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Design For Freedom Summit – Five Steps to Build Better

Principal Justin Crane, FAIA, and Associate Douglas Flandro, LEED AP BD+C ID+C, CPHC, attended the annual Design for Freedom Summit at Grace Farms to learn more about using ethical supply chains in architecture and construction – an increasingly concerning topic as the industry learns more about where our materials are sourced. Justin recently posted an article about the importance of ethical construction supply chains and labor forces and we wanted to share some of the key takeaways raised by our colleagues at the conference to continue drawing attention to this critical issue.

Grace Farms Design for Freedom Summit - CambridgeSeven
Design for Freedom Summit hosted by Grace Farms 2023

Top Takeaways From the Summit

Architecture can be a driver for humanitarian outcomes. By ensuring that workers are paid fairly and that materials used in building construction are not derived from forced or from child labor, we can make a difference in the world. We should no longer be willing to take the “slavery” discount.

It is time for action now!

Five Ways Architects Can Support a More Ethical Supply Chain

  1. Encourage clients to take on Design for Freedom pilot projects. Pilot projects commit to carefully examining the degree of ethical sourcing for the products used in the building. They work with contractors to track, where possible, the supply chain for the building material products much like ethically sourced food and clothing have been tracked in recent years.
  2. Use tools that are already available and become familiar with US Customs regulations, at-risk products and countries listed in US Labor Department reports.
  3. Investigate the dangers of commonly used materials, like cobalt and tin, that come from mines. These products often come from the Congo (D.R.C) or other places where workers, including many children, are not treated humanely. PVC and Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) flooring is often produced in the Uyghur region of China where there is documented forced labor and factory pollution. The US government has passed new legislation so that products from this region will be blocked from importation without documentation of a humane supply chain.
  4. Utilize expert third-party companies, such as FairSupply or FRDM, to map our supply chains to various tiers of risk depending on the product and the location from which it is sourced.
  5. Download and start using the “Design for Freedom Toolkit,” the supplier questionnaire to research material supply chains and assess the ethical conduct of building product suppliers. CambridgeSeven’s using it to great effect.

To learn more about the Summit and other ways that industry leaders are advancing this movement, read on!

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