Living Labs Approach for Build It Green's New Pilots

A Message from Build It Green's Board President

Late last year, after the sale of Build It Green (BIG)’s utility business to Franklin Energy, BIG’s Board and staff embarked on a strategic visioning process to explore how the organization can build on and expand its successful role as a catalyst for market transformation in the housing sector.

We convened thought leaders from across the housing ecosystem, bringing together local and national perspectives. Our discussions started with the premise that the climate crisis and housing affordability crisis have created the urgency and the opportunity for systemic change in how we think about and develop shelter. Over a six-month period, we refined BIG’s vision and mission: We envision a healthy housing ecosystem that fosters well-being in individuals, communities and bioregions. BIG’s mission as a co-creator in realizing this vision is to convene stakeholders and develop their capacity for transforming the housing ecosystem by offering credible, accessible resources.

Just as we wrapped up the visioning process, the COVID-19 pandemic shook the globe and further exposed longstanding structural problems in our country, from disparities in access to information and healthcare to rising income and wealth inequities to the spiraling housing affordability crisis.

From this vantage point, our strategic visioning process culminated in the decision to explore pilot opportunities in two areas: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) and Master-Plan Developments (MPD). The ADU pilot will be examining the opportunities provided by California’s recent ADU legislation for creating affordable delivery channels, local workforces and materials, community finance mechanisms, local government education, and accessible markets for mainstream builders. The Master-Plan Development pilot will explore how BIG can help “normalize” regenerative approaches to MPDs by supporting cities, developers and communities.

Last month we formed an Advisory Council to assist us in this process. Over the next six months, we will be using a “Living Labs” framework to develop these pilots. The Living Labs approach solicits active participation from all stakeholders in working toward solutions to complex societal needs. This process demands inclusivity, meaningful community engagement and collaboration—a challenge in the best of times and a particularly complex undertaking when social distancing remains imperative.  We look forward to sharing with you our emerging plans and soliciting your input this summer.

During these unprecedented and uncertain times, it can be challenging to move forward with plans. But if there is a silver lining to this calamity, perhaps it is that upheaval can create space for new visions of how individuals, communities and bioregions can thrive.

With heartfelt wishes that you and your loved ones stay well,

Karen Kho