Architects of Change
As architects, we spend our careers building a distinctive set of skills. We’re trained not only to design buildings, but also to lead teams, identify and solve problems, and see the “big picture” in any situation. Our education, training, and sheer doggedness uniquely positions us to address issues beyond the office, and brings real value to the community organizations we serve outside the firm’s walls.
In South Carolina’s Upstate region, Rebuild Upstate is one of Greenville’s fastest-growing organizations. Dedicated to making homes safer, healthier, and more livable for low-income neighbors, Rebuild Upstate is working to eliminate substandard housing in the area. My time and involvement with this group has allowed me to engage with the community on multiple levels, and has broadened my perspective as an architect as I gain insight into both the diverse needs and the true compassion found across our community. My service has included time as a site leader in construction and home repairs. Being the “hands and feet” directly making a difference has taught me the impact of using my skills to help restore dignity to our clients. While onsite with Rebuild Upstate, the time spent talking with my neighbors is equally important, as every interaction helps me to better relate our diverse stories and experiences.
Our Rebuild Upstate clients are wonderful and their needs are vast and varied; they include elderly residents who have lived in the community for generations who would have been displaced without critical repairs; mothers working two, three, or more jobs to stay afloat who can’t muster the extra resources required to make fairly simple plumbing repairs; and homebound veterans who have gained the freedom to leave their homes safely once a new ramp is installed. As architects working on large-scale projects, it’s easy for us to take for granted the impact of something as simple as a ramp, but our clients most certainly do not. Simple design and construction interventions can be life-changing for those who need them.
Last year Rebuild Upstate repaired 141 homes, a substantial increase from the 26 households we served in 2012. In 2016 we built 96 ramps, completed 105 “skilled” projects (HVAC, flooring, electrical, and plumbing) and 82 other projects (roof repairs, grab bars, and more). Over 1,200 unique volunteers logged 15,184 hours of design and construction work. Because of such an amazing group of volunteers and staff who always go above and beyond, last year the organization was able to leverage every $1 donated into $8.72 of construction. How could one not be impressed with that kind of return on investment?
Rebuild Upstate has stepped in, assisted with providing solutions, and helped restore our clients’ dignity in so many situations, and I am honored to serve as Chair of the Board. As in so many cities, as Greenville’s prosperity continues to increase, our prosperity gap has become a significant challenge. However, architects are innate problem solvers who thrive on challenges. Bringing our time, training, and energy to this and other community issues is an investment worth making, and if we are willing, we can be the architects of change.