Equity Petal

Equity Petal

The intent of the Equity Petal is to transform developments to foster a true, inclusive sense of community that is just and equitable regardless of an individual’s background, age, class, race, gender or sexual orientation. A society that embraces all sectors of humanity and allows the dignity of equal access and fair treatment is a civilization in the best position to make decisions that protect and restore the natural environment that sustains all of us.

There is a disturbing trend toward privatizing infrastructure and creating polarized attitudes of “us” vs. “them”—allowing only those of a certain economic or cultural background to participate fully in community life. Although opposite on the spectrum, enclaves for the wealthy are only one step removed from the racial and ethnic ghettos that continue to plague our neighborhoods. A subset of this trend is the notion that individuals can own access to nature itself by privatizing admittance to waterways, beaches, and other wilderness areas, cutting off most people from the few pristine environmental places that remain. Only by realizing that we are indeed all in this together can the greatest environmental and social problems be addressed.

We need to aggressively challenge the notion that property ownership somehow implies that we can do whatever we like, even externalize the negative environmental impacts of our actions onto others.

For example, consider these situations: when a polluting factory is placed next to a residential community, the environmental burdens of its operation are placed on the individuals who live in those houses. The factory is diminishing its neighbors’ rights to clean air, water and soil. When a building towers over another structure, its shadow diminishes that structure’s ability to generate clean and renewable energy, thereby impeding the rights to energy independence. We all deserve access to sunlight and clean air, to water and soil.

We need to prioritize the concept of “citizen” above that of “consumer.” Equity implies the creation of communities that provide universal access to people with disabilities and allow people who can’t afford expensive forms of transportation to fully participate in the major elements of society. Indeed, most projects in the built environment greatly outlive the original owner or developer—society inherits the legacies of bad decisions and good decisions alike. Since the act of building is a considerable environmental impact shared by all, there is an inherent responsibility to ensure that any project provides some public good and does not degrade quality of life. Finally, it is essential that we recognize the business practices and welfare of the people that we support as we design and build our developments. JUST, the Institute’s ingredients label for social justice, is a publicly accessible label and online database with an official connection to the Equity Petal.

JUST provides a powerful forum for helping project teams support organizations that share the values of a responsible equitable living future.


The Living Building Challenge envisions communities that allow equitable access and treatment to all people regardless of physical abilities, age, or socioeconomic status. Current limitations to reaching this ideal stem from ingrained cultural attitudes about the rights associated with private ownership and the varying rights of people. It is necessary to change zoning standards in order to protect the rights of individuals who are “downstream” of water, air, and noise pollution, and who are adversely impacted due to lack of sunlight or exposure to toxins. Past attempts by zoning standards to protect people from particularly egregious pollutants resulted in sterile, single-use areas. A healthy, diverse community is one that encourages multiple functions, and is organized in a way that protects the health of people and the environment.

The project must be designed to create human-scaled rather than automobile-scaled places so that the experience brings out the best in humanity and promotes culture and interaction. In context of the character of each Transect, there are specific maximum (and sometimes minimum) requirements for paced areas, street and block design, building scale and signage that contribute to livable places.

The project must follow the following design guidelines: