SEED®: Social, Economic, Environmental Design

A multi‐year collaborative effort to establish a new standard for design projects has resulted in SEED: Social, Economic, Environmental Design. Also referred to as the SEED Network, SEED provides a common standard to guide, evaluate and measure the social, economic and environmental impact of design projects. The standard is defined by addressing the “triple bottom line” of critical issues affecting the diverse fields of design today.

SEED provides tools for developing design projects, evaluating them as they progress, and assessing them when completed. It can be of critical value to communities, designers and architects who want to ensure they are developing responsible projects that are transparent and accountable in the public interest. In addition to providing a guided design process, SEED also can provide a “stamp of approval,” a third‐party certification that the community’s goals are being met through the project. Resulting projects maximize the positive impact of a community’s often limited resources.

SEED grew out of a 2005 Harvard roundtable of architects, designers, community leaders and activists sponsored by the Loeb Fellowship. Since this roundtable, meetings in New Orleans, Baltimore, Dallas and Austin have increased participation in the “SEED Network” and crystallized the group’s mission. The mission statement of the SEED Network reads: “Every person has the right to live in a socially, economically and environmentally healthy community.” The SEED evaluation process and certification are intended to help designers embody this principle in their projects. SEED gives people a clear process to follow in pursuing design that effectively contributes to the critical needs of communities. The resulting SEED Certified projects will show that design can make a meaningful difference and impact positive change from the group up.

I am a co-author along with SEED Founder, Bryan Bell, of the SEED Evaluator. The SEED Evaluator is a discipline specific application and tool that provides a path for communities engaged in a design process to understand the impact of the project from a community-centric perspective.  The Evaulator is an in depth application that requests proof that the designers did what they said they would do through the design process. It is a vehicle for accumulating requested project data that is then reviewed and assessed through a triple bottom line filter that puts the project in relationship to intended outcomes that are balanced a promote positive development. This  highly focused review process is one that could lead to a SEED Certified project. To date, I have co-authored SEED Evaluators for the disciplines of Architecture, Industrial Design and Communication Design. Landscape Architecture, Urban Design & Planning as well as less traditionally defined disciplines that stress entreprenuership are also being developed under the descriptor “User Defined.”

I have presented my contributions to SEED at conferences including the Structures for Inclusion 10 Conference at Howard University in 2010 and the AIGA Design Educators Conference in Ohio entitled response_ability also in 2010.

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