This blog post is by our project manager, Astrid Hugo, who has been with bB for the past two months. She is an architect and enngineer from Belgium with over 3 years experience in architecture and project development. She would like to share som eideas on designing fro social improvement and inspire more design professionals to get involved in social projects. She believes that one can make a difference doing what one loves.
Designing for social improvement is a rewarding yet challenging practice. I would like design professionals to consider the social impact of their projects and think about the opportunnities they have to impact people's lives. You can make a difference while doing what you love. Designing for homeless is primarily about efficiency as the needs of the client are urgent and basic. Budget restrictions usually force you to be very pragmatic. Through collaborations and research, leverage points can be identified, which can add tremendously to the life quality of the users. So the challenge lies in delivering a solution to the basic problem, while at the same time creating new opportunities for growth and added value for the community. In order to provide high quality future-proofed solutions, designs should be as self-sustaining as possible. Working with limited budgets and high quality and passive performance targets pushes us to think differently and to innovate. Contrary to popular assumptions, designing for homeless is a breeding ground for innovation.
Social improvement projects lead innovations on 2 levels. First of all, designing for homeless opens up a new sector, guided by the same principles of commercial architecture. The goal is to satisfy the clients’ needs and to do so by understanding them thoroughly. This new sector promotes awareness and brings together funds and clients through design solutions. By close collaboration on these projects, we can learn from different cultures and different ways of life. This inspires the second level of innovation: integrated designs. With a focus on self-sustainability, integrated design provides durable, long-term solutions that require minimum knowledge and effort for maintenance. Leveraging local resources, whether materials or manpower, integrated designs achieve high quality results at low cost. Social integration also means attention to different kinds of users. The integrated design is inclusive and benefits the community as a whole.
Architecture for social improvement can cover the design of a disaster relief shelter to the infrastructure of a new town. Working on different scales and in different cultures and conditions, is enriching. Working on designs that increase humanity and equality is eye opening. Working on a project that will actually save lives, is the most rewarding job there is.