Green affordable housing should not simply work better--it should be better for the people who will call it home. To make green affordable housing truly benefit residents and neighbors, involve them in the design process. Community meetings and charrettes combine the professional vision and experience of the building team with the real life needs and preferences of residents and community members.
(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 the 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 developers truly value community input, the project is much more likely to receive neighborhood 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 present 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, encourage developers to show how their projects will be green from the bottom up. 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 a project will perform better and make for a healthier neighborhood.
Resource: GreenHOME's What is a Green Neighborhood presentation (PDF 5.5MB).

Meet the neighbors

To establish a good working relationship between the developer and 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. Ask the developer to set them up on easels and let attendees mingle with the 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 site improvements, low-impact development methods and government's 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 the building team takes notes and modifies blueprints. Such a constructive space builds trust, brings competing ideas together, and gives everyone a sense of accomplishment.

Government agencies can help make charrettes and meetings successful by helping plan and host them. Advising developers or simply distributing a charrette guide can help, but a good facilitator is also important. A government listing of can ensure quality and help facilitators appear unbiased. Attendance by a government official emphasizes the importance of the charrette and of community input to 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.