SEED Network

SEED, as previously mentioned, stands for Social Economic Environmental Design.  As we venture away from traditional architecture and into new realms of socially oriented design the fields of Architecture, Engineering, Social Work and Policy become blurred at the edges.  The SEED Evaluator can help bridge those gaps.  Basically it is an online communications tool that provides a common standard to guide and evaluate design related projects.

SEED Principles

  1. Advocate with those who have a limited voice in public life.
  2. Build structures for inclusion that engage stakeholders and allow communities to make decisions.
  3. Promote social equality through discourse that reflects a range of values and social identities.
  4. Generate ideas that grow from place and build local capacity.
  5. Design to help conserve resources and minimize waste.

The Evaluator was concieved as an alternative to LEED that took social considerations into account.  It serves a number of useful purposes, including:

  • Helps to validate good work
  • Encourages designers to talk proactively about the work they are doing
  • Assembles a database of best practices
  • Promotes collaboration and consensus building
  • Creates a platform for dialogue between designers, financiers and communities.

You can learn a lot more about SEED at their website but I’ll give a quick rundown of what I learned in my workshop session here.

Phase 1: Document the basics of the project – who, what, where, when and why – as well as listing the specific social, environmental and economic issues associated with it.  It is reviewed by a team to see that it does address the three issues of SEED and if so it is passed on to

Phase 2: Assign benchmarks through the process (requiring documentation and dates expected) and demonstrating ample communication between designer, client AND community served.

(Many of SEED’s projects are financed by governments, non-profits or donor groups but it is critical that the designer listen not only to the check-writers but to the actual expected users of their buildings.  For example: In a city housing project, the Housing Authority is the client but future tenants of the community which will live in it – SEED ensures that their interests are fully represented in the process.)

Once benchmarks have been established, the evaluator returns to each one twice more – to document that it has been met and then again to evaluate performance – did it work as expected.

The final results are in two categories – early implementation and post occupancy evaluation for all three metrics – Social, Environmental and Economic.

EVALUATION IS CRITICAL TO ANY DISCIPLINE.  DOCUMENTING SUCCESSES AND FAILURES SETS A BASELINE FOR FUTURE ACHIEVEMENT.

The SEED evaluator asks designers to explain the relationship between design decisions and project goals to help future projects make better choices.  On the face of it this is  a lot of extra work for the designer to manage through the design process but it does have several benefits.  Most of the early part of the application is exactly the information required by grant programs – making it easier to apply for project support throughout the process.  And furthermore the certification process is very reassuring for naturally risk-averse Non-Profits and other clients who are more willing to work with a designer who is already in a reputable database.

Check out some of the SEED Evaluator case studies on their website to learn more about how the system works.

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