Social Equity in the Built Environment


GBA Equity Series

In 2019, Green Building Alliance launched its first Social Equity in the Built Environment series to highlight the connections between our buildings, places, and social equity. Throughout the series, participants gained context and shared their own experiences about inequities within the design and construction industries, specific challenges and opportunities in the Pittsburgh region, and individual actions that can be taken by anyone to improve equity on their projects.

This series focused on the symbiotic relationship between residents, developers, and government, highlighting the construction industry’s role in creating a region where every person is connected to opportunity. Since the series ended, GBA has woven topics of social equity into much of its programming, as it is a critical component in all green building projects (according to the NAACP’s Centering Equity in the Sustainable Buildings Sector program, “sustainability without equity is just sustaining inequities.”

At GBA, we think that the green building industry is well-poised to address issues of equity because professionals in this field already champion thoughtful and intentional development, taking into account long-term impacts of our buildings on people and the planet. This may mean taking more time up-front to weigh the impacts of our decisions, but often results in better buildings and projects. We look forward to continuing the important work with our partners of ensuring that all buildings and communities are sustainable so that all people can thrive.

Purchase Entire Series



The Building Industry’s Role in Social Equity: How do building practitioners impact social equity? Here, we gained context, built awareness, and identified ways that we can embed equity into our projects and outcomes. 

Tips and Tools for Inclusive Stakeholder Engagement: Who are we building For? Attendees explored the importance of engaging all stakeholders in a meaningful way so that developments can truly benefit the surrounding community.  

The Opportunity Gap: Increasing Access to Design and Construction Jobs: Creativity is rooted in diverse experiences, yet fields like architecture, engineering, and construction struggle with representation in their project teams. Participants identified gaps in the job market and explored methods to create a diverse and thriving labor market for design and construction jobs.

Healthy Spaces for All: In the last event of the series, we studied the intersection of health and equity.  Participants explored challenges communities are faced with that stem from the environments that they live in.  K-12 schools and low-income housing are often the worst perpetrators of poor indoor air quality, resulting in unhealthy occupants and higher levels of negative health effects such as asthma and other respiratory issues.  Experts shared best practices and enabling policies to help ensure that everyone has access to healthy environments.


Local Pittsburgh artist Emily Simons was kind enough to be a graphic note-taker for our sessions. See below for summary images.