Our final event for the Living Building Challenge Demonstration Project workshop took on a festive atmosphere at Bartram Gardens.  The Barn, built in 1775 and thought to be the oldest standing barn in Philadelphia County, was a perfect venue to discuss Equity, Beauty, Health, and Happiness.


When, as a designer, you find yourself standing next to someone you have never met before – you know you are in the right room.

Justin DiBeradinis, Director of Programs and Partnership – Bartram Gardens

Justin opened our final Demonstration Project event in the Barn at Bartram’s Garden, which he reminded us is the oldest botanical garden in the Western Hemisphere and protects land along the Schulkyll River. Equity is a key component of caring for the river, the community, and the environment, of “common sense through commonwealth.”  By engaging deeply with the local community with programs related to art, food, and the river, that have effectively created a sense of ownership in the community.

Justin closed by noting we can develop a shared sense of citizenship through our shared spaces, and we can work towards being the most equitable and integrated urban community by creating diverse teams.  To accomplish these we need to develop new relationships – radical ideologies can be accomplished through radical integration.

bg 2We can expand our project’s field of awareness by integrating local talent and supporting neighborhood initiatives

Think about designing experiences of well-being, rather than buildings.

Maram Moushmoush, Sustainable Designer and Nature Enthusiast

Maram focuses on health through restorative design, including biophilia. Her examples and images showed a clear connection linking health with design.  Maram suggested that designers should be thinking about creating experiences, not just buildings, insisting that design is a healthcare profession.  Maram equated cognitive ease with the perception of beauty that leads to well-being.  By challenging us to design natural, playful spaces, and to incorporate nature into the city, she challenged us to make spaces that are better tuned to the environment and to our needs.


Equity starts with the labor laws of the country our building materials come from, takes shape through early engagement of diverse stakeholders, and keeps influencing our environment long after the life of the structure ends. 

Shawn Hesse, Community Engagement Manager, International Living Future Institute. 

Shawn made the case that equity needs to be central to the design of our built environment.  He challenged us to always answer important questions like “who are we designing for?” and “what effect does this project have beyond where it is located?” Often, design decisions to not consider all the citizens affected by the outcomes.

Shawn challenged us to be humble by reminding us that once something is constructed is it much more difficult to tear it down. As Robert Moses said, “legislation can be changed.  It is very hard to tear down a bridge once it is up,” making it difficult to undo inequity built into infrastructure.


With every project and every action, increase your field of Awareness and diminish your field of disturbance.

Craig Johnson, Interpret Green

Craig links ecology, habitat, people, and buildings, showing how together they form an infrastructure – a living system. Craig used his William Craft Community School project to demonstrate how the creation of whole habitats can improve the health and general well-being of not only our buildings and their occupants, but the neighborhoods they are in. He equated the health of the natural environment (bird sightings, for example) with the general health of the community.

He suggested that we need to be building Intentional Communities that try to find “wholeness”, to re-imagine relationships with one another and our surroundings, presenting an opportunity for deeper connection and stronger community bonds. Throughout his talk, Craig referenced Christopher Alexander’s quotations, which particularly resonated with attendees, and concluded by noting making something beautiful can be the best strategy to ensure its care.

How can you contribute to the conversation and help complete the project?

This event marked the end of our public workshop series. From here on out our core team is engaging in a series of mini-charrettes to produce a public document and a manual for best practices in achieving a Living Affordable Infill Housing. We invite you to stay involved by joining these dynamic gatherings or volunteering to help produce the manual. Let’s reach the hands and imaginations of those people who can have a direct impact on the future of our housing.


If you’d like to get involved with our LBC Community sign up for our newsletters or reach out to Drew Lavine

bg 1We encouraged everyone to note ideas presented by our speakers or about the project at 49th and Girard that resonated with them