Combine the professional vision and experience of your building team with the real life needs and preferences of residents and community members. Green affordable housing should not simply work better--it should be better for the people who will call it home.
(See the Integrate page for a discussion of how to keep your whole building team involved.)

Get the word on the street

Community members can be your best source of information about the site: traffic and transit, services like day care, banks, and shopping, access to parks, and safe pedestrian routes. Neighbors also know what works, or doesn't, in their homes. By getting them to speak up about how a new development could help or hurt the neighborhood, you can build valuable partnerships and avoid potential minefields. When you truly value community input, your project is much more likely to receive community support.

Reach out for a green neighborhood

Offer more than just a green building by talking to residents and community members about how green neighborhoods--high performance approaches to energy, water, and waste management--can benefit their families and the neighborhood as a whole. When you talk about energy saving features as a step toward cleaner air and low-impact site design as the route to safe pedestrian paths instead of parking lots, the value to the community shines through. At the same time, show how your project will be green from the bottom up. Explain how green buildings and green neighborhoods use sunlight to create clean power and capture rainwater to cut bills, clean up rivers, and preserve infrastructure. This can be a powerful message, especially when paired with details of how your project will perform better and make for a healthier neighborhood.

Meet the neighbors

To work with the community, set up a welcoming space where everyone can speak and listen. Make it clear that you want to have a discussion, and take care to make even your opening presentation interactive. Drawings, maps, models, inventories, and lists of questions help everyone focus. Consider setting them up on easels and letting attendees mingle with your building team to get a sense of the project. This approach also gives people a chance to put their concerns in the context of the larger project and lets neighbors see your site improvements, low-impact development methods and broader commitment to green.

Planning sessions with the community often take one of two forms: a series of meetings, each with a specific goal, or a one or two-day charrette. The latter is an intense working meeting where residents and neighbors talk out design ideas as your building team takes notes and modifies blueprints. By creating such a constructive space, you can bring competing ideas together while giving everyone a sense of accomplishment.

Charrettes and meetings both require careful planning and a good facilitator. They also require your whole building team. Community input is an important piece of the integrated design process. The architects, planners, engineers, and builders should be on hand to listen and respond to questions, concerns, and ideas from the people who will live in the homes and neighborhoods they design and build.

Outreach rewards

The effort you put into meetings and other community outreach will pay off in valuable information and potentially in avoided confrontations at zoning hearings or city council meetings. Working with the community may even allow you to increase density with more units or to add add retail space or another feature that serves a community need.