Building Sustainable, Resilient Neighborhoods and Communities
By Southface Institute Staff
Achieving sustainable systems in our cities and organizations takes community support and a multifaceted approach. Southface Institute’s work for resiliency and sustainability is three-tiered: green building that addresses climate change, supporting neighborhood resiliency and building stronger communities. Below, we’ve highlighted three of our programs that exemplify this approach.
Building Strong Communities
Southface’s Green Infrastructure and Resilience Institute (GIRI) is a program focused on ways to help the developed environment and the people in it thrive in the face of stormwater challenges. Atlanta CREW is an arm of GIRI that provides free green infrastructure (GI) and stormwater management workforce development, including the hands-on skills training needed for the installation and maintenance of GI in low-lying and under-resourced neighborhoods. This training allows residents to not only beautify their own communities with shared green spaces but also improve their quality of life.
Neighbors in Atlanta’s Oakland City and residents of the Oakland West End Apartments knew there were flooding problems in their community. Large pools of water gathered in the low-lying areas every time it rained, making it difficult for residents to go in and out of their homes. In early June, an Atlanta CREW training cohort spent a week installing a water retention area and rain garden in front of the leasing office and apartment building, keeping walking areas drier after subsequent storms. Neighbors noticed, and when a second training session happened in August, residents like Toby Stroud signed up.
“What brought me to Atlanta CREW was the community and the garden,” says Stroud. “It looks so nice and beautiful that I wanted to help out in my own community. Before you all came, there was so much flooding and dirt coming into the community.”
Addressing Climate Change with Green Building
Held back because of aging systems or financial limitations, only 12% of U.S. buildings qualify to pursue a green building standard certification. That situation leaves most schools, religious organizations, nonprofits and businesses eager to find pathways to improve their buildings’ performance.
At 90 years old, Atlanta’s historic Fox Theatre is one such building. Because of its high utility use, the staff of this much-loved community icon is committed to building improvements that increase sustainability. “When we heard about BIT Building, we were excited to see how much higher we can push the bar,” said Scott Christopher, Director of Operations for the Fox.
In July, the theater partnered with BIT Building, a building performance improvement program run by Southface that can help buildings become more resource efficient no matter the age and budget. To date, BIT Building has improved millions of square feet of property worldwide, including buildings in four countries for Google and 60 buildings for the Chicago Housing Authority.
Southface’s Care and Conservice Plumbing Repair Program (CCPRP) provides job trainings for unemployed or underemployed residents in underserved Atlanta communities and plumbing and sewer repair for low- to moderate-income home owners in the City of Atlanta. These repairs help residents have a healthier home environment and conserve water, reducing their water bills and making paying those bills more manageable. Visits to homes sometimes have results beyond the plumbing repairs alone.
Ms. Paulette Harris had been referred to Care and Conserve Plumbing and Repair Program (CCPRP) to address her home’s water pressure and leaks in the basement. CCPRP partners from Legwork Plumbing Solutions visited her home and addressed the water leaks; however, the plumber also discovered a potential gas leak. Legwork contacted Georgia Natural Gas, who found two gas leaks—one behind an old gas-powered clothes dryer and another related to the furnace. The series of repairs fixed plumbing problems, eliminated the family’s exposure to carbon monoxide and allowed the family to avoid what could have become a deadly situation.
“Moments like these remind you of how important your trade really is. The plumbing field is not just about protecting the water supply. You are protecting families,” said Legwork plumber Ramel Herring.
CCPRP is made possible through various grants, including a $5000 grant from Wells Fargo, which funded two trainees, and continues to rely on this support to provide additional services to the community.
In growing cities like Atlanta, sustainable solutions are urgently needed for healthier homes, workplaces and communities. Find out more about Southface Institute programs by visiting our website at www.southface.org.
Featured Image: Southface programs like Atlanta CREW support neighborhood resiliency by involving the community in beautifying it and addressing stormwater challenges through locally-led workforce development projects.