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.

About Burgess

Burgess A. Metcalf, AIA, LEED AP, rejoined LS3P’s Faith Studio in 2014 to continue serving ministries by designing facilities that embody their vision. He uses his prior experience, including six years in forensic architecture providing expert services focusing on design and construction research, to provide innovative and effective designs. While Burgess now works exclusively in faith-based designs, he also has a wide range of architectural experience including recreational facilities, higher education, high school, single family homes, multi-family residential development, and light commercial. However, the majority of his design experience is through contemporary and traditional faith-based designs.

Burgess is an alum of Leadership Greenville Class 44, a yearlong leadership training program that immerses selected individuals in the community. He is active in Grace Church, serving as Community Group Leader, Culturally Engaged Representative, and elementary class teacher. Burgess has been a member of Rebuild Upstate’s Board since 2013, and served as chair for two years. He has also served on Board of AIA Greenville, including duties as President, and at the state level of AIA South Carolina as Upstate Director. He has facilitated a collaboration for a ramp design competition, where the winning design was constructed by AIAG for a Rebuild Upstate client. The LS3P Faith Studio in Greenville has also included Rebuild Upstate as one of the organizations they serve through organized volunteer afternoons. Burgess believes that finding synergies between organizations provides expanded mutually beneficial results.