four current Academy members will share their specific projects and the challenges they face, then turn to the audience for advice and solutions in smaller discussion groups.
  • The TransFormation Alliance is partnering with the City of Atlanta’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability to discuss their combined resources and shared goals in building resilient community and civic infrastructure throughout the city. The Alliance will outline the SPARCC opportunity and invite the audience to participate in small group activities around community asset mapping and community visioning. The city will present their program as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities campaign and ask attendees to think through the chronic stresses on our region and our vulnerabilities to sudden shocks that would be challenging to overcome.
  • Last but not least, Southface is partnering with the International Living Futures Institute and Georgia Tech on the Living Building at Georgia Tech. At Greenprints, we will challenge the audience to provide rigor and structure to the equity petal that is a tenet of the Living Building criteria. As the one of the first Living Building projects in the south, Georgia Tech and the ILFI are looking to Atlanta, the heart of the civil rights movement, to lead the conversation about incorporating equity into high performance buildings.

These four sessions align with Southface’s deep commitment to sustainability work on many fronts. We hope you’ll join us at the conference and continue to think of Southface as a resource as we work toward a sustainable future for all.

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